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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Guardian Article on Lecture Capture

Jason R Norton18 January 2011

I saw this article “Will video kill the lecturing star?” by Jon Wolff about the use of Lecture recording in higher education. What makes this one different is that it isn’t about how good or bad lecture recording is, but is about how the academic experienced the system, his reaction to seeing himself in playback. What made this even more of an interest is that when I reached the end of the article I saw that he is a UCL academic. So as a follow up I have emailed him to find out if his experiences relate to Lecturecast or another system.

Will video kill the lecturing star?

Media and Learning 2010

Clive Young29 November 2010

I was at the Media and Learning conference in Brussels last week. The conference is a new spin off of the MEDEA Awards, a competition now in its third year that recognises and rewards excellence in video and media in education. The conference attracted over 250 delegates with a good representation from the UK. JISC Digital Media and JISC Legal were there talking about UK video collections and the legal aspects of lecture capture (known in the rest of Europe as ‘weblectures’).  Blogger Helen Keegan of the University of Salford gave an inspiring keynote on ‘learning ecosystems’, the transformation of ‘passive’ video into a medium for active communication and creation. This was certainly a theme of the conference and other keynotes including Ozge Karaoglu from Turkey (pictured) showcased some stunning work achieved by primary and secondary children across Europe. The main MEDEA award was fittingly won by BBC News for their BBC News School Report which gives 11-14 year-old students in the UK the chance to make their own news reports for a real audience.

We like Moodle. But some students *really* like Moodle. A lot.

19 November 2010

Moodle is but one of many Virtual Learning Environments available to HE institutions. There are many excellent reasons why UCL has chosen to use Moodle rather than other such systems.

Some of these are cited in this video.

And it’s considerably more fun than our actually list of positives might be!:

While this isn’t a full researched study, it’s encouraging to see students enthused and engaging critically with the technologies they use in their learning…

Kudos to ‘dawnofthunder’ and the students of Taylor University!

A different way to connect.

Rod Digges15 November 2010

Over breakfast at a recent conference on the use of the Echo360 (Lecturecast) system, I found myself talking to an LTA (Learning Technology Advisor) from a small US community college. He had recently been working with teachers from the Math School at the college, helping them transform their existing paper-based courses for online delivery.
One of the last, and most reluctant, members of staff to go online was a senior member of the school’s teaching staff, who met with the LTA regularly to discuss ideas for the new course. As the course’s live date approached, the LTA suggested that an online discussion forum be included; a place where students could share ideas, or give feedback about the course – the LTA also advised that it was good practice to prime a forum with one or more initial posts to ‘get the ball rolling’. The Maths teacher doubted the value of ‘this kind of thing’ but said that he’d think about it.
The new term began, the course was made live but it was a couple of weeks before the LTA and the Maths teacher had a chance to meet and review how things were going. When they did finally meet the LTA was pleased to hear that the course had been well received and asked his colleague what he had found most useful.
The Maths teacher said that he had taken up the suggestion of including a discussion forum and to get the ball rolling had posted the question for all students – ‘What does Maths mean to you in your life?’. This was a question. that over his years of teaching, he always asked every group of students at their first lecture – observing sadly that he rarely got much of a response.
The teacher said that asking the same question in an online forum had made a big difference, the LTA told me that there were tears in his colleagues eyes as he talked about the many messages in the forum and how a number of students had talked about the beauty and elegance of mathematics, describing a passion for the subject that matched his own – he said the replies had inspired him and that his teaching with this group had an energy and enthusiasm he hadn’t felt for years.

The Lecturecast conference covered many interesting uses of this very impressive technology, but a few months later, trying to think of subject for this blog, it’s the story of the Maths teacher and his students that sticks in my mind and how the use of a much simpler technology gave them a different way to connect.

Free Online Screencasting Tools

Clive Young17 September 2010

An increasingly common tool for teaching, training, presentation and demonstration is the use of video capture of computer screen activity, usually accompanied by voice-over narrative. When delivered to users as a digital video file, this is known collectively as screencasting.

Free Online Screencasting Tools is a recently-published guide from JISC Digital Media covering the many new applications you can use including ScreenToaster, Screencast-o-Matic and Screenr but not Jing, one of my favourites.

For a more  in-depth guide to the complete screencasting workflow, take a look at the JISC advice document Screencasting Workflow, or for a quick introduction to screen capture read Introducing Screen Capture Software.

