Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Technology is Changing the Way Students Study

Gone are the days when students camp out in the library all night to write research papers and study for their midterms and finals. Instead, students are in their residence halls and apartments with a laptop or mobile device.

Students consider laptops to be their most important resource for studying. Based on a survey conducted by McGraw-Hill Education (2016),  students consider their laptops to be the most important resource available to them for studying. Twenty-two percent of survey respondents find the ability to study on their mobile devices "extremely important," and mobility continues to be student's favorite aspect of digital learning technology. Laptops make tasks such as taking notes simpler than using a notebook and pen for class.

One example of how students are using technology to study can be found on student blogger Sabrina Leung's post on the Students Toolbox website. She said that she uses OneNote to organize and color-code her class notes, bring PowerPoint outlines into her notes, and record audio that is synced with the notes she typed. This feature allows students to click the play button next to a particular bullet point and OneNote will play the audio associated with that note. She also uses the Apple Preview app to add textboxes and highlighting to annotate her notes, lecture handouts, and pdf documents. For PC users there are other apps available such as WondersharePDFelement available.

Technology plays an important role in students' study practices. Over 70% of the survey respondents find it at least moderately important to study on mobile electronic devices, and they report that technology is most helpful with doing homework (81%) or preparing for exams and tests (79%). Respondents most strongly agreed that technology increases their engagement with course materials (71%), professors (58%), and the college community (51%).

Students believe that digital learning technology helps them learn. Eight-one percent (81%) of the survey respondents agree that technology improves their grades and allows them to spend more time studying through increased accessibility to the course materials and improved efficiency. Students are using apps on their mobile devices as class and homework planners, annotation devices for PDF's, document scanners, citation generators, creation of flashcards, and as a tool for learning other languages.

Students want the learning platform to be adaptable to their needs. Nearly all students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that digital learning technology should be adaptive to their learning style (89%). About half indicated that being able to personalize the technology like they do in social media feeds is very or extremely important (49%). Two thirds report that online quizzes and adaptive learning technology are very or extremely helpful in retention of the materials (66%).

Nearly all students surveyed (91%) reported that their study experience at home is contingent on access to Wi-Fi, personal devices, and digital learning platforms. Over half of the respondents indicated similar contingencies at the library.

For the instructors preparing the materials in the digital learning system, it is useful to know what types of technology students prefer to use. The chart below illustrates the survey results.

Cortez, M. B. (2017, Jun. 9). 3 ways technology is changing studying. EdTech.

Heath, A. (2016, Aug. 15). 12 apps that every student should have. Business Insider.

Leung, S. (2016, Sept. 20). How I take notes for lectures and tutorials. Students Toolbox.

McGraw-Hill Education. (2016, October). 2016 Digital Study Trends Survey. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tips for Lecture Capture - It Doesn't Have to Be Complicated!

Whether you are flipping your courses, creating videos to help your students understand specific concepts, teaching a fully online course, or recording lectures for exam review and/or assignment feedback, these tips can make producing your own lecture much easier and effective.

