Monthly Archive for February, 2009

RSC-MP3: HE Update Feb ‘09

RSC-MP3 LogoWelcome to our second episode of RSC-MP3, a monthly audio podcast highlighting some higher education focused e-learning news, interviews and resources brought to you by Kevin Brace (RSC West Midlands) and Martin Hawksey (RSC Scotland North and East). Web links to the various topics we discuss are contained under the podcast links. You can listen to this podcast on your PC, or when “on the move” by adding it to your ipod playlist.

Each month we will interview a guest speaker and also record a conversation between us discussing current issues contained in our blogs (see links below). This month we interviewed Professor Terry Mayes emeritus professor at Glasgow Caledonian University. Professor Mayes discusses the current shape of higher education and the challenges of 21st century learning as well as some of his current work with the Higher Education Academy. Click here for the interview with Terry Mayes in full.

HE Update
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Duration: 47 minutes
Size: 44.3MB

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Our blogs

Links from Kevin’s subjects: Timestamps represented as [minutes:seconds]

Links from Martin’s subjects:

RSC-MP3: HE Update Feb ‘09 – Interview with Terry Mayes

RSC-MP3 LogoThis month I interviewed Terry Mayes, Emeritus Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University. I did my very best to put Terry off with my rambling questions and changing the subject just as Terry was about to reveal an expert insight into the current status and direction of higher education. Despite this I hope you can find some gems in this months interview:

Interview with Terry Mayes
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Duration: 18 minutes
Size: 16.4MB

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01:15 - Terry mentioned the Pathfinder Special Interest Groups including Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes SIG. Terry also briefly talks about the Enhancement Academy – cross between pathfinder and change academy. This programme is for institutions who were a part of the e-benchmarking but weren’t eligible for pathfinder funding.

03:45 - We touch upon strategic transformation of institutions leading on to managing expectations of staff and students. Terry believes there is a shift from push to pull approaches to teaching and learning being led from bottom up and enabled by current technology. (We both mention the SFC e-Learning Transformation Programme (including TESEP and REAP)).

06:45 - Expectations of students – Terry talked about his experiences chairing the Enhancement Themes - First Year Experience programme. In particular he highlights that a common recommendation was to rethink what we mean by induction. To preparing students for higher education Terry believes we have to personalise the approach, looking at every individual student and prepare them by looking at their particular needs. Terry believes we should shift more resources to the front end. The first few weeks are critical and requires seamless integration with schools and colleges.

10:00 - Terry believes primary schools are rich with examples of constructivist teaching. It is when students progress into secondary and tertiary education that they experience the ‘dead hand of subjects’. Fundamental divide between subject based learning and learning in a more holistic way i.e. the fundamentals of learning how to learn.

12:00 - Terry believes there is greater awareness of constructivist pedagogy. Practitioners might not know the jargon but they understand the processes required to make teaching effective. Terry however believes practitioners identity is with their subject not necessarily with students needing to become lifelong learners. Widening access also means students who entering higher education lack some of the fundamental skills to get them through their courses (including basic language skills). Terry believes most teachers don’t see it as part of their role to deal with students at that level. At point do we choose to reconfigure the systems to deal with the situation. Terry talked about how technology has added a new subplot around learner created content. For the learner to explore a subject and the teacher to facilitate this.

15:00 - I raise the idea that Open Educational Resources (OER) is the investment in content and not community. Terry noted that the name of the initiative was changed from Open Educational Content at least now it is Open Educational Resources, which implies slightly more awareness. Terry wondered if this was another example of Groundhog Day (Terry used the plot of this film “as a metaphor to describe how the experience of living through the excitement about technology in education always ended the same way – in disappointingly little change” See Groundhog Day again?). Terry has mixed feelings that there is a danger that we will spend a lot of time and effort creating a subject specific base of courseware. But if this is used as an acknowledgement that learners can create and seek and find their own content it may be beneficial. For main stream teaching it may allow a shift from focusing on content to providing feedback. The key is to see how it is used.

What I've 'starred' this week - February 24, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Starred Items.

3rd party twitter apps for education – SMS broadcast

Twe2 - Steps to getting twitter updates via SMS Last month I posted about Twitter in Higher Education. This post, while very recent, has already made it to my top 5 read posts. This has spurred me to make some follow up posts. In particular I’ve been looking for 3rd party applications that use twitter which might be useful in an academic setting. My starting point was the Twitter Fan Wiki, which has compiled a huge list of Twitter Apps. One particular application which took my interest was is a free service which allows you to receive SMS updates. Towards the end of July 2008 I highlighted how you could use twitter as a free SMS text message broadcast system. The idea being that students could follow a twitter feed for a class or course receiving updates on their mobile phone i.e. assignment reminders or general administration etc. Unfortunately 2 weeks after making this post twitter pulled the service citing rise costs :-(.

Twe2 have cleverly found a way covering the costs of this service by including by adding an advert at the end of each SMS update. Twe2 fully integrates into twitter and there is very little additional setup. I’ve prepared this sort screencast to show you how to do this.

Example of using twe2 as a free SMS text broadcast system from Martin Hawksey on Vimeo.

In my screencast I also mention another 3rd party application twitterfeed. This service allows you to convert any RSS feed into twitter tweets. So for example if your course uses a VLE which creates an RSS for news or announcements this can be automatically be pushed to your class twitter account which will then be sent to any student who has registered their mobile phone with twe2.