TLN: Audio and Video in teaching

Fiona Strawbridge21 January 2010

This week’s TLN meeting focused on the use of multimedia in teaching and learning and included presentations from practitioners and supporters from UCL and Oxford University.

Multimedia at UCL

Patrick Robinson from the Multimedia team in Learning & Media Services (formerly Media Services) kicked things off with a review of UCL’s support and plans in this area. He mentioned the Lecturecast project which will roll out facilities to record all lectures in UCL’s 20 largest lecture rooms over the next 18 months. Other newsworthy items are:

  • The forthcoming GO service – a system for delivering key information to smartphones (starting of course with the iPhone, but soon to include a large number of other devices) based on ‘CampusM’ which has been launched successfully at Sheffield and a couple of other institutions.
  • Plans to select and pilot a desktop webconferencing service.
  • Introduction of live streaming to mobile devices of lunch hour lectures and other high profile events.

Oxford’s dreaming Steeples

We were then joined by Carl Marshall from Oxford University who runs the Steeple project which involves the Open University and Cambridge University as main partners, along with UCL and a few other institutions. Steeple encompasses podcasting, open content and iTunes U. Like UCL, Oxford was one of the first UK institutions to use iTunes U and they have an impressive 1500 academics actively podcasting, many on a regular basis. They have had an amazing 2,000,000 downloads and indeed some academics have become minor stars through this medium!

Carl outlined three categories of use – High End – professional graphics, camerawork, production, careful editing; Low End – tends to be audio-only content, often recordings of real classes, minimum production effort; Middle Ground – anything inbetween!

As we know at UCL once podcasts are in iTunes U and people download them they are ‘out there’ – so branding is important (we watermark ours). It is also important that folk ensure that they don’t include anything which isn’t legal, decent, honest and truthful (copyright, IPR, libel etc etc). At Oxford it is up to the individual academic to ensure that their podcast is up-to-scratch, but the head of department is ultimately responsible.

Carl mentioned a couple of interesting future developments:

  • KERMIT – a 3D walk-around environment which he described as being like the weatherman with green screen (hence the name I guess) for projecting graphics.
  • CHIRPING – provision of audio feedback in addition to written feedback for students.
  • KITTENS – an asset repository.

Carl’s vision of the future is one of the ‘pocket university’ with widespread availability of open content – making all sorts of academic material available free of charge, under creative commons licences, to all.

UCL’s Language Space

Sibylle Nalezinski from the Languages of the Wider World CETL talked about a couple of nice uses of audio and video in language teaching. One example was the use of video clips followed by questions on what was said in Moodle – this type opf resource may take some time and effort to assemble, but may be reused many times in classes. Another one which sounded like fun was a group of English for Academic Purposes students who had produced a radio show – which they were then able to send to their friends and family at home. They had included interviews with each other about their experiences as new students and this aspect had proved bonding for them as a group. Sibylle’s final example was an audio recording about cooking made by a spanish student in her kitchen, complete with culinary sound effects!

Leadership in Medical Teaching and Training

Dr Jean McEwan from the department of surgery entertained us and made us feel our ages by talking about Generation Y (aka the net generation, or digital natives) and how their early immersion in technology has furnished them with different expectations and preferences from digital immigrants (anyone born before 1980, including baby-boomers (pre 1964), generation X (1964-1980)). She pointed out that most of those educating medical students were baby-boomers. Working with other senior academics in the Medical School Jean has put together what appeared to be an excellent one-day face-to-face training day, which is backed up by 9 days of Moodle pre-study (including lots of media and thought-provoking exercises.) Oh and all participants were provided with an iPod Touch pre-populated with some of the materials (and instructions to ask their kids or a student if they couldn’t work out how to use it :D).


Jason Norton from the LTSS talked about the new Lecturecast service – systems for recording lectures and making them available online in a variety of formats. The recordings can be made available almost immediately with no editing, or the lecturer may edit them via a web interface – usually this just involved topping and tailing to remove the chatter at the start and end of a class. The results can be made available in one or more of a range of formats – audio only, audio plus slides/visualiser, video of the lecturer plus slides, video of lecturer only. They may be streamed (i.e. drip-fed live to a computer – like the BBC’s iplayer) or made available for download perhaps via iTunes U as a podcast, or through Moodle or a web page. The Chemistry department call their library of recorded lectures their ‘time machine’.

Next steps for Lecturecast will be to roll it out to 20 lecture theatres at UCL, and to add automated recognition of text from slides to allow students to search for the right spot in a lecture.

All in all a most enjoyable session.