Monthly Archive for May, 2009

Generating Student Video Feedback using ScreenToaster

video feedback
video feedback
Originally uploaded by theLaika

As I’ve recently revisited on generating audio feedback it seemed timely, particularly with a request from UHI coming into my inbox, to also have another look at video feedback. Russell Stannard recently won a Times Higher Education Award partly for his work in this particular area. In Russell’s work he uses screen capture software to record feedback on electronic submissions of student work. More information on this technique is available in a case study Russell prepared for the Higher Education Academy English Subject Centre on Using Screen Capture Software in Student Feedback. An example of using this technique is also available - click here for a short example of video feedback.

In my original post I highlighted Using Tokbox for Live and Recorded Video Feedback as a possible solution to distribute video feedback. At the time I felt there were two niggling issues with using Tokbox. First there was the requirement to install the ManyCams software to allow you to display your desktop and secondly Tokbox was very slow in uploading video you had recorded. For live video feedback Tokbox might still be worth considering, but shortly after publishing the post I discovered ScreenToaster.

ScreenToaster allows you to record your desktop without installing any software. It’s very easy to setup and the videos you create can be immediately uploaded allowing you to decides how you want to distribute and share them. The following video shows you how easy it is to setup and highlights some of the useful features. Even if you are not interested in delivering video feedback to students this is still a great site to record other material like demonstrations of software.

ScreenToaster Screencast
Example of using ScreenToaster to deliver video feedback on student submitted work from Martin Hawksey on Vimeo

What I’ve 'starred' this week - May 26, 2009

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

  • AccessApps wins international accolade - May 19, 2009
  • Solvr: Group Problem Solving App - May 20, 2009 - “Solvr is an interesting group problem solving tool which lets you collaboratively discuss problems and ideas over the net. The application provides platform where you can enter thoughts or problems and then invite others to add ideas on how to solve them”

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Student Audio Feedback: What, why and how

Listen to this:

Download link

Originally uploaded by Dan's Photos
I captured this clip of students from the University of Chester and Sheffield Hallam talking about their experiences of receiving audio feedback at the last Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes SIG at Glasgow Caledonian University. This event was very fortuitous as at the time I was helping source material for a Queen Margaret University (QMU) staff workshop on this very topic. If you are still unclear as to what audio feedback is here is a nice description from Andrew Middleton:

Audio feedback can be defined as formative messages, recorded and distributed as digital audio to individual students or student groups in response to both ongoing and submitted work, allowing each student to develop their knowledge and the way they learn. (Middleton, A. 2008)

Why do I think audio feedback is worth exploring? It is clear from the National Student Survey (NSS) that feedback is a particular area if dissatisfaction. There is a growing pool of evidence that students perceive audio feedback as a positive to their learning experience (although I’m not aware of research on actual learning gains).

Existing practitioners/projects

In my research for the QMU workshop I came across a number of projects and practitioners exploring this area, which I believe are worth sharing in this post:

[If I’ve missed anyone off please use the comments to highlight them and their work]

In researching audio feedback it was clear while there were distinct benefits but there were some reoccurring themes in terms of limitations. First is scalability. It’s all well and good providing individual feedback to up to 50 students but with figures beyond this it just becomes to onerous.

Audio feedback models

A solution to this problem is to explore other audio feedback models. Andrew Middleton at Sheffield Hallam University has identified a number of alternative models which include:

  • Personal tutor monologue – tutor feedback to individual student
  • Personal feedback conversations – recording tutor/student meetings
  • Broadcast feedback – generic feedback to the class
  • Peer audio feedback – student generated audio feedback
  • Tutor conversations – recording teaching staff conversations

More information on these models is available in a presentation made by Andrew at the Blended Learning Conference or in a forthcoming paper entitled ‘Audio Feedback design: principles and emerging practice’.

Don’t expect to save time

A finding from the Sounds Good 2 project is that providing individual student feedback is unlikely to save any staff time (there is a messy debate about whether high quality feedback offers long term gains in terms of how much additional feedback is required further down the line). Sounds Good have however circumstances where time can be saved (taken from the Sounds Good Final Report):

  • The assessor is comfortable with the technology.
  • The assessor writes or types slowly but records their speech quickly.
  • A substantial amount of feedback is given.
  • A quick and easy method of delivering the audio file to the student is available.


In terms of the technology there are a number of solutions which various projects propose. These include:

  • using a digital voice recorder which saves the files directly into MP3 format
  • using you Mac/PC using free audio recording software like Audacity (a portable version of Audacity on EduApps) or Wavosaur (this also can be used without installing any software)
  • using a mobile phone – if this feature is available

I also recently posted about Using Google Talk for Audio Feedback. This solution appears to be more troublesome than its worth but was useful as Joe Dale, via Andrew Middleton, highlighted the Vocaroo web service which look incredibly easy to use and worth a look at.

