Winging It

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I’m having one of those periodic feelings that I’ve been neglecting the blog a little, so some updates on what I’ve been up to:

Ramifications of the department restructure in July continue, as the programme leader for our Academic Practice PG Cert – and my informal mentor – decided to leave the institution in December for new pastures. That has meant that I’ve been thrown out of the frying pan a little. I’m no longer the informal module leader on the digital technology module, learning the ropes, it is all mine. Officially. Now. Whether I know what I’m doing or not. I’m slowly coming to realise jus how much of academia is people winging it as best the can. So far it’s going well. Half the taught sessions were done last year, and the first assignment submission is due shortly. I’ve also continued to provide a number of bespoke sessions here and there, including digital skills for Sociology students and WordPress for postgrad researchers.

On the other side of my job I’m working on formalising exactly what work we can do for academics in terms of developing their content which will comprise of a new set of Service Standards for Learning Materials Development, a low-key project management system for organising the team’s workload similar to what we used to have when we had access to Jira, and a dashboard for reporting what we’ve done. That’s something we definitely need more of, we do a lot of good work that doesn’t get shouted about enough. I’m also pushing for hardware and software updates. We’re still on Storyline 2 which is getting on a bit, and an upgrade to 3 should be fairly straightforward to get through, and I would like to run a pilot of Adapt or Evolve.

I’ve been working with our Medical School again to source and integrate a series of anatomy and physiology eLearning content units developed by an external company into a number of our Canvas modules. I made an interactive world map in ThingLink to showcase country health profiles written by students for an assessment on a sociology module which will build up over the next few years (above). I was down at our London Campus again in October to help with the selection and recruitment of a new VLE support officer there who then visited us in December for a few days training with myself and the team here. Finally, getting outside of strictly work, I’ve reached the denouement of my social media alienation. On the 31st of December, to go into the new year fresh, I deleted Twitter and Facebook from all of my devices, consigning my accounts to the same dark cupboard where LinkedIn and Google+ lurk, still in existence but wilfully ignored.

Panopto Admin Training

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Second day of Panopto training covered everything we need to know in order to setup and administer the new system. This included a comprehensive run through of all of the configuration options and system settings, how to manually manage user accounts and the folder structure if required, and an overview of the various support resources which are available to us including the main support site and the process for logging incidents with their service desk.

Panopto User Training

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It’s official. Contracts have been signed, Canvas integration has been tested, and now we’ve had our first batch of training for Panopto, the University’s new lecture capture system which we’re branding internally as reVIEW.

This session covered how the system will be accessed and used by Viewers (students, essentially), and Creators (lecturers). There wasn’t a lot to cover for Viewers. We’re planning on having everything integrated through Canvas, so it’s just a case of navigating to the relevant item or accessing the reVIEW tool in the menu. Playback speed can be varied between half and twice speed which is nice, caption styles can be customised, and the search functionality is impressive – it doesn’t just work on text, but also for spoken terms thanks to a machine speech-to-text engine.

It is possible for students to be given access to create their own videos by using ‘Assignment’ folders which can be configured for them by module tutors, and simple quizzes can be added at any point throughout videos to check comprehension. Results for which can be fed back into the Canvas Gradebook.

There was much more content for Creators as would be expected, covering recording and editing. Recordings can include multiple sources, including any webcam and mic connected to the computer – and more than one source – PowerPoint presentations, and your entire computer screen. Recordings are uploaded to Panopto’s servers progressively which will help in a lecture theatre environment where people need to get out quickly for the next class. Editing and post-production is done through the web using HTML5, no plug-ins required, and it is possible to edit individual sources in isolation as well as the entire video.

Closed captions can be added automatically based on the speech-to-text engine which Panopto is using to drive the in-video search, but it is also possible for Creators to request a variety of human transcription services which are contracted for separately. We’ll soon discover how well it can handle academic language and the interesting range of accents we have in this neck of the woods.