Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tips for Being a Successful Online Learner

Online classes can be pretty different from face-to-face or even hybrid/blended classes. I strongly prefer online classes over face-to-face classes due to flexibility and because I don't learn well from lectures (not that all face-to-face classes are lectures anymore). I've completed around 70 graduate credits online, so I thought I'd share some tips from my experience and the research on online learning as well.

Time Management 

http://chibird.com/post/31765020567/i-tell-myself-all-these-excuses-d-people
Probably the biggest tip I have is about managing your time. It can be very easy to put off an online course and work at the last minute. I get it - I'm a huge procrastinator by nature. However, I learned that being a huge procrastinator and a successful online student don't go together well. First of all, technology problems can occur or you might get sick, and these excuses don't always fly in a class you can take from home, especially if you can work ahead.  

You may also have questions about the assignment and you can't expect an instantaneous reply from your instructor. I like to at least get a good start on an assignment ahead of time to make sure I understand it and start mulling it over. My goal is to finish an assignment at least a day before it is due. 

I basically schedule myself to work on my classes like I would a meeting or appointment. Then my husband knows I am uninterruptible and I schedule other activities around that chunk of time. I find I work best in the am, so I try to get started around 9. If I miss that timeframe and end up working late in the afternoon, things take twice as long because I just can't concentrate as well. Maybe you work best in the late evening, so work then. That's the beauty of online learning. 

http://www.brandinfection.com/
2011/11/25/facebook-procrastination/ 
Maybe you're distracted by your phone or social networking. There are actually apps like Anti-Social that block Facebook and other sites for you! You usually have to restart your computer to get around them once enabled.

Use Otherwise Wasted Time 

http://www.johnlund.com/page/1859/couple-speeding-down-a-road-in-a-convertible-
while-using-computer-technology.asp




I would be interested to know how much of my education has occurred in a car! My family lives around 2 hours away, so I usually take advantage of that time to do school work. My phone can be turned into a hot spot so I can get internet on the road as long as I have a signal. Thankfully my husband usually prefers to drive. So whenever you have time like this, where you can be doing something else, make use of it! 





Find Your Place

Working on an online course at home is fantastic because it's so convenient, but it's also very easy to get distracted. Sometimes fun things come up at the last minute and it's difficult to say no, which is a good reason to work ahead. (Also, sometimes not fun things come up and you now will have an excuse that people cannot argue with! Use it!)

It may also help to leave home and work somewhere else, like a coffee shop or library to appear less available to your family or roommates. If it's nice out, maybe you could work at a picnic table in a park. You might be able to work at a local university or college, even if you don't attend there - just make sure they have guest wireless or you have a hotspot if you need internet. I converted a spare room into an office, so at least I'm not working out in the kitchen, exposed to all the goings-on of the household.

Technology Tips 


It's best to use a reliable computer (Mac or Windows) or a Windows tablet like the Surface to do your school work rather than an iPad or Android tablet or a smart phone. These other devices may not have all the functionality you need to complete a course. 

http://kadvacorp.com/technology/
top-web-browsers-market/
Make sure to have at least two different browsers on your computer because the easiest fix to a technology problem is just using a different browser. I recommend having both Google Chrome and Firefox in addition to the default browser (Safari on a Mac or Internet Explorer on Windows). 

Remember to just restart your computer if it is acting funny and your problem is not fixed by trying another browser. 

Also, if you're not sure how to do something technologically, just Google it or look it up on YouTube and it is highly likely you'll find some information that will point you in the right direction. Remember you can call or email the Help Desk if you're a UWEC student (helpdesk@uwec.edu or 715-836-5711). 

Taking a screenshot when you have a problem is a good idea so that your instructor or the technology person helping you can see exactly what is going on. Here is a video showing how to take a screenshot on Windows 7 and here's one for Mac users.

I Hope You Don't Mind Reading, Writing, and Working by Yourself 


Although it is becoming more common to include videos, movies, and live meetings into online courses, there is usually still a lot of independent reading and writing. For instance, online discussions are usually written. In a face-to-face class, your instructor may go through a lot of the textbook material or course concepts in a lecture, but that is less likely in an online course and you will often be required to read the textbook or other materials to learn the content. If you are a person who really needs synchronous back and forth communication, you may be dissatisfied with an online course. However, if you are a person who is pretty good at working independently, reads quickly, writes well, and prefers time to reflect or digest information, you will probably like online learning. 

