Have you ever wondered if students actually read their handbooks? Many probably don’t get all the way to the end and miss out on crucial information. If handbooks aren’t always delivering then how can we communicate with our students in a more engaging, captivating and accessible way?
One solution is video. It’s much, much, easier to make your own videos now than it was even five years ago. A whole range of software has been developed and made absolutely free on the internet.
So I started to use this software. And I had a lot of fun. I made 10 short screencast videos using really eye-catching graphics where the viewer zooms around a full body x-ray, a huge wave, a gigantic iceberg and a row of coconut macaroons. Viewers hear my voice talking them through the extenuating circumstances process, sources of pastoral and academic support, wellbeing within my School, the Student Charter, how to write a great essay, essay marking criteria, plagiarism and referencing, pre-arrival information for first year undergraduates, a rough guide for MA students and dissertation writing within the department. They all sit together in a prominent section of the department’s webpage and have been widely publicised to all of our students.
I’m not just blandly repeating information that’s already accessible. I’m adding to it-my highly detailed ‘How to write a great essay’ is a good example. But I’m also responding to new issue areas. The clarity of essay marking criteria was highlighted by the National Student Survey so now we have a five-minute screencast where we zoom around the human body outlining the 5 key criteria we’re looking for when we mark and detailing exactly what a high first looks like, a low first, a high 2.1 and so on.
Students can watch these screencasts exactly when they need them. They can access ‘How to write a great essay’ when they are actually writing their essay. They can access ‘Extenuating circumstances within the School’ when they are ill at 2 a.m. the night before an exam. They can watch ‘Student wellbeing’ if they are experiencing a crisis on a Sunday afternoon. Students can pause, rewind, watch again and click on embedded links within the screencasts for more information. And they are watching-the screencasts have recorded over 700 views over the last few weeks.
This is great but I didn’t stop there. I started to use screencasts in other ways. I sent out a ‘lecturer update pack’ to all politics staff in September. As colleagues zoomed around the world in this screencast I updated them on feedback turnaround times, NSS results, TURNITIN and our T & L priorities. ‘Unravelling the mysteries of the personal tutorial system’ allowed new staff to tumble around a giant Crystal ball covering key aspects of the role. No narration this time-they simply enjoyed a mystical soundtrack instead.
But I didn’t stop there. I made a 2 minute promotional screencast in 2 hours in September for use at our Open Day talks. I used more captivating graphics to highlight all the things we do well as a department and this is all set to rather catchy ukulele music.
I’m now using the same screen capture software to record video feedback on Part 3 essays. My students don’t get an A4 feedback sheet. They get an MP4 file via the Blackboard. They see my face, hear me speaking and watch me scroll through their essays in real-time, circling areas that I want to draw their attention to. The feedback from this has been fantastic.
There is a real potential here to use free, user-friendly technology to enhance the way that we deliver information to students, staff and prospective undergraduates. This is really fun, we can be really creative and we will be pushing forward technology enhanced learning.