Adding Video to Your Online Discussions

Are your text-based online discussions seeming a bit dry? Do you feel like something is missing or that you aren’t getting a good sense of the people you are conversing with. Would you like to do a little community building in the early days of your course? Perhaps you should add a little video to your discussion.

The Advantages

It can be difficult to envision the real person behind the text. Video can make it easy to connect and to literally put a face to the idea. Not to mention the huge amount of information we convey with expression and tone. Being able to hear the other person’s voice and to see their face and expressions can allow you to get a fuller sense of their personality. Do they have an accent? Smile a lot? Have a lot of plants in their office? At times, it can even provide more insight into the content they are delivering. Did the humorous tone they delivered their comment with completely change the meaning?

The Disadvantages

One of the biggest disadvantages of video is that it’s time-based. A three-minute video takes three minutes to watch. Multiply that three minutes across many posts and it can take a bit of time to view everyone’s post. Also, unlike text-based discussion, you can’t quickly skim to review or find a detail. Many instructors set time limits on video posts. This makes the content more manageable and helps to cut down on rambling posts. Students should be encouraged to create a script or outline of the points they wish to address before recording.

earbuds with micVideo can also present accessibility issues. Hearing-impaired students will need captions or transcripts to participate. It’s also important to have good audio quality and for the person to speak clearly so they can be understood. Fortunately, the audio quality issue can usually be solved by using a microphone such as the earbuds with a microphone that come with many cellphones. 

You Don’t Have to Choose?

“Literacy comes in a variety of exciting flavors,” argues Joyce Valenza, of Rutgers University’s School of Communication. “In the course of a semester-long course, this is not a binary decision [between text and video]. In life, as in school, we read and write across platforms for multiple purposes, for a variety of audiences, using different strategies.”

When choosing to do a video or text-based discussion, it doesn’t have to be either/or, even in the same discussion. Providing information in different formats can provide varied, boost attention, and help reinforce the information delivered. Students can learn to present information in different modes or choose the method they feel the most comfortable with. We all learn in different ways. They can also use their cell phone cameras to share an experience or location via video and describe it in text.

How to Create a Video Discussion

There are a couple of options for having a video-based discussion board.

VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a multimedia discussion tool that allows students and instructors to have a conversation around media such as images, documents and videos. They can post comments on the “slide” using text, audio and video allowing them to express themselves in the mode they feel strongest.

 

To learn more about how to use VoiceThread in your course, check out the help resources.

Kaltura Media

Want to stick with the traditional discussion board in myLesley, but have the option for video. Try Kaltura. It’s integrated directly into myLesley. Anywhere you have access to the text editor you can create a video.

mashup tool in the myLesley text editor            record from webcam

Learn how to create a Kaltura post at our support site.

VoiceThread: Peer Review and Advanced Commenting Features (Webinar Recording)

On January 20, Sadie Anderson from VoiceThread conducted a training webinar for Lesley faculty, focusing on peer review and the advanced commenting features now available in VoiceThread. A recording of the webinar is below.

For more information on VoiceThread’s new commenting tools, see:
Private Commenting
Threaded Commenting
Direct Reply
Comment Moderation

Want to learn more about using VoiceThread in your course? Sign up for one of VoiceThread’s free online workshops or view a recording from a past workshop: https://voicethread.com/workshops

12 Days of Learning: Online Discussion & Collaboration

Atomic Learning has created the 12 Days of Learning, a series of articles designed to kick off resolutions to keep learning in the new year. We thought this was a great idea and have decided borrow (shamelessly steal) it and do our own. It’s Day 12 and we’re wrapping up our 12 Days of Learning series with online discussion and collaboration. Check in with us tomorrow for a bonus learning day.

Moving your classroom discussion online can pose several unexpected challenges. It can also provide several unexpected benefits. Below is a presentation from two of eLIS’s instructional designers, John McCormick and Sarah Krongard, on how online is different and what to consider when designing one for your course.

View the presentation in another window or click through the slides below.

Groupwork and collaboration online can also present challenges not present in the traditional classroom, but effective collaboration skills are considered critical to being successful in today’s world. This video from the University of New South Wales in Australia offers useful strategies for creating group assignments online and then facilitating and assessing them.

Lync Web for Online Meetings

lync2013.png

Lync Web App is an instant messaging and audio/video chat tool. It’s a great option for online meetings, ad hoc conversations, advising and tutoring. Lync Web includes text-based instant messages, audio and video chat, the ability to share Powerpoint presentations or even your desktop to demo applications or processes. There’s also a whiteboard for quick collaboration and a polling tool for rapid feedback in larger groups.

It’s easy to get started with Lync Web. It runs entirely in your web browser and you only need to install a quick plugin to start your first session. Lync can be accessed using the same login and password as your Lesley email.