We don't want this.
http://www.cguytech.com/why-cgt/
I'm not saying you need all of these characteristics to do well in an online class; it's certainly possible for people to learn in less than ideal circumstances. However, it is something to be aware of if you have the option to take a course face-to-face instead. I personally have found that if I am naturally inclined toward a topic, I can learn really efficiently and effectively online, but in a dreaded statistics class I took recently, I wanted a human! I wanted to hear that material explained a few different ways, to ask questions, and to be able to work on it with the instructor and others nearby so I could get help right when I needed it. My instructor provided good feedback and she answered my questions, but I always had to email her and wait for a response. The key here is that I still learned a lot and got an A; it just wasn't ideal. (This was actually the first time I would have preferred a face-to-face setting in all of my credits taken online!)

On a related note, make sure to read instructions really well in online courses. On multiple occasions, I've emailed my instructor and then realized I actually did have the info I needed. I've worked with many online instructors who are frustrated that students don't read the materials provided and just ask whenever they have a question. However, if you have confirmed you don't have the information needed or you don't understand, definitely ask - your instructor has no idea if you are confused or not. 

It's likely we've all experienced difficulty communicating in writing, whether it's email, social media, texting, etc. I read a study that found it takes 17 times longer to communicate in writing vs verbally. It's easy to misunderstand people or come across abruptly without visual cues and immediate verbal elaboration. Make sure to read over what you write to ensure you are communicating as you intend. My advice is to lean toward giving people the benefit of the doubt and try to be positive. Don't go overboard with the emoticons, but an exclamation point here and there and conversational language can make you seem friendly. I have actually connected with other students better in some of my online classes than I have in some face-to-face classes, so it's certainly possible.

Get the Support of Family and Friends 


I've kind of alluded to this, but research backs up the importance of support from friends and family to be a successful online student. This probably applies more to people who are completing entire degree programs online than a course here and there, but still it's helpful to emphasize to the people around you that this is important and you would appreciate it if they could help you in whatever ways you need it - making supper, walking the dog, keeping it quiet, leaving you alone, or just being supportive. During my dreaded statistics course, I asked my husband to just pat me on the back periodically and tell me this will be over soon and it will all be worth it when I finish my degree :) It actually did help! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Video Streaming Options: A Comparison of Kaltura, V-Brick, and YouTube

Streaming videos via Kaltura, YouTube, V-Brick, etc. rather than putting the video file directly into D2L reduces technical problems for students because these services take in different formats of video and standardize the playback. This reduces problems with downloading, finding the right program to play it back, and browser permission/blocking for all the different types of files. Streaming also helps videos play better on mobile devices.

WMVs (including Desi files - a UWEC thing) are particularly problematic because the free WMV player for Mac is no longer free. However, if you stream WMV files, they will work on a Mac.

Below are descriptions of the main three main options that we recommend for UWEC faculty and staff instructional uses.

Kaltura: new for UWEC in fall 2014 
  • Integrated with D2L – no external sites or logins.
  • Videos "live" on Kaltura's server, rather than in your D2L course. 
  • 2 GB limit per video - that's a lot! Use a wired connection if you have a big file – can take a while. 
  • No quota, meaning no limit how how much video you can have.
  • Offers webcam recording and screencasting, but it's not reliable yet. 
  • Students can upload videos to Kaltura via Discussions, a nice alternative to YouTube or having them upload a file to the dropbox.  
  • Videos are connected with the account of the instructor who uploaded the video, which may be a challenge if team teaching or sharing videos with other instructors - let's chat if you have this concern. 
  • It's currently in pilot mode - contact me or another LTS/CETL employee for instructions. 
  • A downfall is that videos embedded into News, Discussions, or Quizzes do not copy over to your next course via copy components. Videos in Content do copy over. Hopefully this will be fixed soon. 
V-Brick (the university server)
  • The only option for copyright-protected materials such as movies that the video department streams for people, since it can be restricted to require a login. 
  • Videos can be set to public if there are no copyright concerns. 
  • A downfall is that instructors currently cannot upload their own videos, so they need to plan a few days ahead. 
  • The site can be a little slow to load. 
  • If you're looking for a movie, login and search to see what's out there: http://media.uwec.edu (only available to UWEC staff/faculty/students).
YouTube
  • Still a good option, especially if you already use it. 
  • It's easy to share videos outside of D2L or take with you if you get another job (unlike the other options). 
  • Many programs like Camtasia export directly to YouTube, saving a step. 
  • Webcam recording works reliably, unlike Kaltura (http://www.youtube.com/my_webcam) - that's "my underscore (_) webcam" after the url for YouTube  
  • Should not be used for videos of students/clients or copyright-protected material. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Recording Audio into PPT on a Mac...

