Friday, 4 May 2018

White Rose Learning Technologists's Forum 11th April 2018

Event Report WRLTF 11th April 2018

On wednesday 11th April we were very pleased to welcome the White Rose Learning Technologists’ Forum back the University of Sheffield, for a specially themed meeting looking at the use of video in learning and teaching. We had an excellent turnout, with colleagues from every HE institution in the region attending, as well as those from the regional health service, and our corporate members.

We are very happy to have recordings of all the sessions, which we have made available, so I will just mention a few points that really stood out to me on the day. All videos are available via our Digital Media Hub, and presentations are available either as attachments from the URLs provided, or linked from the text description in the case of those done as Google Presentations.

All videos can be seen together here:

Scaling up and new opportunities with the Kaltura Digital Media Hub - Graham McElearney, The University of Sheffield

I was fortunate to open the session, presenting a summary of a large scale project I’ve been leading on, to scope and implement a new media hosting system. Like many universities, our requirements for delivering video have matured along with the technologies over the last 15 years. This had resulted  in us having  a fragmented collection of technologies in place, which we  wanted to consolidate for our current and future needs.

As part of our implementation we conducted a series of pilots with specific colleagues around the Institution. This enabled us to test some key functionality of the system, but also led to some unexpected benefits.

One of our key requirements was to enable student submission of videos they create for assessments. We have struggled with this for several years, having employed a number of inadequate work arounds. Using the Kaltura Building Block in Blackboard, students are now able to submit their work directly into the VLE. Not only is this a more robust and secure system than some of the other workarounds we tried, it also means that the work is in the VLE ecosystem and can then be graded electronically. This led to our second key finding - the Kaltura platform has an associated content creation tool, CaptureSpace, which allows the creation of screencasts and webcam recordings, and is accessible from anywhere within the VLE. This has now enabled a number of colleagues to use this for creating audio, video and screencast feedback in different disciplines. The idea of creating rich media feedback has been around for quite some time, but it has always seemed to be logistically challenging - not so much in terms of creating the media, but in managing the process of returning the feedback to the students in an effective manner.

A third unexpected benefit we’ve relied with Kaltura has been the ability to create video quizzes. These are videos that pause at certain point and pose MCQ questions to the students. These can be purely formative or can be linked to the Grade Centre in Blackboard. This new feature has been trialled in a number of departments so far, most notably Geography, who are using it for pre-lab briefing and testing with level 1 students. It’s early days with this feature but we can see many applications for it. A fourth benefit we are seeing across campus is the use of CaptureSpace to produce flipped learning content, and this was the topic of our final session, discussed below.

Video and presentation available at

Video to support learning and teaching at The University of York - Wayne Britcliffe, The University of York

Next up up was Wayne Britcliffe from the University of York, who presented on the use of video across the Institution, and in a range of different contexts.

One of the key ways that colleagues in York used video was to help prepare students for laboratory classes. I think this is a classic use for video that is relevant for many Institutions - we often face the problem that our student cohorts have vastly outgrown the lab facilities we have, often built decades before to accommodate a fraction of the number of students. We can’t just dispense with lab teaching, but we do need to make it more effective. Providing essential briefing on say equipment use, health and safety etc, can really help to make the time spent in the lab more effective, and can also help compensate for a variety in previous experience that ours students may have. Labs supported were in chemistry, biology and archaeology, and the videos themselves were created by students. Using the resource of talented students in this manner seems like an excellent way of getting high quality videos made within reasonable cost - the latter of which can be areal barrier to using media in teaching.

Another key use of video was to support flipped learning, and Wayne showed us examples from Computer Science and Economics. Wayne reported that lecturers found this a satisfying experience, but one challenge they found was how to make the best use of the face to face time, after the students had watched the pre-class videos. This seems like a very important issue for us as learning technologists - we possibly naturally focus on both the means of producing the video content, and how we deliver this to the students - perhaps now we should be focusing more attention to what activities take place in class.

A final example of Wayne’s work at York addresses another challenge we certainly face here in Sheffield, which is how to record lectures for mathematically based subjects who traditionally make extensive use of a black/whiteboard for writing out mathematical notation. Conventional lecture recording solutions presume an approach based around the use of a “PowerPoint” type presentation as being at the core of a lecture, although for many maths-based disciplines, this is unsuitable. York now have two rooms in which the have cameras that are linked to pressure pads built into the lecture theatre floor, which enables the cameras to follow the lecturers writing as they traverse the often large blackboards used in these subjects - something we shall certainly investigate here as there is much demand for this solution.

Video and presentation available at

Using video to enhance music education  - Ruth Clark and Mark Rogers, Leeds College of Music

Our third presentation was from Ruth Clarke and Mark from Leeds College of Music (LCM). They too presented a range of approaches used across the College, but it was interesting to see how the were used in a rather more specialised environment of a music college.

LCM are using Panopto to great effect, and have licensed the software recorder for all 1200 staff and students across the College, which means video creation is truly accessible to all. One interesting aspect of their niche us of the Panopto system was their requirement for very high quality audio - this is something that we might not normally consider for conventional lecture recording system, which is designed for speech, screen capture and occasionally video capture. However for music this is critical, and so LCM and Panopto worked hard to make sure this was of a high enough quality and could respond to a full range of frequencies and dynamics as found in a wide range of musical styles.