General advice

So what advice would I give to anyone thinking about using audio feedback? There are some very good recommendations from the Sounds Good project (final report) which are worth highlighting grouped under 4 themes: saving time; technical matters; administration; and structure:

Saving time

  • Don’t expect immediate savings in time, if any. Think of the long term returns for you and your students (there is anecdotal evidence that audio feedback reduces the need for follow up face-to-face sessions)
  • except minor mistakes. You are not looking to produce broadcast quality audio

Technical matters

  • optimise your files to minimise download size. Recommended mp3, mono and if possible reduce the bitrate to 32-40kbit/s
  • check files can be played on campus computers
  • make sure the audio is loud enough
  • have clear guidance on how to play files (I wouldn’t bother with guidance on playing files on portable media devices as the majority of students appear to prefer the convenience of playing them from a desktop computer)
  • have a backup of files in a secure location
  • if using shared devices or computers make sure files are deleted once backed up


  • if audio feedback is particularly being used as part of summative assessment make sure you have a conversation with quality assurance
  • make sure audio files are securely stored and distributed


  • try to personalise the feedback by introducing yourself, the assignment you are giving feedback on and refer to the student my name
  • keep focused – a 2 minute piece of feedback can be as, if not more, beneficial than a 10 minute ramble (the clip at the beginning of this post is just over a minute and conveys a lot of information)
  • I would recommend using audio feedback as supplemental to written feedback.

In terms of a procedure for creating audio feedback Bob Rotheram from the Sounds Good project recommends this procedure and general structure:

Feedback Procedure

  • Have the assignment details and assessment criteria with me.
  • Read the assignment, making written comments on it as I go along. If it’s on paper, I jot things in the margin. If it’s in an electronic format (e.g. Word), I use the ‘Track changes’ facility to annotate the document.
  • Read it again, more quickly this time, perhaps making a few more comments along the way.
  • Jot down (on scrap paper) the main summary points I wish to make.
  • Start the MP3 recorder.
  • Don’t bother to erase and re-record ‘misspeaks’; just correct them immediately, as in conversation.

General structure

  • Introduce yourself to the student in a friendly manner.
  • Say which assignment you’re giving feedback on. Outline the main elements of the comments which you’ll be giving (see below).
  • Work steadily through the assignment, amplifying and explaining notes you’ve put in the margins and, especially at the end, making more general points.
  • Refer to the assessment criteria.
  • Explain your thought processes as you move towards allocating a mark.
  • Offer a few, reasonably attainable, suggestions for improvement, even if the work is excellent.
  • Invite comments back from the student, including on the method of giving feedback.
  • Round things off in a friendly way.

Bob expands on these in his ‘Practice tips on using digital audio for assessment feedback

This post is based on material compiled and presented by Jim Sharp and Susi Peacock at Queen Margaret University

What I’ve 'starred' this week - May 19, 2009

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Evernote - Technologies for Teaching and Learning from Purdue University

I’m always on the lookout for educational examples of Evernote. I came across a great set of resources put together by Emily Marie Strong and co. at Purdue University. Links to what they have put together are below:

PS I’ve finally got around to putting together a screencast on setting up the Evernote plugin for WordPress, which is available on my EverPress Plugin page

Click on one of the following links to learn more about Evernote (taken from

Created with ...

What I’ve ’starred’ this week - May 12, 2009

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

What I've 'starred' this week - May 6, 2009

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

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Ultra mobile, ultra cheap – Which netbook now?

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Just over 6 months ago I posted Ultra mobile, ultra cheap – Netbooks. I’ve been meaning to revisit this post for some time. Not only has the market moved on in terms of the range of netbooks available, but on reflection my advice was some what biased leaning towards a device for me and not the average student. This post hopes to readdresses this balance identifying what I would be looking for in a netbook if I was a student.

Operating system – go for Windows

I would still recommend going for Windows. A development worth keeping an eye on is the new Windows 7 operating system due out later in the year. Originally I would have recommended sticking with Windows XP, Vista being too resource intensive for less powerful netbooks. Having loaded a beta version of Windows 7 on a netbook I was impressed with the speedy performance. So avoid Vista, get XP and if you are reading this post in a couple of months look out for ‘7’.

Connectivity - wireless + Bluetooth

I wouldn’t change much of my advice here. In fact it very hard to find a netbook without both a wired and wireless connection. Again bluetooth is useful and becoming a standard feature.

Screen resolution - at least 1024×600 (with 10” screen)

I would still recommend 1024×600 as a minimum resolution. For comfort of viewing I would also recommend a 10” screen (don’t forget to play around with toolbars to get maximum space. For example in Firefox use the Compact Classic theme and Glazoom zoom extension.