PowerPoint 2011 for Mac has long been a thorn in my side.  If you're looking to add audio to a slide deck and publish into a movie, it doesn't even come close to doing what PowerPoint 2013 for Windows does. Actually, it doesn't even work. You can record audio into it and set timings, but when you save as a movie, the audio just shows up as an image of a speaker and doesn't play. A brief Google search found that this is a pervasive problem - it's not just me.  There are rumors of Office 2014 for Mac, but I have found no confirmed release date. There's no guarantee this will be fixed, anyway.

So, I decided to look into Keynote instead and I was really excited because I thought this was the answer to all of my problems but it turns out that Keynote records one big audio file for the whole thing, not separate files for each slide. Darn it. Never mind. What people really like about recording audio into PowerPoint 2013 is being able to easily change a slide here and there without redoing the whole thing. A screencast accomplishes about the same as Keynote. (I was recently reminded that Quicktime on a Mac is also a basic screencasting tool that requires no download - cool!)

My answer to Mac users who want to record audio into PowerPoint for years has been "do you have access to a Windows computer?" It seems that recording audio on the Mac and then exporting on Windows in PPT 2013 retains the audio and timings. I haven't done it much to feel very confident with this fix, but it did just work for me now.  If someone wants to do this, I would test just one slide on the two computers the person intends to use, just in case.

Another option is to use a program like VMWare or Parallels to run Windows on a Mac. Back at my old job, I used Parallels and it wasn't great, but that was almost four years ago.  I recently got VMWare Fusion and I love it!  It is so convenient to have Windows easily accessible on my Mac. I just recorded audio into PowerPoint 2013 on Windows via VMWare and it did work. Windows seemed a little confused about my USB mic and didn't name it properly in the control panel, but it did use the correct mic and I got it to sound great.

I suppose the easiest thing to do as a Mac user who wants the ability to re-record a slide here and there is to add the audio in PPT 2011 and just tell the students how to play it right out of PPT.  That's not very elegant though and completely not mobile friendly.  I would, minimally, try exporting it on a Windows computer and then put it on YouTube or Kaltura, and then just give the students the PPT file if something goes awry in that process.


How to Set a Transparent Background on an Image in PowerPoint 2013

PowerPoint is a surprisingly helpful image editing tool. One thing you can do very easily is remove the background of an image. I actually like a white slide background and one reason I advocated for it is because many images have a white background, so they just blend in to the slide like this:


That takes no work. However, what if you want a colored background? You get something like this:


Yuck. Thankfully, PowerPoint 2013 makes it easy to set that background as transparent. First, click on the image. When it is selected, Picture Tools will be available on the toolbar at the top. Then choose Color and Set Transparent Color. 

Sorry for the bad annotation - I wish the snipping tool had built in arrows and shapes. 
Your cursor will then turn into a color picker. Click on the color you want to be transparent - in my case, the white background of the map - and voila!


Pretty cool, huh? Much easier than Photoshop. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Introducing Students to Turnitin's Originality Check as a Learning Tool

Turnitin is kind of an odd learning technology for me because I have not used it as an instructor but I have been subjected to it as a student. The university I attend requires instructors to submit at least one paper by each student in each class to Turnitin. The papers I've written have ranged from 0-40% unoriginal. The 40% result alarmed me but it was actually ok because my instructor submitted my whole paper, including the standard cover page that all students use, rather than just copying out the text I wrote.  Add in my references being found unoriginal, a few quotes, and a couple of small coincidental matches, and it looks kind of bad although no plagiarism was occurring. When I asked my instructor if this was ok, he basically said "sure, don't worry about it."  Huh?

