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Teaching videos: which platform should I choose?

Eliot Hoving12 June 2020

Decorative.

As you prepare your Moodle course for next term, in addition to vital asynchronous activities, you will likely want to add a few videos of yourself or a screen recording of your lecture. By now you’re probably aware that UCL has a plethora of technologies. This is partly a necessity, as UCL teaching practices vary so no single tool will get the job done for everyone, but sometimes it’s a little unclear which to use.

 

To help you decide, Digital Education with help from the Digital Media team and IT for SLASH team has put together this comparison table of the three centrally supported media platforms: Lecturecast, Mediacentral and Microsoft Stream.

 

The table hopes to clarify some of the common questions; e.g.

  • Does the platform allow students to download recordings?
  • Can I upload a pre-recorded video e.g. a video recorded in PowerPoint?
  • Can I restrict who views the video?
  • Can I see analytics on whose watched the video?

 

If you need further advice on creating and sharing video, please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

 

Writing when teaching remotely

Steve Rowett22 April 2020

Updated 21 October 2020 to include graphics tablets and webcam options

We start this blog post with a short exercise for the reader: search Google Images or an image library for the word teacher.

I hope that you see a range of diverse people in the pictures. But I bet that most of them will have a pen or chalk in their hand, and a board or surface at their side. The act of writing and talking as a form of instruction is perhaps the most commonly perceived characteristic of who a teacher is and what they do.

The move to remote teaching has made writing as a form of teaching more difficult. A mouse may be great for controlling a computer, but it’s hard to use it to write smoothly on screen.

So in this post, we will look at how we might continue to use writing as a form of teaching, even from home.

Before we start, a note on accessibility. Whilst we teach remotely, so of the facilities that our students might have relied upon (like captions, transcripts, note-takers or signers) might not be available, so we may need to make alternative accommodations. Please do think about this before you plan your teaching and contact Digital Education if you would like advice.

Using a visualiser at home

In the classroom or lecture hall, many rooms will have a visualiser (also called a document camera) for showing writing and objects. These are typically hooked up to a projection screen through the AV system and are also captured by lecture capture. UCL uses a mix of table-top visualisers and ceiling mounted visualisers from a company called Wolfvision.

You can also buy more consumer-level products in this category. At home I use an IPEZO VZ-R camera, which costs about £200.

The IPEVO VZ-R visualiser - a sturdy base with a webcam mounted on a flexible hinge.

IPEVO VZ-R Visualiser (source: ipevo.com)

The camera connects via USB and can be used in two ways:

Either method works well, but I’d recommend the latter as webcam video is often heavily compressed. This method works well with all our supported platforms, including Lecturecast (Echo 360) Universal Capture Personal, Blackboard Collaborate and Microsoft Teams.

The camera is compact but sturdy. It has an in-built light, and facilities such as zoom and autofocus, and can capture a surface slightly less than A3. It also has an inbuilt microphone which is likely to be closer to you when you are speaking than one in a laptop.

Control buttons on the IPEVO VZ-R including power, zoom and focus

Control buttons on the IPEVO VZ-R (source: ipevo.com)

The software can control the features of the camera, and can make recordings that you could upload to Lecturecast, for example. The controls neatly get out of the way when they aren’t being used, so that you can focus on the content. The image below shows the auto-focus in operation, clearly capturing a book cover.

IPEVO Visualizer software showing controls and a picture of a book under the camera

IPEVO Visualizer software showing controls

The Visualizer application can easily be shared in a Blackboard Collaborate room, and you can then move the window out of the way and focus on the participants. The image below shows me writing some simple maths on a notepad, captured by the camera, using the screen sharing feature of Collaborate to show this to other participants.

Writing equations which are shared within a Blackboard Collaborate room

Writing equations which are shared within a Blackboard Collaborate room.

IPEVO offer another model, the V4K, for £100, which has a lower resolution sensor (but still good) and no light. Of course other companies are available, and I’ve heard recommendations of Genee and Aver models. These types of visualisers are often used in secondary schools, so any teachers you know may be able to give suitable advice.

