Vodcasting to support students’ learning

Dr. Jennifer Elsden-Clifton, Lecturer, School of Education, RMIT University and

Thembi Mason, Senior Advisor (Learning and Teaching), College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University

(Here is a taster from Jen’s vodcast)

A vodcast is a video podcast and is a term used for the online delivery of video files on demand.

I recently convened a workshop in the School of Education looking at how Blackboard could be used effectively for learning and teaching with students. We had a lot a fun discussing different ways the tools in Blackboard/myRMIT Studies could be used with students including using wikis and blogs and how students engage with these forums. We also discussed issues around students submitting assessment tasks online. Two staff members from the School of Education presented on how they use Blackboard with their students and it was fantastic to see how each engaged in the tools in different ways. Dr Jennifer Elsden-Clifton, blew everyone away with how she uses vodcasts using Lectopia Personal Desktop (http://www.rmit.edu.au/lectopia/desktop) and Blackboard/myRMIT Studies to support students in their assessment tasks. The idea was so good we thought that it should be communicated far and wide! I asked Jen some questions about her practice and here are her responses:

What did you do?

One of my personal learning goals was to embed more blended learning opportunities in my courses.  This semester I experimented with Desktop Lectopia (Echo360) to record a vodcast titled ‘Assessment Support’.  This vodcast was designed to help students complete a multi-step assessment task.

Why did you decide to do it?

In past years, I normally delivered or talked about the assessment task in class.  This was done at a time when I thought students should be thinking about and working on their assessment – which may not always match with their time frame or priorities.  Sometimes this may have been followed up during the assessment process with some reminders or tips in reaction to students’ questions.  However, I felt this was not helping students at the point of need which was when they were actually working through their assessment outside of university class time.

In previous years I used the discussion forum in MyRMIT as a space they could post/access assessment support, this semester I extended the online support to create a vodcast.  This enabled to students to access my ‘lecture’ about the assessment at any time and revisit when they needed it.  Students said they used it before starting to help them think about the assessment, revisited it if they got stuck, or used it as a ‘checklist’ before submitting.  Students also said they used it to settle disagreements amongst themselves if they were interpreting an aspect of the assessment differently.

How did you do it?

There were a number of stages:

1.  This year I repeated (with some minor improvements) an assessment task from last year.  Therefore, to begin with, I looked at the frequently asked questions from the discussion board last year and the feedback tutors gave on assessment criteria in the previous year.  From this list, I prioritised three aspects that I felt students needed to ‘hear’.

2.  I also unpacked the different components of the assessment as a way of structuring the vodcast.  This meant that the vodcast corresponded with the different stages of the assessment and students could come in and out of the vodcast where necessary.  Next year, I would probably create three separate, smaller vodcasts so students can more easily navigate the process.

3.  I then created a PowerPoint slide series that included advice, links to resources, examples of effective assessments from last year, things to avoid and tips for submission.

4.  Using Lectopia Personal Desktop (Echo360) I created an eighteen minute vodcast (a mixture of PowerPoint and voice) that was posted to the MyRMIT site.

What feedback have you got?

As I would have predicted, students liked having access to an explanation of the assessment and to be able to access the support when they needed it and to be able to revisit if necessary.  As some students noted:

‘I found the vodcasts helpful especially because you can access the information whenever you like and as often as you like’

 ‘It felt like a mini lecture for me because I had you discussing the material and me being able to view what you were discussing’

‘Seeing sample work and having different elements explained really helped to bring together the different sections of the assignment’.

What was more of a surprise to me were the comments around how the assessment support reduced students’ anxiety around the assessment.  In particular, the vodcast answered some of the questions they may have had, but may never have asked as they would have felt “stupid” or that they were “bothering” lecturers:

‘I probably like it more than lectures because you can take your own time and listen to the information over and over again if you don’t understand something’

‘It’s also hard to see lecturers sometimes and you feel stupid if you continually ask for help’

‘I struggle to fully grasp what is actually wanted when I only have a rubric to work from’

‘I find that it helps reduce the amount of emails/writing on discussion boards that I need to do because I know that it is there and it is my first point of reference before bothering others with what is usually an obvious question’.

From an educator’s perspective, I did notice a general drop in assessment questions on the discussion forum. Instead, students used the discussion forum to share drafts of their assessment and students were more likely to respond to each other using the advice from the vodcast.

Would you do it again?

Definitely.  Why wouldn’t I?  It was a process that took a few hours, but resulted in: fewer e-mails and meetings about routine questions around the assessment; more meaningful conversations about assessment as the basics had been covered; and students feeling a lot more confident about their assessment and their place in my class.

What I liked about this presentation was that it was such a simple solution that all parties loved. Jen discussed the assessment task in detail, explaining what the criteria were, what her expectations were, the common mistakes that students sometimes make in their assessment (such as retelling what happened, rather than reflecting on the experience), how to go more deeply into thinking about the assessment task and showing examples of how other students have approached the tasks. There was no confusion between the students as they all heard exactly the same explanation of the tasks they were asked to complete and they could listen (and review it if necessary) at times which suited them. And it didn’t take up valuable class time.

Often the best ideas are simple.

If you would like to explore Lectopia Personal Desktop (at RMIT) you need to register http://www.rmit.edu.au/lectopia/desktop/register. It is such as simple tool to use, so have a play!

If you have similar stories to Jen, we’d love to hear them!

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