It doesn't have to be like this! The writing instructor who does the Turnitin best practices webinars uses Turnitin as a learning tool. She starts out the semester letting her students submit drafts and revise based on the originality and grammar report. By the end of the semester, she expects the students to have learned from their experience and weans them off of submitting drafts to Turnitin and revising. 

I have also heard of instructors who will tell students to write a bad paper and plagiarize away or paraphrase closely to see what happens when it's submitted to Turnitin. Let's learn how this thing works, because understanding it can sort of trick people into writing and citing better. (If you use Turnitin this way, you can set it to not submit these papers to the Turnitin repository.) 

I would recommend for instructors to try it out themselves as well. I thought it was fascinating to submit some of my own papers when I got access to Turnitin through work. We can create fake student accounts so instructors can get the full experience of submitting and getting the report. I recommend not saving these to the Turnitin repository.

If you want to give the students the benefit of the doubt, you can explain Turnitin as a self-check to ensure there has been no unintentional plagiarism. The writing experts at UWEC say that plagiarism really isn't that prevalent and most plagiarism is unintentional due to poor citing or paraphrasing too closely. Those students can be helped! 

Youmans (2011) found the threat of Turnitin didn't eliminate plagiarism in his classes - 3 students still clearly plagiarized despite being told Turnitin would be used. He hypothesized that these students were desperate at the last minute and hoped their plagiarism wouldn't be found. My hypothesis is that if the students understood Turnitin better, they might have been less confident they'd get away with it. Also, the students who had unintentionally plagiarized might have learned from Turnitin if they were allowed to submit a draft. 

Here's how to set up a dropbox so students can re-submit and see their results:
  • Go into "Edit Other Options in a New Window" at the bottom of the D2L dropbox properties page.
  • Click on "Optional Settings."
  • Where it says "Generate Originality Reports for student submissions" choose "immediately (can overwrite originality reports until due date)".
  • Ensure that students are able to see the reports.
My opinion is that, minimally, instructors should allow students to see their originality reports, even if they don't allow students to re-submit.  This gives students the opportunity to learn from the service and avoids them feeling as if their paper is being used for something without their involvement. 

So, I'm making some pretty positive assumptions about students' intentions and the capabilities of Turnitin in this post. I want to remind you that Turnitin can't always find every instance of matching text and it does not replace an instructor's intuition or old fashioned ways of identifying plagiarism. It's still important to use unique assignment prompts, collect multiple samples of writing for comparison, and break up a big paper into smaller assignments when possible. My next post will explore the loopholes, ways students can cheat Turnitin, and downfalls. Hopefully I don't need to come back and revise this post after fully researching that! 

Reference:
Youmans, R. (2011). Does the adoption of plagiarism detection software in higher education reduce plagiarism? Studies in Higher education, 36(7), 749-761.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Accessibility/Universal Design at UWEC

Since my previous career was working with people who have disabilities, accessibility isn't far out of my mind. While I've been at UWEC, online courses and instructional videos have increased and it is important to consider accessibility to ensure everyone can access the content.  This blog post contains our interpretation of the law at UWEC and what my team has been doing to move toward proactive accessibility. I now have two students who work on video transcription, scanning, and other instructional design tasks for a total of 20 hours per week.  It kind of feels like we are ants moving tiny pieces of sand, but it's something!

The Law

First and foremost, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA mandates that accommodations must be provided to students with documented disabilities who request them to create equal access. It is not legally mandated that everything in a course needs to be proactively accessible, but some programs or universities may require it as a business practice.

It is ideal that materials are accessible proactively since setting up accommodations can be time consuming and accommodations for students with disabilities often benefit students who do not have disabilities too.  For instance, providing a transcript allows students who are deaf to read what is in a video and students who just prefer to read rather than watch (like me) can do so too.  Students who speak English as a second language can follow along better by reading and hearing at the same time. That's called universal design.

In addition, students are not required to disclose a disability in college, so they may not disclose until there is a problem; no problems means they don't have to be singled out. Wouldn't that be great?

Captioning/Transcripts

Our main focus is on providing a text alternative for videos with audio information.  This is our priority because it has the potential to impact students who do not have disabilities as well, as I mentioned.  Instructors have reported back that their students have appreciated transcripts.