What I've 'starred' this week - February 17, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Starred Items.

What I've 'starred' this week - February 10, 2009

Here’s some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Starred Items.

Using Tokbox for Live and Recorded Video Feedback

Originally uploaded by jamiehladky

Recent Times Higher Education Award winner Russell Stannard has gained much notoriety for his use of video feedback on student assignments. Similar to audio feedback (which I’ve covered in this post), Russell promotes the use of screen recorder software to record the tutor’s evaluation of of a piece of students work. For an example see this YouTube video.

I was first made aware of Russell’s work in late 2006 when this article from the THE was pushed under my nose followed by the question ‘can we do this?’. At the time I was confident that the screen recording software was freely available (CamStudio was at the top of my list), but I was unsure about how and where the video files could be securely hosted or delivered and consequently the idea wasn’t taken any further.

Two years on and if I was to be asked the same question today my answer would be TokBox. TokBox is a free web service which not only allows you to talk to your friends via a live video link but also allows you to record and send videomails.

Before I talk about how you might implement Russell’s model there is one other additional piece of software I need to introduce. A key element of video feedback is to capture the screen desktop as the tutor works their way through an electronic copy of a piece of students work. To use TokBox you need a way of streaming your desktop. The solution is to use a virtual webcam. Virtual webcam software allows you to trick your computer into thinking your desktop is a webcam (confused? - my example at the end of this post hopefully explains all). The virtual webcam software I like to use, and is which is also free, is ManyCam.

So back to the main topic - to implement Russell Stannard’s model there two directions you can take. The first option is to give a student live feedback. To do this you need to register with TokBox (it’s free) which will generate for you a dedicate link. This dedicated link can either be to the TokBox site or (and this feature really impressed me) you can embed it into your own website! You would  then direct the student to the link at a specified time and talk through their assignment.

The second option is to record a voicemail message. With this option you would record your desktop as you talked through a students assignment. TokBox then allows you to email a person, or a list of people, a link to the recorded voicemail.

Worried that the perennial problem of students never checking their feedback will mean they will never follow the link to their feedback? Fear not - TokBox will email you when the voicemail has been picked up (I hope you are impressed - I was).

This video demonstrates how all of this fits together:

Example of using TokBox to deliver video feedback on student submited work from Martin Hawksey on Vimeo.

Using Google Talk for Audio Feedback

Originally uploaded by Dan's Photos

The use of audio feedback for student assessments is not a new concept. I’m not familiar with all the literature but I’ve picked up a quote from Rust in 2001 highlighting the advantages of audio feedback:

While reducing the time you spend, this may actually increase rather than reduce the amount of feedback given…Students frequently say that they get far more information from taped comments, including the tone of one’s voice, than they do from written comments, and they also do not have to try to cope with some of our illegible writing. (Rust, 2001: 22)

I picked this quote up from Bob Rotheram, ‘Indirector’ (Bob explains his title here) of the Sounds Good 2 project.  Bob has been exploring the use of audio feedback for a number of years investigating not only the benefits for students but also finding ways to remove the barriers for teaching staff. There is a very good summary of Bob’s work here. While Bob started using the audio recording software Audacity he felt that to achieve greater adoption he needed a simpler solution and moved to digital recorders/dictaphones. 

An alternative ‘one button’ solution could be to use the new voice features in Google Talk. Google Talk was initially developed as an instant messaging (IM)client, similar to MSN messenger et al., allowing synchronous ‘chat’ communication between users. As with a lot of other IM clients Google has been adding voice features (similar to Skype) allowing users to make calls to other contacts. A great additional feature of Google’s solution is the ability to leave voicemail. The voicemail is recorded in mp3 format (up to 10 minutes in length)and automatically delivered to the recipients inbox as an attachment. To use this feature you have to have a Google account (which is free), but the recipient can have any email address. I’ve prepared a short video showing how the system works:

Before you go rushing off to try this a couple of drawbacks of this system I’ve noted are:

  • you have to record your feedback in one take;
  • once you start recording there is no way of stopping your message from ending up in the recipients inbox; and
  • you do not get a copy of your sent voicemail (a way around this would be to use a program like Audacity to record your message as you delivery it)

An interested twist might be to get students to use this voicemail feature to submit assignment, which might be particularly useful for language courses.

What I've 'starred' this week - February 3, 2009

Here’s some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Starred Items.

RSC-MP3: HE Update Jan ’09

Logo for RSC-MP3Welcome to our first episode of RSC-MP3, a new monthly audio podcast highlighting some higher education focused e-learning news, interviews and resources brought to you by Kevin Brace (RSC West Midlands) and Martin Hawksey (RSC Scotland North and East). Links to the various things we talk about are contained at the end of this post. You can listen to this podcast on your PC, or when “one the move” by adding it to your ipod playlist.

Each month we will interview a guest speaker. This month Kevin interviewed Steve Sawbridge the Association of Colleges (AoC) West Midlands regional Director. The interview with Steve is here.

HE Update
Duration: 30 minutes
Download Link

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List of links talked about in the update:

Our blogs

Podcasting subject  links:

Links from Martin’s subjects:

Links from Kevin’s subjects:


This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

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