Having trouble finding time to meet with your colleagues? Why not schedule your meetings virtually? You can do this directly in Outlook or the Outlook Web App, just as you would any other type of meeting. Select the “Online Meeting” options and a link to the Lync meeting will be included in your invitation. Need to meet with someone who isn’t part of the Lesley community or want to invite a guest to your class discussion? No problem. Include their email address in the meeting invite and they will receive guest access to the online meeting. Note: Guests have slightly fewer privileges for presenting, but will be able to fully participate in the discussion and access the whiteboard.

Lync allows you to participate in online meetings in a variety of ways. There is a desktop client for both Windows and Mac and mobile clients for Windows, Android and iOS so you can even stay connected when you aren’t at your desk.

You can find more information on how to get started with Lync at support.lesley.edu.

Not sure if Lync is right for you and want to consider other options? Check out the Comparison of Online Meeting Tools for a quick overview.

The Online Learning Community as Digital Village Green: Interview with Joan Thormann Part IV.

This post is the fourth in an interview series with author and Lesley University Professor Joan Thormann regarding the design and facilitation of online learning environments.   Joan Thomann will be presenting at an upcoming eLIS Brown Bag event, The Online Learning Community as Digital Village Green.  This event will take place on Friday, November 15th from 12pm to 2pm at Lesley’s University Hall at 1815 Mass Ave in Cambridge on the third floor, within the Creativity Commons.

By Nancy Jones (Own work by uploader - application screenshot) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Are you able to develop a relationship with students?  Do you think this is important to their commitment to learning?

Joan Thormann: Building relationships with students is one of the more time consuming things that I do.  I schedule one-to-one Skype meetings with each student.  These meetings were originally supposed to be about 15 – 20 minutes.  As it turns out, the meetings usually last anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes.  I tell my students up-front that the purpose of these meetings is for us to get to know each other.

The Skype meetings allow students to get to know, trust, and feel comfortable with me. My hope is that video conferencing helps to build community because I attempt to communicate that the online environment will be a safe place to discuss content openly. I want students to know that I won’t allow anything bad to happen as they interact with classmates.  There are other subtexts.  It helps them to know that I am interested in their learning, how they learn, and what they are interested in learning.  I am conducting research on this type of video conferencing as part of my research about the effectiveness of incorporating UDL in online courses.

To continue the relationship building, we also have small group Skype meetings so students can get to know each other.   I try not to have more than four in a group.  The week that students participate in a group Skype meeting, they do not have to post on the weekly discussion forum.

I encourage students to email and Skype me whenever they have questions or want to discuss something.  I also email each student individually at least once a week in addition to group emails and being “present” on the weekly Discussion Board forum.

My relationship with most of my online students is generally stronger than in face-to-face courses because I am able to respond to each student individually.  There are no students who sit slouched in the back of the classroom.  My online course structure does not allow this.  Also Lesley’s commitment to small class size allows me the time to build relationships with students.

You highlight in your book the importance of listening in online courses.  Could you expand on this?

Thormann: It is a combination of listening in these one-to-one and group Skype meetings, and listening to who they are through the language they use online.  Some students write a tremendous amount and others are very succinct.  I listen to what is said in these discussions and read what each student posts very carefully.  Basically, through reading or viewing their posts, and conversations, I can quickly, as any good teacher can, get a sense of how they learn, who they are, and what their interests are.  Many times they keep coming back to the same topic which helps me understand what their concerns are.

This semester I am teaching a course about teaching online (ECOMP 6201 Online Teaching: Introduction to Design and Practice), and one of my interview questions for the one-to-one Skype meeting was “Why are you taking this course?”  Almost all of the students said, “to get my certification.”  One student shared with me that she was scared about teaching online, and now at the end of the course she wrote me that she feels she can teach online.   I have seen many teachers move from being resistant to online learning to a point where they are much more comfortable.  In my communications with students, they become aware that I am “listening” and open up and talk about the issues in greater depth.   Moreover, they learn to listen to each other in this online environment.

Online learning can provide the opportunity for all learners to become engaged.  In fact one of my students wrote about herself as being shy and not speaking out much in face-to-face classes.  She is the most verbose student in this online course!   While other students respond to each other in three to five sentences, she will write a half page.  Online learning gives everyone a chance to be heard because participation is no longer tied to a scheduled class time (and place).

By Brian Solis [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What do you think is the future of learning technologies?

Thormann:  I am particularly interested in the use of mobile devices for learning.  I don’t really know where this is going, but my sense is that mobile devices are now being increasingly used for online learning.  Mobile phones are being used more widely in developing countries and, of course, most people in the U.S. have a mobile phone.  More and more people here have smart phones and tablets.  Logistics still have to be worked out in terms of screen size and input capabilities. But one of the things I love in online learning is figuring out how the pedagogy works best for a particular environment.

We don’t know what technological features will develop but for the future of online learning, the same questions will remain.  How can students engage with the material in a non-face-to-face environment so they can grasp the material, play with it, and reflect on it?  These are the questions I love to explore.