One thing I particularly like about the IPEVO models is the design. The one I have folds fairly flat, so is easy to store away, so my living room doesn’t have to look like a lecture theatre. Here’s a comparison of its size when folded compared to a bottle of wine. And yes, it does fit in a wine rack.

An IPEVO VZ-R is about the size of a bottle of wine when folded

The IPEVO VZ-R folds down to the size of a bottle of wine.


Writing on an iPad or other tablet

Using an Apple Pencil on an iPad or a stylus for other devices, you can use a notes or sketch app to write on an iPad. This works fine as a standalone process, but you can also use software such as Reflector or Airserver to mirror your device to your PC or Mac and screen share it as part of a call using Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom etc., or to record it from your screen using Lecturecast Personal Capture. If you have a Mac, you can also plug in your USB to Lightning cable and use Quicktime to mirror your screen by selecting your iPad as the camera source (thanks to Dr Steven Schofield from UCL Physics and Astronomy for that tip).

The short clip below shows Steven leading a revision lecture with his students. He reports that “I gave a two hour live revision lecture today; I was able to use the screen mirroring software to share my iPad Mini screen with the class via Blackboard Collaborate. It went really well and I had good feedback from the students. I think the overall experience is so much better than just talking to prepared slides. ”


Using a webcam

If you have a webcam that isn’t built in to your computer, you can use this too. We’ve tried a couple of webcams and it can work well, but may not have the full controls or handy features like the light that the VZ-R has.

If you have a laptop webcam above the screen, there’s  further option using a mirror to give you a whiteboard surface. Again IPEVO has an option for this, or you can look at making your own using a 3D printer or just cardboard cutouts. John Umekubo has blogged about this, and John Mitchell from UCL has put it into practice. The much lower cost means it could be a great option for students to show their workings.


Using a graphics tablet

Graphics tablets are often associated with drawing and more artistic work, but can also be used for writing. It can be less natural as your writing is preserved only on screen rather than on the tablet itself, a difference between writing on paper. Wacom are the brand leader with many higher end products for artists, but for simple writing tasks more modest brands are also suitable. We’ve had good reports of the XP-Pen and Viekk brands. Feedback suggests that the size of the graphics tablet is more important than features like number of levels of pressure sensitivity for writing tasks.


Using a mobile phone or tablet

You may have seen tweets where inventive teachers have rigged up their phones to use as cameras. But how do you do this?

Well, IPEVO provide an app for that too. To make this work, you need three things:

  • An Apple or Android phone on the same network as your computer (PC, Mac, Chromebook and Linux supported)
  • An installation of IPEVO iDocCam on your phone
  • An installation of IPEVO Visualizer on your computer

Launch the app on your phone, and then the Visualizer software on your computer, and your phone will appear in the list of available cameras.

The phone can be selected from the list of cameras available in the IPEVO Visualizer software

Your phone shows as a camera in the IPEVO Visualizer software

And here is an example of it in use, with my old IPhone SE acting as the camera:

The final bit is to rig the phone up in a secure way, about 40cm above your desk. You might use a desk mount, or a pile of books, or some blu tack and string. How  you do this is up to you, but this tweet from UCL’s Matt Whyndham might give you some inspiration.

Lecturecast Update(Summer 2019)

Janice Kiugu6 September 2019

For those new to UCL, Lecturecast is UCL’s automated lecture recording system.

It is designed for course tutors/administrators to record their lectures as supplemental resources and share them with their students via the respective Moodle course. Lecturecast is not a replacement for lecture attendance and is provided to complement lectures and provide an additional resource to support student learning.

Guidance on using Lecturecast is available via the Lecturecast Resource Centre

Preparing for 2019/2020

  1. Staff can now schedule recordings for the 2019/2020 academic year. Note that to schedule a recording, the event must be timetabled via CMIS, take place in a Lecturecast-enabled teaching space and be less than 4 hours long. Staff will only be able to schedule events taking place within the next 3 months (on a rolling basis).
  2. Ensure you unlink mappings to old Lecturecast recordings from your Moodle courses(s) and add a new link/mapping (s) for the 2019/2020 sections.