Storage - 8Gb SSD 160GB HDD

I would recommend getting a decent sized hard drive. There’s nothing more frustrating than running out of space particularly if you have lots of media like photos and video to keep. Unfortunately solid state drives, which have the benefit of no moving parts are still too expensive for this sort of size and you’ll have to nurture a traditional spinning disk hard drive.

Size - keep it compact (225×165mm 260x180mm)

As an every day device a decent sized keyboard will be essential for comfort of use and productivity. This size of the keyboard impacts the minimum size of the netbook so use 260x180mm as a guidance.

Battery Life 6 hours+

A big oversight of my original post was to include criteria for battery life. New processors (namely the Intel Atom chip) mean it is possible to get a lot more usage between charges. It is now possible to get netbooks which easily go for 6 hours while still not adding too much weight.

Cost - less than £250 £300

Unfortunately the global recession and weakness of the pound is impacting how far you money can go. I would also recommend upping the budget slightly to get a device which is hopefully suitable and robust enough for every day use.

Which Netbook would I buy (now if I was a student)?

In my original post I mentioned retiring my original netbook, which I’ve never quite got around too (although the soon to be released ASUS T91 is getting my interest). In the intervening months I have however purchased a new netbook to replace a laptop which got drowned in gin. The criteria I used for selecting a replacement potentially maps closely for what a student might be looking for (everyday use, portable, decent battery life). The device I went for was the Samsung NC-10. This device regularly gets praised for it excellent keyboard and solid build quality. For me the NC-10’s specification strikes a very good balance between being portable and suitable for everyday use and with it easily getting 6-7 hours solid use you don’t have to constantly sit next to a power socket.

Here’s a list of 5 possible contenders compiled on PriceGrabber which broadly fit the specification outlined above (click here to view latest prices):

Lenovo S10 Netbook
from £259.99
(5 sellers)
Compare Prices »
MSI Wind U100-220UK Black Netbook
from £259.99
(5 sellers)
Compare Prices »
Asus Eee PC 1000H Netbook
from £272.01
(6 sellers)
Compare Prices »
Samsung NC10 Blue Netbook
from £297.80
(8 sellers)
Compare Prices »
MSI Wind U100-221UK Black Netbook
from £298.69
(7 sellers)
Compare Prices »

RSC-MP3: HE Update Apr 09

Logo for RSC-MP3Welcome to our fourth 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). A quarter of the way through the year and we fall back into bad habits with a mammoth 44 minute edition. Fear not as we have summarised links to the various topics we discuss and indicate the timestamps so you can jump straight to our insightful repertoire. You can listen to this podcast on your computer, or when “on the move” by adding it to your ipod playlist.

This month Kevin interviewed Emma Purnell, Blended Learning Advisor at the University of Wolverhampton. Emma discusses her (many years) experience in the use of eportfolios as a student, lecturer, and staff support expert. Emma also gives some very insightful and pragmatic advice for an organisational adoption of eportfolios for those who are just beginning to discover their enormous potential. Click here for the interview with Emma Purnell in full (26 minutes).

HE Update
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Duration: 44 minutes
Size: 40.2MB
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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 Apr 09 – Interview with Emma Purnell

Logo for RSC-MP3This month Kevin interviewed Emma Purnell, Blended Learning Advisor at the University of Wolverhampton. Emma discusses her (many years) experience in the use of eportfolios as a student, lecturer, and staff support expert.  Emma also gives some very insightful and pragmatic advice for an organisational adoption of eportfolios for those who are just beginning to discover their enormous potential.

Interview with Emma Purnell  
Download Link

Duration: 26 minutes
Size: 24MB
Subscribe to our podacst via RSS Subscribe to our podcast via RSS
Subscribe to our podcast via iTunes Subscribe to our podcast via iTunes

Related Links
JISC Effective Practice with e-Portfolios
JISC infoNet e-portfolio infoKit


01:35 Emma introduces herself
02:20 Experience of eportfolio as a student 
05:05 Emergent theme of eportfolio based learning - moving away from notion of a portfolio as only for PDP
06:00 Product versus processes - connectivism afforded by hyper linking
08:00 ePortfolio based learning and the new areas of exploration the technology is allowing
09:22 Teaching with something you are passionate about as a user
10:01 Researching student perceptions of portfolio
10:48 Currently part time PhD while working as blending learning advisor with expertise in eportfolios
12:04 Raising awareness of what is achievable using eportfolio
16:02 ePortfolio community at Wolverhampton has slowly grown over 5 years ot of the birth of PebblePad
17:49 Opportunities for using eportfolios include: getting eport pratice within policy or strategy gets a diffierent group of people who wouldn’t necessarily already consider it (need buy in from senior management);  0:20:04.3 strength in numbers, building a support community within your institution or local area
21:38 ePUG - eportfolio user group (this is a University of Wolverhampton user group)
24:02 Need more dissemination opportunities to share practice


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

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