I’ve just completed a presentation which included an experiment with some different technologies for lectures and a talk I gave at EDUCAUSE09. The slides, video and other related resources are available from the main presentation page.
The purpose of this post is an attempt at a debrief/reflection on the experience.
The wrapper around this presentation was an experiment in using some different technologies to deliver and support the presentation including:
- ustream to stream and record the presentation video.
- Votapedia as an audience response system that breaks the constraints on place of clickers.
- Twitter as a back channel.
The purpose of this experiment was to put an initial toe in the water. To do something with the technology to increase awareness of what it could/couldn’t do.
Some statistics from the ustream dashboard:
- At it’s pead there were 11 people watching the broadcast.
- The broadcast went for 1 hour and 42 minutes (and 1 second).
Additional metrics will be available after processing.
I gave the presentation in one of the Interactive System-wide Lecture (ISL) theaters at the CQUni Rockhampton campus. There were audience members in the room with me and also at the CQUni theaters in Bundaberg and Mackay.
Folk from the CQUni IT division set up a flash encoder in the ISL theater so that the traditional ISL stream was sent to ustream. This was a major benefit as I am familiar with the ISL system and it provides some additional features including the ability to view the presenter, the member of the audience (at any of the campuses) asking a question, my slides, another computer and a document camera.
With little or no change on my part, my presentation broke the place constraint on a traditional ISL presentation. i.e. anyone from across the world with a web browser could watch the presentation. This is of significance for CQUni since it has a significant number of distance education students who never make it to a campus.
With ustream, these students could view lectures which they can currently only (in a small percentage of cases) access as podcasts or streaming video after the fact.
There are some organisational issues to be addressed such as how the university could automate/support the use of ustream and whether or not using ustream would be better than a university hosted service.
I don’t expect ustream to become an accepted option. The question of restricting access to just our students will be an issue. It will also likely be seen to be easier/less risk to support our own service than use an external service.
The ISL “console”
The presenter “console” in these ISL theaters offers some significant benefits over simply using ustream in my office with my computer. I can’t easily see members of the audience, it’s a bit more difficult to get a shot of me and to show other physical objects. The ability to use ustream with the console, especially because I’m familiar with using it for presentations, was a big plus.
However, it’s also a draw back. There are only so many of these consoles on campus. So there’s a limit to how many people can do this.
To get the best of both worlds there seems to be a need to create a system I can use on/with my laptop and get the same functionality as the console. Then the place restriction is entirely gone.
An important part of this would be the ability to see the participants when they ask questions. This is starting to get into elluminate territory and raises the question of what is the difference?
One perspective might be that elluminate is the “integrated system” approach to this where I’m potentially talking about a more best of breed approach – which is showing my prejudice.
Votapedia was used as an audience response system/clickers for a couple of simple questions. For example, the first question asked the audience how long they had owned a mobile phone. The question and results can be seen here (50% of the 17 responses had owned mobile phones for longer than 5 years).
The advantage of Votapedia over clickers is that Votapedia uses mobile phones or a web browser for answering the question. As such it also breaks the place constraint of clickers. Plus the combination of mobile phones or a web browser is something that most people already have, further reducing costs.
Setting up the votapedia surveys, from a technical perspective, was a little quirky. i.e. I had to get used to the way it works. Once familiar, it was fairly simple to manage and set them up. Even then, I did create a user error that prevented the final questions from being usable. A simple experience thing, the sort of insight that isn’t readily available in the Votapedia information and more importantly in the process. i.e. the system should be able to pick this sort of thing up and offer a warning. (though it is expecting a bit too much from a free service).
In terms of real, effective use in a course, the most difficult part of Votapedia – as with any audience response system – will be redesigning the lectures to make effective use of the technology and the interactions that it supports. In particular, the additional time such interactions would take which would appear to remove time from the presenting of information. A big challenge for many staff, including myself.
Given there was only a small audience any use of social media was going to be somewhat limited. We had about 30/40 tweets from a half a dozen people or so. I had organised for one of my colleagues to act as “moderator” for the Twitter back channel. This was a good move. Col kept me aware of anything I needed to know and also encouraged some discussion with tweets.
ustream’s integration with Twitter was also a benefit. You can see the tweet stream on the ustream channel which hosted the stream. One drawback, this stream isn’t associated with the stored recording, would’ve been good to see some association, even some connection.
A twitter back channel appeared to be beneficial to some, but there could be some drawbacks. I did find myself replying to some of the tweets after the presentation. It gave me a chance to offer a perspective on some issues which may not have previously been possible.
There seemed to be value in twitter, however, the cost of having a moderator makes it difficult. You could get around that by perhaps tasking it to students in a rotating capacity, but there are drawbacks there. Is this a way to open up the private act of teaching by having other academic staff sit in on classes?
It looks like we’ll probably do something similar to this in a couple of weeks when we do a trial run of an ASCILITE’09 presentation. Some ideas for things to think about:
- Use Keynotetweet to automatically inject questions and comments into the tweet stream as certain slides are presented.
For example, references and links to resources used in the presentation. Questions for those on twitter.
- Publicise the twitter ID of the moderator.
- Use Votapedia for immediate evaluation of the session.