MELSIG event April 2012 – report

Images and screeencasts in learning and teaching

The latest MELSIG event (Media Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group) was hosted by the University of Derby this April. The focus was on Education disciplines, with consistent emphasis on the use of screencasts, images and podcasts for learning and teaching. MELSIG once again fired the enthusiasm of attendees, creating an excellent programme for understanding and collaborating on innovative practice around the country. The day was broken into two parts, with the morning comprised of a series of presentations and a world café session, and the afternoon a number of workshops and ‘open-floor’ sessions. The main room for the event was a superb flexible teaching space which encouraged participants’ creative thinking in many ways, including allowing notes to be made on write-on-glass walls. Watch the video below for an overview of the room and how it can be used – who needs flipcharts!

Screencasting and visual capturing

The first session presented a case study of a solution to the timely concern that faces academics when they release an academic question, i.e. a way to tackle the influx of common ‘what do you mean’ questions emailed to tutors from unsure students. Camtasia proved a likely solution providing tutors with the chance to produce screencasts, in this instance for giving students clear guidance on good academic writing technique in a short, ‘snippet’ format. The personal appeal for students was seeing tutors give visual guidance, narrating good examples of what they were looking for in the academic writing process via an informal video, leading to students better understanding how to have a ‘critical approach’ to their own writing.  The benefits were clear with email queries dropping massively from around 99 needy inbox requests, to only one or two. Students had a better grasp of the tutor’s mindset and all it took was a little visual effort, of easily recorded guidance, planned carefully, rather than reams of written information. In a further iteration of this process, students were asked to critique and evaluate written work in the light of these narrated examples to further develop their critical skills.

“Hit the red button!”

During a lively discussion following the above session, Andrew Middleton (Quality Enhancement and Student Success, Sheffield Hallam University and one of the powerhouses of MELSIG events) evangelised on the potential of simply hitting the record button on any of the abundance of visual recording devices that are almost ubiquitous in academic envrionments. Pulling out his pocket size Flip-cam, he illustrated the ease of capturing workshop content and using it to engage learners and/or document useful information. We are visual beings. Video, film and podcasting have been in the e-learning arena for the last decade and more. The flavour given to learning by visual information is clear, yet we can do much more to capture thoughts, ideas and opinions, simply by the click of a button. With the devices to hand we can create authentic, ‘just-in-time’, personalised videos and audio recordings, which don’t need much editing or high production values.

Student video/screencast assignments

At the University of Derby, presenting via video, with screencasting options, allowed one student cohort an alternative way to tackle an assessed presentation assignment for a module dealing with how curricula are constructed. Students were also offered the option of a formally assessed presentation in a lecture theatre, but everyone opted for creating a recorded screencast at home, that could be uploaded remotely as their assignment submission. Utilising Panopto, with support from the University’s learning technologists, students each created a 20 minute screencast. Tutors were then able to watch the pre-recorded screencasts remotely, whilst simultaneously writing up the student’s assessment criteria. We heard from some of the students themselves about their experience of creating a piece of work for assessment in this way and it was interesting to hear how many of them  thought deeply about achieving an academic voice/tone in their presentation.

Conceptual images

There is a heavy emphasis on words in academia and perhaps we neglect some of the ways of early learning though images. Pedagogy that uses visual content has a somewhat undernourished place in education. Natasa Lackovic’sPhD research at the University of Notthingham, explores the literacy of the image, pinpointing the pedagogic use of the image in learning. An intriguing presentation was given by Lackovic, focusing on how students can develop their conceptual understanding by utilising images and illustrations. This is essentially using images as hinges to access and understand abstract concepts. Lackovic asked her students to combine an image with a concept (eg. Empiricism), search for a variety of images relating to the concept and then discuss the findings. Lackovic found this approach deepened the conceptual knowledge and collaborative opportunity for students, leading to many more questions about the potential use of imagery in the learning experience. Even the somewhat over used Powerpoint, a regularly sought lecture tool, could make use of this research and consider the impact images can have in reinforcing concepts thus provoking deeper thought. Infographics spring to mind. Different subjects will make use of different images, so breaking out of bullet-point moulds of text heavy information may in fact spark alternative ways of seeing a concept. Lackovic’s presentation was a point well defined and carried momentum throughout the day’s events, with other workshops considering the impact of copyright issues and the position of imagery in digital literacy.
This was another inspiring and useful day run by MELSIG and something we would very much like to see hosted at the University of Liverpool.


You can read the University of Derby learning technology team’s blog post on the day here.

There is a blog post you can read here about the previous MELSIG event at the University of Salford, which also describes the world café session on what makes a great podcast.

Phil Walker


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