New for 19/20

You may notice a few improvements to the Lecturecast system for the 2019/2020 academic year. These include:

1. Student Analytics are now updated more frequently

The student engagement data on the Analytics tab in Sections (when viewing the list of recordings in Moodle) is now updated at least hourly (instead of once daily). Student interactions with class media and with the section as a whole are provided throughout the day, allowing staff to view data with closer to real-time status.

2. Schedule recordings for non-teaching events

It is now possible to schedule recordings for non-teaching events. The events must be CMIS timetabled, occur in a Lecturecast enabled room and be less than 4 hours long.

As these events are not associated with a module code, the recordings will be placed in the personal library of the staff member scheduling the recording. Staff can then download the recording and upload it onto a streaming server such as UCL Media Central.

Note:  Lecturecast is designed mainly for the recording of lectures. If you are looking to record a special event e.g. an inaugural lecture, conference and need a high quality recording then please contact Digital Media services video@ucl.ac.uk who provide video and editing services.

3. Universal Capture replaces Personal Capture

Action may be required:  If you are still using Personal Capture, please upload all video recordings immediately and install Universal Capture.

‘Universal Capture’ which is now available to download via the Lecturecast interface has replaced ‘Personal Capture’. Personal capture is no longer supported or available to download.  The Universal Capture tool allows staff to record audio, video and their laptop displays in much the same way as the Personal capture system but with a greater degree of reliability. Content is also packaged and uploaded as you record, meaning that the completed recording is available much sooner. To download Universal Capture, use the ‘Downloads’ link available from the settings icon in the Lecturecast section. Ensure you select Universal Capture: Personal. A video demo of Universal Capture is available on the the Echo360 support pages.

4. Pilot of automatic transcripts for Lecturecast recordings

Over the next few months, Digital Education along with several volunteers from across the university will be running a pilot of the Lecturecast ‘automatic speech recognition’ (ASR) functionality. ASR has the potential to provide invaluable support for students with hearing difficulties but can be a useful additional resource for all students. However, the system needs to be tested with a range of voices, accents, and subjects, including those with discipline-specific or specialist terminology, in order to assess the accuracy of the resulting transcripts and how much work might be involved to correct them. The project has been prompted by the legislation that came into effect last autumn to ensure that digital content is accessible by everyone, and we would also like to explore how useful students in pilot groups find the service.

For more information,contact digitalaccessibility@ucl.ac.uk

Training

To sign up or register an interest in upcoming training sessions, use the links below.

Useful resources:

Cloud services enable How to Change the World student programme to go global

Alan Y Seatwo14 July 2017

For the last four years, the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) has been running a two-week programme called ‘How to Change the World’ (HtCtW) for undergraduate engineering students in the Faculty as part of the Integrated Engineering Programme. The aim of HtCtW is to enable students to work in multi-disciplinary teams and collaborate to create engineering solutions to an open-ended problem linked to a particular global challenge.

Due to the success of this format, the programme is being rolled out externally. It was piloted with members of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) in London in 2016, and now STEaPP is partnering with the RAEng and National Academy of Engineering to run a student programme for a cohort of 150 students (from China, UK and US) at the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2017 in Washington DC on 18–20 July.

Students will generate their own audio or video podcasts exploring how solving one or more of the Grand Challenges could impact real peoples’ lives for the better. These podcasts will be reviewed and a selection will be promoted across a range of professional networks and media channels, with career-enhancing benefits for participants.

Five members of STEaPP staff will travel to Washington DC and offer face-to-face facilitation at the Summit. In additional, the department is also offering online learning consultancy to the RAEng that enables us to develop, produce and release online learning materials to support the programme. Based on a ‘flipped classroom’ approach, we are use a combination of the Microsoft Office 365 tool and online cloud storage to set up a password-protected online portal where students can access information and reading materials to prepare for the programme. Using Dropbox’s “File Request” allows students at the Summit without an account to submit their deliverables.