One key application of video, over and above lecture recordings, was once again to provide information in advance of lectures. With  a higher proportion of learners with dyslexia than average, students respond very well to these when provided in video or audio format. Screencast recording hare also extensively used, to teach aspects of music writing a production software. Some of these software packages have quite intricate workflows and so these also provide standardised guidance on best practices for these. This is particularly important with music software, as there is a huge proliferation of this kind of content publicly available o(e.g., on YouTube), but with no guarantee that the approaches demonstrated are the correct or best ways of working.

In a final example from LCM, students use their access to the recording tools in Panopto to enable them to record a wide range of activities that enable them to reflect on their own performance. In addition they’re able to gather evidence from their community music projects and placements, which helps to solve a range of logistics and safeguarding issues.

Video and presentation available at

Assessing student media assignments - Rob Pashley, The University of Sheffield

Our fourth talk was from my colleague Rob Pashley in our Creative Media Team (CMT) here at Sheffield. The CMT’s function is dedicated to providing media production skills to students. The majority of this is embedded within academic modules, in which students create videos as a different form of assessment from a conventional essay, exam or presentation. We know from evaluations conducted over a substantial period of time that encouraging students to create videos about their academic disciplines is a fantastic way for them to develop their own subject knowledge. This activity is supported via practical workshops that enable a a standardisation of skills training, similar to that discussed by our colleagues from Leeds, above, and is further enabled by having an equipment loan service (cameras, microphones etc), and by providing access to the necessary editing and post production facilities required to produce a finished video.

None of our students are media production students as such, and so this presents something of a challenge, in terms of how we assess their work. It would not be appropriate to judge the students too much on their technical craft skills in the way that we might with media production students, and so we need to find other meaningful ways of doing this. This is still a work in progress for us, and it’s something we’ve been looking at in various forms for sometime, going back to work we started with the Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group back in 2008.

If not assessing production skills per se, we can ask questions such as how well does the video present the topic under consideration, and how well do the students use the media format to explain concepts or elicit other responses from the viewer.

Another key way of assessing the work is via a reflective statement by the students - but on what should they reflect? One key area is to ask them to articulate why they have produced their videos the way they have. So what sorts of choices and decisions did they make about how they presented their chosen topics, or how they interpreted certain scenes, when looking at more literary/creative works. At the heart of this, I think we also need to ask the students how they think that engaging in a creative task has helped build their own subject knowledge, and whether there is anything specifically different about working in a creative medium such as video that enables them to build new understanding about their subject that they otherwise wouldn't have.

This is very exciting work and also very important, as doubts over how to access this work can present  a barrier to more academic colleagues from choosing to use this exciting form of assessment with the  students.

Video and presentation available at
A flipped-classroom math module for molecular biology students - Dr Rebecca Barnes, The University of Sheffield

Our final presentation of the session came from Rebecca Barnes, another Sheffield colleague from our department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. Rebecca presented some work she had been doing, running a level one module aimed at reducing maths anxiety for biology students. Maths anxiety is a well documented problem for many students, and can cause real stress and hamper performance in subjects such as biology, where maths may not be at the heart of the topic, but is nonetheless a key enabler for many practical activities in this discipline.

Rebecca produced a series of over 90 screencast videos for students to use. These are designed to be watched by the students outside of class time, and this enables students to work at their own pace and importantly, on their own, without the fear of their peers seeing their  lack of confidence and competence. More generally I think this is a good lesson for level one students in terms of taking a bit more ownership and control of their own learning that they may have been used to at school.

Rebecca deliberately recorded hand written screencasts using a stylus in Onenote, as she felt that this dicated a sufficiently slow pace for students to be able to keep up without being rushed. Crucially she also drew attention to the fact that when recording flipped learning materials, it is really important to stay enthusiastic and up beat throughout them, which can be a challenge if you are spending a whole day recording them. Leaving plenty of time to create the recordings was one of her key recommendations. Rebecca also flagged up the issue of finding the most effective use of the face to face time as being an area in which she was keen to develop.

Video and presentation available at

Discussion and next meeting:

We spent some time at the end of the meeting reflecting on the afternoon's presentations. It seemed like a well balanced programme, ranging from broader Institutional strategies and practices, but also focusing on some module specific practices and the knotty issue of assessing video work by students. There seem to be some convergence of practice now, such as providing video content to supplement lab classes, and producing flipped learning materials. Supporting student generated media content is of ever increasing importance as more and more we recognise the value of harnessing students’ creativity here.

We also explored a number of issues and barriers to wider adoption. There were some familiar candidates here, such as inconsistent infrastructure to enable staff to record their own media, including not having access to recording equipment, and an absence of a comprehensive hosting and delivery platform to support this type of activity. As ever, access to staff expertise to advise, train and produce materials was also cited as a problem for many.

As is often the case, it appears the solutions to these could be met with with further investment by our Institutions, but as Nick Jeans (SERO Consulting Sheffield) pointed out, in order to obtain this we need to be able to really demonstrate the effectiveness of TEL to our senior managers.

This led neatly onto our very final business of the day - the next meeting. We hope that this will take place in Leeds in the early part of July - exact time and venue TBC. However we have set the theme, and following on from the above, we are going to look at “Measuring the effectiveness of technology enhanced learning” and we welcome applications from colleagues to present at this. If you are interested in doing a session here, please email


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