Exploring the use of video, audio and Second Life at York University

Moorish tiles from the Alcazar, SevilleToday Sarah and I were in York, to participate in an iSymposium organised by a group at York University who are interested in learning from other universities about their experiences with technologies such as lecture capture, video and audio content production and Second Life. Sarah and I were speaking about video and audio content production at LSE, but we enjoyed the rest of the day and spent last night in York. Sadly we missed out on the ghost tour, but did find a very nice pub for a meal and drinks!

Rob Jones, VLE Developer from University of Birmingham’s Medical School was first up speaking about the experiences of using Echo360 capture technology. Birmingham are using the same system as LSE, Echo360. He outlined the benefits of lecture capture technology – as a revision aid but also useful for peer review. The system can output as streamed files and podcasts, so students can put them on ipod. Barriers to using the technology included – bandwidth, the perceived threat to the lecturers role. Birmingham usually capture audio and powerpoint, not and don’t video the lecture. They also use other technologies such as Articulate Presenter which captures powerpoint and audio, Camtasia and Photostory and SoundSlides.

The team have undertaken research to investigate the impact on attendance and on programmes and lecturing styles. They wanted to get students’ perspective on whether they would turn up to lectures knowing they were being recorded and in fact most students attended lectures still despite the recording. They tended to look at the recordings a few days after the event.
Birmingham do not archive and use the lecture recordings in following years, they are wiped from the servers after one year. Staff in their survey were happy to be recorded. The respondents were largely non-technical, but many were now thinking about using PRS, creating podcasts, using other technologies. Their results indicate lecture capture has a positive impact on grades – the mean has gone up 51% to 55% and failure rate has dropped to 2/69. The quality of answers has improved with students looking at other resources and having a greater breadth of knowledge. Despite these results staff who haven’t used it are very cautious about educational benefits and implications on attendance.
A team from Newcastle University including Philip Bradley and Carol Summerside, also described their experiences with lecture capture. They were using Lectopia which has been taken over by Echo360. Called the system ‘Recap’ as they thought it would help emphasise its about revision not a replacement for lectures and have 28 installations across north east region – 20 at Newcastle University.

Authentication was an issue and staff were reluctant to use a system before it was behind passwords. Newcastle had installation issues with firewalls and access particular in NHS partner sites. Lecture capture had also been used in the medical school at Newcastle. They set up a Steering Group to manage the education usage. The group are involved in selection of venues (working with timetables) but also focusing on staff education, publicity, training and engagement. Biggest issue is staff resistance to the technology. They asked if the lecturer is only transferring information does it matter if the students don’t turn up? If you want your lectures to be interactive you need to decide if you want to record it, so you make sure you are recording the right type of lecture. If students choose to access the material at a different time does it matter?

The service is opt-in in most courses apart from one school where it was opt-out. But some lecturers said they didn’t see the message and meant to opt-out! Again they have screen capture only and no talking head. Staff seem less worried about it if there is no video but just powerpoint with audio. Remembering to turn the microphone on was a big problem and no editing of recordings is possible so they are warts and all which some lecturers are concerned about. Newcastle staff have concerns about copyright and IPR – staff ask will the university get rid of me once they have my recordings? They also prefer streaming vs allowing material to be downloaded.

Newcastle have a booking form to schedule the recording and they also offer a solo room so you can schedule something without an audience. They include advice for teachers during the lecture – such as don’t put anything on the PC you don’t want seen. Don’t record students discussions after the lecture. They felt there were several other educational uses of the system such as for staff training materials, conferences, public lectures, recruitment and marketing, admin and feedback.

The system was most heavily used in the medical school although all departments have used it to create over 1000 recordings this year. Staff feedback included that they were impressed with quality, liked the solo recording facility. Students feedback was very positive – 92% of students said the system was useful or very useful. Students used it to
Revisit difficult concepts (77%), for revision (75%), to make additional notes (62%), to catch up on a missed lecture (58%) and where they had language difficulties. Unsurprisingly there was a peak of usage in exam periods. Meanwhile 92% of students stated it didn’t affect their attendance at lecturers and there was an expectation that it would be used which was driving it being rolled out more widely.
The afternoon’s session was devoted to discussing virtual worlds, specifically Second Life and the first speaker was Sheila Webber from the Department of Information Studies at Sheffield University. She gave an introduction to Second Life and other virtual worlds. Apparantly there are 40-80,000 people online simultaneously in SL although you need a good connection and graphics card to use. John Kirriemuir’s work suggests 90% of universities have some presence. Chemistry is a subject were quite a lot of work is going on and there is a HEA project looking at SL for Chemistry. There are also several virtual hospitals.  Sheila talked about Macbeth island which has 400-1000 visitors everyday and is a place for humanities students. Sheila did a demo of Sheffield’s Infolit iSchool. Education and the Department of Information Studies at Sheffield are now sharing a building in Second Life which has led to new collaborations in real life.

Sheila is using Second Life to teach first years – a SL activity is required for coursework. Over the past 2 years only 2 students had used a virtual world before her course. They use SL in labs in small groups and have to do interviews in SL – and compare those to real life interviews. As an ice breaker they have to advise a friend about whether Second Life is dangerous or not.  Students don’t automatically engage with SL – they need a rationale for using it and the tutor needs to show them it’s not just fun.
Sheila felt SL was very good for collaboration and networking and has attended events happening elsewhere in the world. She’s found it useful for getting contacts in other countries. She is currently developing a model for information literacy in SL – based on should we panic about bird flu and swine flu.
Finally Steve Warburton from Kings College London described the project Muvenation where the team had set up a training programme to introduce educators to using Second Life. They put out a wide call to invite people to join the course and enrolled 120 onto the course from many different countries. UK, Italy, Spain largest numbers.  They were using Moodle as the VLE for the course but encouraged people to use wikis, RSS reader, a blog in addition to a range of web 2.0 tools.

He also described the Open Habitat project – funded by JISC – which is a 15 month project looking at two areas specific to virtual worlds – user generated content and social presence. Using art and design and philosophy students.

He asked why choose Second Life when there are 90 or so virtual worlds. Some popular ones with kids include Club Penguin and BarbieWorld.  SL is meanwhile the largest and most sophisticated. Many people are outsourcing and institution realise they don’t need to host all these services.

Steve outlined the barriers to using SL including technical, identity, culture, collaboration, time, economic factors, lack of standards and interoperability, lack of persistence and social discovery. SL is not a social networking site like Facebook. Finally he looked to the future suggesting SL is a glimpse of the future – virtual spaces will become a space we can make good use of. SL is perhaps not it, but it does things that are unique. It’s a space for socialising and bringing people together, but there are things that will come along that will look much better such as Blue Mars, Metaplace and OpenSim (the open source virtual world) which are interesting to watch.

Overall it was a lively and interesting day and nice to talk to teachers rather than just other learning technologists. It was also good to know the criticisms and concerns our staff at LSE have about technologies such as lecture capture are not unique!If you don’t hear from me for a while I may be off exploring some of these virtual worlds!

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