We are also working with experts in media to give the students some unique insights into how best to communicate their message. Alok Jha (ITV News Science correspondent), Dr Kevin Fong (STEaPP Honorary Lecture and BBC science programme presenter) and Oliver Morton (the Economist) have been tasked with producing an online guide on how to produce a good podcast.

The use of a range of cloud services enable the partnership of UCL STEaPP, RAEng, British broadcast professionals and US-based organisations to work effectively together to design, develop and deliver this student programme. It is hoped that the experience of this collaborative work will help STEaPP to further develop our expertise in the use of learning technologies in both formal and informal learning curricula.

 

Alan Seatwo

Learning Technologist and E-Learning Champion at STEaPP

Accessibility of e-learning – 10 key points from the free OU course

Jessica Gramp13 June 2017

The UK Open University (2006) provide a useful introductory course, called Accessibility of eLearning, that will help you understand how to create accessible e-learning experiences that provide access for all. The course can be completed online, or downloaded in a number of common file formats, including for e-readers and as a PDF.

I would strongly suggest either completing the course, or reading the course materials, but if you don’t have time I’m going to summarise the key points in this post:

  1. In 2006, disability affected 10-20% of every country’s population, and this number is growing.
  2. In 2006, 15% of the UK population, over 16 years old, self-declared a disability.
  3. A disabled person is one who has a mental or physical disability that has a substantial, long term (12 months or more), adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
  4. Around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 200 women have red-green colour blindness.
  5. UK Universities are legally obligated to make reasonable, anticipatory adjustments to ensure those with disabilities are not discriminated against.
  6. There are two views of disability. The medical model describes the problem of disability as stemming from the person’s physical or mental limitation. The social model sees disability as society restricting those with impairments in the form of prejudice, inaccessible design, policies of exclusion, etc.
  7. Accessibility is about both technical and usable access for people with disabilities. For example, although a table of data may be technically accessible by a blind person using a screen reader, they may not be able to relate the data in each cell to its column or row heading, so the meaning of the data is lost in the process, rendering the table unusable for that person.
  8. Computers enable even severely disabled people to communicate unaided, giving them independence and privacy that is not possible when they need to rely on human assistants.
  9. When communicating online, a disability may not be visible, removing barriers caused by people’s reactions to the disability.
  10. Creating accessible learning environments helps everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, products that can be used by blind people are also useful for people whose eyes are busy*.

*This last point reflects my own preference for listening to academic papers while running or walking to work, when I would be otherwise unable to “read” the paper. As a student and full-time employee, being able to use this time to study enables me to manage my time effectively and merge my fitness routine, with study time. This is only possible because my lecturers, and many journals these days too, provide accessible documents that can be read out loud using my mobile smartphone.

This list brifly summarises the key points I drew from the OU’s Accessibility of eLearning course and demonstrates some of the ways we, as developers of online courses, can make better online learning experiences for all our students, including those with disabilities.

References

Open University (2016) Accessibility of E-Learning. [Online]. Available from: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education/professional-development-education/accessibility-elearning/content-section-0 [Accessed: 13 June 2017].

LinkedIn Masterclass – who do you want to become?

Moira Wright14 February 2017

During the autumn term a group of 20 UCL UG, PG, PGR, PGT and PhD students attended a LinkedIn masterclass workshop series designed and delivered by Miguel Garcia, Global Instruct Manager from LinkedIn. The course consisted of six 2 hour workshops designed to develop the right mindset and enhance skills to enable students to use LinkedIn according to their own needs and interests.

The benefit of having Miguel Garcia delivering the sessions was apparent from the start – his knowledge of LinkedIn and how it can work for an individual or an organisation – is second to none!

