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Online/Hybrid Learning

How Student Video Presentations Can Build Community in an Online Course

Robert Talbert, a STEM professor at Grand Valley State University, decided to integrate online student presentations into his online Calculus I class. He mentioned that teaching an online course came with a few challenges including setting up student presentations when the class never actually met face-to-face.

Talbert would give students one week to prepare for their presentations. The main rules were that students had to show their face, voice and own handwriting at all times in the video to ensure that they are in fact the ones doing the work. Students had to pass three video presentations to get an A, in the class and at least one to pass the class.

The professor informed all the students that he would provide any equipment that they would need to make the presentations, but all the students were able to manage on their own. Some students used basic filming tools such as their laptops or phones, while some who didn’t have whiteboards used large sheets of paper and taped them to her wall.

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(Photo credit: Chronicle.com)

These video presentations posed a number of positive impacts to the online class. Students were able to see each other’s work and use the videos to study for tests or see the different approaches to a problem. In addition, it created a slight difference from most online courses as students were able to see who else was in their class, instead of just “entries in a spreadsheet or avatars on a discussion board.”

Talbert says that “these video presentations were one of the biggest successes I’ve had as a teacher”

To view some of the presentations, visit the main article here.

Video-Recording Studio Boom

Now more than ever colleges and universities are providing video studios for general academic work rather than just for film majors or student news organizations.

Pennsylvania State University has created a simple setup that they call the “One Button Studio.” This room allows students and faculty members to simply plug a flash drive into the studio’s computer and press a button rather than dealing with complicated cameras and different editing software. The button controls the green screen, the lighting, and the video recording. Once the user is done, they just push the button again and retrieve their flash drive, with their new video saved. Penn State noticed how popular the One Button Studio was with faculty and students now they provide 19 One Button Studios across its multiple campuses.

Ohio State opened their studio just last fall and an instructor used the room to record a video of herself experimenting with liquid nitrogen and a blowtorch. Other universities, including Abilene Christian and Notre Dame, now use the model for their own in-house studios. Dartmouth College opened their studio called the “Innovation Studio” in May. Instructors can sign up to reserve the production rooms and can bring their own equipment or borrow some from the college’s media center. The rooms are used for a variety of different educational purposes. For example, universities such as Harvard have interviewed guest speakers in their studios to film the interview, so it can later be shared with classes. Other professors have used the studios to prerecorded lectures for students to watch when class is canceled. Now students don’t have to miss a lecture due to bad weather.

Professors are engaging more with tech-savvy students to provide more digital learning material for higher education.

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Engaging Students to Learn Through zyBooks

Textbooks can often be long and boring to read, making it difficult to keep students engaged. Now there’s a new web platform ‘zyBooks’ that creates a new way to learn from textbooks. ZyBooks mixes learning activities such as question sets and animations with written content. ZyBooks wants professors to use the web-based platform as a new way to help students engage with course material along with helping students perform better.

Students oftentimes have to reread passages in textbooks to actually understand the content. Frank Vahis, the founder of zyBooks in 2012, wanted to create a platform where students could retain more information while giving students an alternative to the wall of text traditional textbooks have. Vahis explains that the company wanted to avoid having “book” in the products name because the word would inaccurately describe what they were trying to do, however eventually they did keep it. Yes, digital textbooks are hardly a new idea, but the ‘next step’ Vahis argues is for textbooks to provide engaging material that helps students collaborate with other classmates while assisting students retain more information. A study done on students using the platform found that students tended to perform better on quizzes and other actives. Students also reported that they felt more engaged with course material when using zyBook products than using a regular textbook. The product also provides professors with a tool to track students’ progress in the course.

Currently, professors in 250 universities, primarily in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, are using zyBooks. Not to mention that zyBooks products cost $48 each, which is cheaper than the average cost of a new textbook. Originally the platform was intended to focus on courses such as computer science and other STEM fields, but now the group hopes to move onto other topics, such as finance, accounting, and sociology.

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Why Blogging Is Key to the Future of Higher Ed


Photo credit to Prasan

At Virginia Commonwealth University, nearly 30,000 students were encouraged to start blogging about their schoolwork. It was a way to incorporate social media, something that almost all college students are fond of, with education.

Gardner Campbell, Vice Provost for learning innovation and student success, said that this “catastrophic success…does not do justice to his real vision for both VCU and higher education.” He wants to change the direction, definition and purpose of concepts like online education and curriculum.

VCU worked with a vendor to set up a WordPress installation that would allow students to communicate with each other and their teachers as well as do their work online. Campbell explains how these blogs can act as an e-Portfolio. Since it is public, any other staff and faculty will be able to access it and view students’ work.

One example of using blogging for coursework was when students were asked to go out and take pictures of plants, post them on their blogs and add tags to them. This helped when biology students were studying botany.

Campbell referred to this as a catastrophic success in spite of the few disadvantages that the web can pose, such as poor connectivity. There can also be a low limit of how many students can sign up for the blog.

Nonetheless, Campbell said that VCU should look past the technological challenges and focus on the potential that this approach can have. This is just a work in progress, and could help advocates understand that a culture of a university should be more about content and course delivery.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2015/05/27/Why-Blogging-Is-Key-to-the-Future-of-Higher-Ed.aspx?Page=3

Gaming In Education

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Educational video games have become a hot topic for several years now. Barry J. Fishman, a professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, has borrowed elements of gaming to develop GameCraft, a learning-management system that lets instructors organize their courses in a ‘gameful’ way.

GameCraft provides students with many assignments to choose from, so any student who does poorly on one can find plenty of tasks to redeem themselves. GameCraft treats unsuccessful assignments not as failures but as learning experiences.The ‘grade predictor’ helps students figure out what they need to do to reach the classroom goals they set for themselves.

Giving students the freedom to decide which assignments to complete and when to complete them can be difficult for the instructor and students to keep track of. This is why Mr. Fishman created GameCraft to help professors organize their course. GameCraft provides an engaging way to pass the class by allowing students to independently map the course work they want to complete. In order to unlock more assignments, students have to complete certain assignments to move forward, similar to passing levels in video games. Mr. Fishman has noticed that students are more engaged with the course and their work because they have the opportunity to choose the assignments that interest them. 

Currently about 2,000 students in 19 courses in Michigan have used GameCraft. Of course GameCraft can be scary at first for students and creates more work for professors, but nearly all the instructors who experimented with the system want to use it again. Mr. Fishman hopes the system will grow beyond his own institution. Mr. Fisher explains that he doesn’t define what he’s doing as gameification, but as a ‘gameful’ design that brings a positive attribute of gaming systems, like establishing clear goals and giving players multiple routes to success – to the classroom.

For more information on this topic visit the link below.

Fabris, Casey. Want to Make Your Course ‘Gameful’? A Michigan Professor’s Tool Could Help. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 15, May 2015. Web