I am working with Shirin Bayat to adapt my old Power Points to Adobe Captivate e-learning software. Adobe Captivate is much more dynamic, flexible and multimodal, offering the possibility of videos, interactive elements, audio recording and editing, quizzes, tracking and reporting, a link to Twitter (i.e. it offers the kitchen sink). The best thing is I only have to provide the content and record my voice for each slide and Shirin does all the tech stuff. We are working towards completing my first Captivate lecture on Colombia. Can’t wait to see it myself. Whilst all the bells and whistles are great, will it provide students with an enhanced learning experience? I will survey their reactions at the end of the semester.
It’s time to test online video lectures as an alternative to f2f. But first, I need to work out the best way to do this. Two questions: how is it technically done?; and what is the best format? I am meeting with IML staff today to discuss. I guess I want a kind of video lecture that is actually broken up into some bite-size chunks based on key points for that week’s seminar theme. Each should be no more than a few minutes maximum each. Then when information has to be updated each year, I do not have to re-record the whole lecture. In addition, I am thinking of a series of slides with text, images (and perhaps moving images) and my recorded voice in the background narrating the information so it all has some ‘human presence’. However, I don’t want my head on screen reading text – that’s just a text with a head, if you get me.
Some student feel like more structure and guidance is needed for the tutorial. While understanding the need to review weekly lectures and readings before class and generate their own questions, some feel adrift with such a loose structure: ‘Maybe be more specific in what direction we are heading towards, in terms of the syllabus, so our questions can be relevant’; ‘I think leaving the discussion open to 30 people doesn’t enable everyone to contribute so maybe breaking off into smaller groups might prove more successful’; ‘Brief discussion of readings’. The experiment with students generating questions for tutorial time based on set readings and lectures has only been partly successful. Change tack to get more buy-in: students have agreed to take turns at briefly summarising weekly readings to kick off class question time. More time has been allotted to group work on cultural case studies as many students say this is the only time the group really gets to work together face to face.
Though student opinion was likewise split on the usefulness of an ‘in-house’ (closed) Facebook site, most certainly thought it would be a good idea: ‘I like the idea that the class would be interacting, sharing ideas outside of the classroom on a platform they are comfortable with’; ‘it might facilitate more discussion, rather than just one-way emails from tutors’; ‘it would enable people to gain insights that they might not otherwise have thought of’. But: ‘No, I like that everything is consolidated on UTS online, I don’t want to have to be juggling various sites for this subject’. Students were nevertheless willing to give it a try for the opportunity of having another, more flexible forum where they might interact, share and collaborate privately with just members of the group and load up their own photos and videos. It allows members to talk to each other in real time or catch up with the conversation later.
Students had mixed feelings about their previous group work experiences, but seem to be enjoying group work in this subject so far. However, they requested more clarity and guidance in the subject outline about exactly what is expected of their individual cultural case study assignments within a group context. Working together in the cultural case studies is beneficial as it is a valuable opportunity for students to critique each other’s work, develop new ideas, and test their views and understandings of their case study themes and more generally, the main points gleaned from lectures and set readings. Students (especially shy ones) often feel more confident when discussing among themselves than directly discussing with the tutor in front of the whole class.
Students were divided as to the utility of Pinterest, but were also unsure of what it is. A common perception is that it is only for pinning images: ‘Pinterest tends just to deals with photos or pictures of things’. But while you can’t share something on Pinterest without an image, Pinterest enables students to curate or keep a record of what they have found, to critique and provide comment to what other group members have located. It thus provides a common platform accessible anywhere by group members. Tutorial discussion this week included reflection on the utility of Pinterest for their group work.
Here’s a presentation that points to how sites such as Pinterest could be useful.
After consultation with the students, I have decided to go ahead with the development of Pinterest sites. Curating Pinterest sites are a great activity match for the kind of cultural case study assignment in this subject since they are highly visual in nature and lend themselves to group work.
The plan is to set up a central subject Pinterest site first. I’ll then ask students to develop their individual group Pinterest sites based on the various cultural case study themes (popular music, religious festivals, tourism campaigns, Indigenous cultures, stereotypes, and so forth). Materials on students’ group sites can then be pinned to the main subject Pinterest site as a common resource and as a contribution to OERs for this subject. They will add a further dimension to group work, but with low stakes.