Watch the video below to hear more from Miguel and some comments and feedback from students here:

He took his experience of helping customers grow their businesses using LinkedIn and applied this to helping students find and prepare for careers aligned to their personalities, interests, ambitions, skills, and values.

The first session asked the question Why Should I use LinkedIn? The students were shown how to begin to establish a professional brand, how to find the right people, how to engage with people, and how to initiate and build relationships as well as how they can see and measure immediately the effectiveness of their actions on LinkedIn. The session ended with recommendations on what to focus on and some actions to take in the next seven days.

Session two was called How do I build my personal brand? and was based on the premise that just because you are a student it doesn’t mean you don’t have experience or a personal brand. This session focused in learning how to showcase the skills and experience gained from student roles, volunteering or part time work in a compelling way to attract recruiters and powerful industry influencers. The students learnt about how to curate content from past experiences for their profile to enhance and improve the way this is shown by using the rich media options available to you on LinkedIn. This curated content along with a professional profile photograph provides a complete profile that is attractive to both recruiters as well as prospective employers.

The third session How can I communicate effectively? is probably something that most people have struggled with at one time or another – finding the right way to say things and then share them with a global audience can be daunting so this session concentrated on effective social sharing and publishing on LinkedIn. During the session students were sending messages, InMails, introduction and connection requests to begin to build their networks. One key aspect covered in this session was the difference between academic writing and business writing in respect of written posts for LinkedIn and the importance of finding ‘your voice’ to do so.

The fourth session How should I connect with others? was focused on connecting with the right people in the right way – basically networking effectively. The opportunity for students to connect with professionals, academics and influencers gives them access to unique career opportunities and informs them about the job market and how it works. The most effective students will be able draw on the expertise of their network before applications and interviews giving them unique and valuable insights and information or advice.

The fifth session How do I use LinkedIn to find a job or internship? is probably why most students signed up. The challenge is not just to find a job but the right career opportunity and something that you will enjoy doing. There are many examples of how others have managed to do this – even when it did not seem very likely. This session showed how by conducting research on LinkedIn you can access career and company pages to get an understanding of an organisation’s culture, benefits and opportunities to make sure they line up with what you are looking for. The session also included how to create a plan to stay in contact with employers so that when opportunities become available your chances are enhanced.

The final session How can I use LinkedIn to develop the ultimate career plan? was about how to put together a strategy and flexible plan to raise your chances of success in a changing world. The importance of having a long term plan and strategy for how you will use everything learned on the course and use it over the next 6 months in actionable steps. Students will set their own milestones, agree what further learning they may need or where they need to improve. Every student will make a 6 month commitment with regular check-ins to ensure progress.

The course was totally oversubscribed and I experienced something I never have before at UCL – an increase in participation for the first few weeks – a definite first for me. In fact the course has been so successful we are running it again this term – this time with 40 places available and have moved every other session online to Blackboard Collaborate.

Miguel has brought with him a set of unique skills and experiences that have greatly benefited UCL students –there really can’t be many who have experience of the full recruitment cycle from both an employers and employee perspective along with such a deep understanding of how a platform like LinkedIn works. Having completed the course students are now confidently and happily making connections, reaching out to prospective employers and building networks of contacts on their own.

There is usually a distinct lack of control for a graduate who is job searching – they are often limited to contact with a HR department or a recruiter and with most job applications being made online – they seldom get feedback or guidance on why things may not have worked out as the volumes of applicants are far too high to do so. This is one of the many benefits of using LinkedIn – you are much more in control of things and generally the communication is direct and also in real time.

Nowadays it is increasingly important for students to understand how online recruiting and job searching works – what the pluses can be and also any pitfalls. What has worked so well with this course is how Miguel has perfectly balanced the blend of coaching, activities and presentations – yet still managing to address each and every person’s needs in the group. There have been some quite remarkable transformations during the course and some of the first cohort are now working on a 1 minute video to add to their LinkedIn profile – watch this space!

If you want to learn more about using LinkedIn check out the Learning LinkedIn Lynda.com course.