  1.  Record in an optimum location:  When setting up a space for good video and audio recording, sound dampening is the key. You want to choose a space that will not collect noise from outside the room such as a toilet flushing (no joke - I really have heard that on an instructor video), machines such as elevators or air conditioning, or voices from next door or in the hall. Sometimes you cannot entirely avoid these factors but most can be easily addressed. The ITRC has a room specifically set-up for video and audio recording which is available to all faculty. Just call the ITRC at 208-282-5880 to schedule a time to use it.
  2. Invest in a microphone. Do not rely on the microphone or video camera integrated into your computer. Using the on-board microphone can result in muffled or low sound. Our recommendation is that you use a headset with a microphone attached so that mic is right by your mouth. You could also use a "boom mic" which also plugs into your computer via a USB port but can be placed near you so that the best sound is recorded.
  3. Lighting. Many instructor-produced videos show a person hunched over their laptop with no additional lighting so that the only light you see is the glare of the monitor on their face. With the simple addition of a reading light turned toward your face, you will be illuminated and students will have a clear view of you as you speak. Record a 30 second test video and play it back to see if the lighting and sound are sufficient.
  4. Reconsider being a "talking head". Do you really need to appear in the video or will it just be a distraction from the content of the video? In the situations where a "talking head" is essential such as an introduction video to a course, contact the ITRC and we will arrange for our "camera crew" to video you. They will also assist you with editing the video for the purpose of creating a quality video that you can use every semester to introduce yourself to your students.
  5. Keep Your Recording Devise Steady. You don't need to use a fancy camera to create a video - your mobile device such as your tablet or phone may already have an exceptional camera built into it. Keep these bullets in mind when recording:
    1. Find a way to stabilize the recording device. If you are using your smartphone or tablet, get a tripod for it. At the very least, stabilize the device against books or rocks. 
    2. Set your device to record horizontally. Video that is recorded with the vertical setting may not look good when it is played on a desktop platform.
    3. If your phone or device allows you to do so, flip the camera image around so you can see yourself to make sure that it is positioned correctly. This step is sort of like taking a "selfie". We all know a "selfie" is better when the device is held above you and pointed down rather than holding it below you and pointing upward to your chin.
  6. If possible, avoid using the camera built into your laptop computer. If the camera is positioned at the bottom of your device it can result in the viewers basically looking up your nostrils. Or a camera that is at chest level will result in a video with your head cut off. If you must use your on-board camera, position the laptop on a stack of books so that it is actually pointing directly at you. The best solution would be to purchase a low-cost Logitech webcam that can be attached by a cable to a USB port on your computer. The webcam can be clipped or placed in a spot that will provide your viewers with the best image possible.
  7. Consider Your Recording Software Options. If you are using your smartphone or tablet to record videos, it probably already includes software to handle the capture. To take your production a step further, you will need additional software such as the following:
    1. Screencast-O-Matic is a free option that allows you to record up to 15 minutes and save your recording as a file or post it to YouTube. A $15 per year "pro" version expands your options and allows you to make longer recordings.
    2. TechSmith Camtasia is much more than a screen recorder. It allows you to edit your videos, caption them, split them in order to add external media and produce them as an mp4 file that can either posted directly to your course, loaded on YouTube, or loaded to your Google Drive. The ITRC offers a workshop on how to use Camtasia with participants receiving a free Camtasia license for their PC or Mac.
  8. Don't Stress About Editing Your Videos. Editing scares a lot of people who do not consider themselves to be tech savvy. We make the following suggestions for video recording:
    1. Keep your videos at two to five minutes in length so that if you do make a mistake, it is easy to re-record the lecture without a huge investment of time. It is a lot easier to delete your first attempt and produce another three-minute recording that it is to spend 30 minutes trying to edit out all the "ums" and "ahs" in a longer recording.
    2. Another advantage to shorter videos are that students are more likely to watch them all the way through so that the concepts that are presented are more likely to be retained. 
    3. Chunking up your material or cutting your content into very small consumable bits will result in more students actually watching your videos and less frustration for you in the final production of the video.
  9. Remember Accessibility. It is paramount that we produce instructional materials that are accessible to all students regardless of their disabilities. 
    1. Software like Camtasia makes it relatively easy to import your video script and then time it to your video so that closed captioning is available. 
    2. Or you can upload your video to YouTube and have it apply their automatic transcription to the audio. However, this would only be a starting point because the captions will need to be edited for punctuation, sentence structure and words that did not get captioned correctly. You can do this editing directly in the YouTube caption editor or download the captions into a caption editor such as Camtasia.
    3. Contact the ITRC for information on the FREE captioning services that we provide.
  10. And lastly, plan before you record. Write out what you want to say, and practice your script to see how long your video will be so that you know if it needs to be "chunked" into smaller pieces. Invest in the equipment necessary to produce a quality video that your students will want to watch. Keep in mind that the ITRC is available to provide technical assistance with the recording of your lectures.
 The ITRC has the following instructional videos available:

Schaffhauser, D. (5/17/17). 8 tips for lecture capture on a shoestring. Campus Technology. To view this article close the advertisement window that pops up and scroll past the advertisements at the top of the page.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Instructional Technologist and Faculty Collaboration

The Instructional Technology Resource Center (ITRC) provides not only assistance with Moodle and other educational tools but they also have a team of experienced technologists who can help faculty design a new online course or revamp an existing one.

During course development, technologists and content experts spend months together to meet, brainstorm, and exchange ideas in order to build or edit course material. In order to make this collaboration work, faculty need to be willing to let their guard down and trust that the technologist is there to assist them and not tell them what to put into their course.

With regard to the technologist and faculty collaboration, one faculty member said, "As an instructor, you feel like you own that classroom and the classroom interaction, but if you're willing to let your guard down a bit, reassess and have someone challenge you, I really do think it helps" (Tate, 2017).

There are many methods for creating successful collaboration teams. A few of these methods are described below.
  • Create a Perfect Match: Establish a relationship and rapport with one of the instructional technologists and work with them through the entire project so that there is consistency. If you do not like a particular approach or you feel conflict, ask to work with another technologist.
  • Let Your Guard Down: Many instructors still have never taught an online course, but now are required to teach one. That situation may make the instructor feel pressured and could lead to a shaky start with the technologist/faculty collaboration. Rest assured that the instructional technologists in the ITRC will patiently acclimate you to the online teaching environment. They can provide examples of successful online courses and assist with the building of a new course without taking over the class and materials. Instructional technologists are there to make the faculty member's job easier and to take the stress out of developing a new course.
  • Clarify Roles: The most common cause of strife between instructional technologists and subject matter experts comes from a misunderstanding about what each person's role is and what is expected (Tate, 2017). In order to eliminate this strife, keep in mind that both people are professionals with complementary skills and expertise. Instructional technologists will offer suggestions and ideas, but they know that ultimately, the instructor gets the final say.
  • Communicate: The instructor needs to familiarize the technologist with their teaching approach, goals, concerns, and priorities. This will enable the technologist to make recommendations that will work best. There may be some initial tension when the technologist suggests changes to a faculty member's teaching methods or course structure but keep in mind that the technologist wants what the faculty member wants--the best learning experience possible. When the subject matter expert is responsive to a technologist's feedback, it can be a constructive experience for everyone involved (Tate, 2017).
  • Account for Time: Development of an online course can take months and sometimes multiple semesters. The technologist and instructor should set a goal for the amount of time that they are willing to invest in the course. This will reduce tension by being clear about the expectations of both parties.
To learn more about the Instructional Technologists at Idaho State University, visit the ITRC staff page.
Tate, E. (May 3, 2017). Easing Instructional Designer-Faculty Conflicts. Inside Higher Ed.