Screencasting and the Flipped Classroom in Speech and Language Therapy

Dr Holly Robson (Clinical Language Sciences) writes:


As a Speech and Language Therapist teaching Speech and Language Therapy Students, I am particularly invested in developing highly knowledgeable and competent clinicians in order to best serve our profession and clients. A good clinician has a strong grasp of theory and can apply it flexibly to clinical scenarios.  I am often concerned that theoretical and clinical aspects of training are separated and students struggle to transfer their knowledge from the classroom to the clinic.  I had previously discussed this translational challenge with one of our final year masters students, who told me that case studies and incremental clinical decision making in a peer learning environment supported her practice. I wanted to make these translational exercises the focus of my teaching.  But the problem was time.  The students already have a packed curriculum with an intensive teaching and clinical schedule.  I needed to find a way to embed more clinical thinking within teaching time, while retaining the taught theoretical content.  So I tried to flip my classroom.


As a new lecturer I was enrolled on the University of Reading Academic Practice Programme (APP), which exposes lecturers and teaching fellows to theoretical and practical aspects of teaching in higher education.  A particularly helpful presentation was given by Dr. David Nutt representing the GRASS project.  David described using screen capture to produce screencasts of lectures and delivering these lectures online via YouTube.  This struck me as a useful way to deliver taught content, providing students with materials to support their independent study, and freeing up teaching sessions for deep learning and applied clinical decision making exercises. I borrowed a GRASS laptop and microphone and David provided me with enough training to get started.  It took days! I did not have fun listening to my own lecture delivery and was somewhat overly officious in editing out my “erms”.  Then I had to create the new teaching session content.  I developed team based learning quizzes, case studies and practical sessions.  The students worked in teams and scored points from quizzes and peer feedback over the weeks.  There was a prize giving for the highest scoring teams at the end of the lecture series.


Feedback from the students was mostly positive.  Almost everyone wanted to keep the flipped classroom format and everyone had fun with the team based learning quizzes.  I probably pushed everyone, including myself, a bit too hard at some points, being unrealistic about how many other exercises we could do in the time frame.  Overall, flipping my classroom was a great experience.  The teaching sessions were much more fun and gave me the opportunity to interact more with my fantastic students.  I was honoured to be recognised by the RUSU Technological Innovation in Teaching Excellence Award and it is very motivating to know that efforts to improve my teaching have had a positive impact. It was hard work though, really hard. Will it be easier next year? Hmm may be…

So just how do you do it? By a screencast novice

Alison Nicholson, T&L Coordinator IWLP French, writes:

Inspired by Cindy’s range of catchy, fun screencasts (I particularly like the Powtoon ones with accompanying music) and Emma’s ones based on Prezi with beautiful eye-catching photos, I decided to make my own screencast for IWLP French students. Our students are obviously non-specialist language learners, and whilst they can do grammar exercises or speak a few sentences quite quickly, at the lower levels they often have difficulty writing a good quality essay in French. I wanted to explain to them how to

  • Answer the question
  • Be accurate and make every word count
  • Demonstrate that they have learned structures and vocabulary covered in class
  • And share with them the marking criteria

But in the past, when I have tried to do this to a whole class, or even individually, I could see the glazed expressions forming quickly. I needed to put my points across in a format that was visual and always available, to view again and again, and refer back to when working at home or revising for a final exam. Perhaps a screencast could be the answer?

It might be useful for colleagues who are yet to produce a screencast to see the various steps as I worked on this project:

  1. Firstly I produced a script which I shared with a colleague to check for clarity and thoroughness. For a 5 minute screencast, the script was just over a page of A4.
  2. For the visuals, I went on to which was very helpful. Nevertheless, producing my first Prezi was possibly the most time-consuming part. I chose a template where the order of the visuals was already predetermined, which made it easier.
  3. I practised a few times, reading the script aloud and noting when to click on to another visual, when to pause and when to emphasise a word
  4. Finally, I was ready to record, helped by David, using Camtasia on a University laptop, and speaking into a microphone, which really improved the sound quality. The second take was good enough, so the recording only took an hour or so. We had a bit of a problem with the quality of the visual but David sorted that out…
  5. The last stage involved creating a YouTube account (easy once you have a Google account), and uploading the screencast. This provides you with a URL so you can upload the link into Blackboard or send to colleagues and students directly… Bit of a problem here as the laptop was logged directly into another colleague’s YouTube account so for a while my screencast had a different ‘author’ – but this was solved by a helpful colleague in ITS – something to check before you upload.

So now it is there on YouTube for all to see, though most of the ‘hits’ to date are probably mine …. I enjoyed creating this screencast enormously, so much so that my next one is already being planned. This one will be on independent language learning, and use Powtoon (maybe borrowing Cindy’s music).


Talking heads: attraction or distraction?

A talking head is the phrase often used to describe a video feed of the narrator within a screencast. It has been suggested on the basis of anecdotal evidence that students like having a ‘talking head’ in screencasts, as it gives the video a more personal feel, and I have gone along with this approach so far in my own practice.

But do talking heads help? Does being able to see the person encourage more effective learning? Or does it distract from the content being covered? This is a question that we’re trying to probe this summer.

Dr Eugene McSorley in Psychology uses eye-tracking technology as a research tool for investigating topics such as phobias. While showing a series of images on a computer screen to a subject, eye-trackers allow him to follow where the subject is looking, and for how long. In this project, we’re going to use this technology to investigate how students interact with screencasts, with and without talking heads, and to find out whether talking heads help, hinder, or have no effect on the short-term retention of information.

For this project, Eugene and I have recruited two UROP students: Luxveeka (an MChem Chemistry student) and Nadyne (a BSc Psychology student), to design, carry out and analyse a series of eye-tracking experiments. The project started on Monday and will run for six weeks. Watch this space!

Team selfie! From l-r: Nadyne, Eugene, David & Luxveeka (wearing the eye-tracking headset)

Team selfie! From l-r: Nadyne, Eugene, David & Luxveeka (wearing the eye-tracking headset)


New toys

David writes:

It’s great fun preparing screencasts with the new Surface Pro3 that the GRASS project team has bought. With a stylus, it’s possible to annotate Powerpoint slides as you go, adding in mathematical derivations, underlining key phrases, and so on.

It’s also been a bit of a learning experience for me, too. When used as a tablet, swiping your finger in various directions is associated with making menus appear and changing between windows, which you (probably) don’t want in the middle of a screencast! It also took me a while to find the ‘eraser’ function of the stylus, too, for when I made mistakes! That said, it’s probably my favourite bit of kit at the moment.

All our kit is available to be borrowed (laptop & tablet with Camtasia Studio, 2 USB microphones), so do get in touch if you’d like to try any of it out.

Here’s a short screencast (2′) I prepared for my School Staff Meeting (with the Surface Pro3), plugging the GRASS project and highlighting one of the tools available in the new version of Blackboard.

Our hardware has arrived!

Just in time for our ‘Lunch and Learn’ on Friday, all our hardware and software has now arrived! To help people get started with screen capture, we’ve got two computers (a Toshiba Satellite Pro and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet + stylus), with Camtasia Studio installed on them, plus two USB microphones. We’ll be using these to make further screencasts during the project, but it’s also possible to borrow them for your own screencasting. Just contact the team!