I first find courses/instructors/videos who seem to be good candidates. There are actually not many; I have to actively seek them out. Here are the criteria for good videos to caption/transcribe, but if an instructor feels passionately about it, I would certainly have the students work on their class.
  • Content is stable - videos will be used again.
  • Courses are at least average in size (30+ students - not regularly 10 or so).  Ideally, they are large or the course is offered frequently so that the video is viewed by many students.
  • Online courses are prioritized since literature has indicated that students with disabilities are more likely to take online courses.
  • The instructor is willing to work with me to provide this accommodation.  Usually I can just pop the transcripts into their D2L course myself, but sometimes if they need to be captioned I will have to meet with the instructor and get the transcript into YouTube. 
Here's how we do it. My students get the videos in a variety of ways: YouTube playlists, URLs, or I give them access to the content page in D2L if approved.  They usually watch the videos via VLC player because it allows them to slow down the speed so they can just type rather than listen, pause, rewind, etc.  My first student typed about 95 words per minute, so he could keep up pretty well if the video was set to 60%.  If you copy the URL, you can paste from the clipboard in VLC to open it.  

Transcript or Captions? 
When the audio/text would lose meaning without seeing what is on the screen, we caption it. This often happens in math when they write out problems while speaking.  Captions usually need to be word-for-word, with the ums, ahs, and misspeaking.  This is because the timing of the captions will be off if too much is missing.  

We try to use YouTube for captions because it will automatically sync the timing if you upload a text file, which is a big time saver.  (If you want to be entertained, click on the automatic captions that YouTube creates - wow, bad. But it usually works great to upload your own text and let it do the timing.).  The alternative is to use a program that has you click to time the captions to come up manually. Pretty time consuming. You can also let YouTube take a stab at the captions, download their file, and then edit it and re-upload.  

In the majority of cases, it is possible to include a screenshot with the text so the file stands alone and the students can read it without watching the video at all.  We clean up transcripts so that they read well.  It is easier to just provide a text transcript because it's just done when the student is done typing and reviewing.  I sometimes suggest for them to break it up into more paragraphs or add headings and if logical, they will add screenshots.  For instance, voice over power points are always text files with screenshots.  We'll make that into a PDF and then reduce the size if there were a lot of images.  

How long does it take and what does it cost? 
The first student I employed estimated that it took 10 minutes to transcribe each minute of a video if he counted file moving, reviewing it, etc.  A colleague at another university said they found paying a captioning company is about the same as paying a student, which may be the case but students are the best option for me because 1) they may have work study, which then costs my department nothing and 2) I can justify hiring students because that is a normal thing we do, whereas paying a captioning company is difficult because it is a whole different way of paying.

Captions vs Subtitles 
Just as a FYI, captions and subtitles are technically different: captions include things like noises ("door slams", etc) while subtitles are meant for different languages and don't indicate noises. If accessibility is your goal, captions should be provided. I really haven't run into this being a problem because instructional videos don't often include noises like movies do.

What Else? 

That was a lot just about transcription and captioning.  I'm going to stop this post here and then create another on vision disabilities primarily that I will link to here when it's ready. Please comment if you have other ideas or questions!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Embedding Twitter into a D2L Widget

A professor asked me about embedding a Twitter feed into a D2L widget on the course home and after googling it for help we both ran into the same problem - it was just showing a link to open Twitter rather than actually embedding it.


The solution was that the Twitter code was not including a "data widget ID" when you first create a new widget, but this ID is in the Url, so you can copy and paste it out of there.


The code should look like what I have below, but with the parts in red replaced with the twitter handle or search you want and the appropriate data widget ID. 

<a class="twitter-timeline" href="https://twitter.com/edutopia" data-widget-id="507604658731220994">Tweets by @edutopia</a>
<script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script>

Now here's the really weird thing.  When I went into Twitter today to write this post, the data widget ID was there! What the heck!

I made a video showing this:


And if you want info on changing the course home page and creating the widget, we have documentation on this webpage.


NOTE: You can actually tweet right from the widget in D2L.  There is a box at the bottom of the feed that says "Tweet to @lirpapierson" above that would then send me a tweet. If you instead have a hashtag feeding into it, it would say "Tweet #aphasia." The professor I assisted clicked here and it brought up his Twitter account, making him worried that students would also have access to tweet from his account. However, when I clicked there, it brought up my Twitter account. So if the students are logged in, it will be very easy to tweet, and if they are not it should prompt them to login or create an account. It just seems kind of odd at first.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI)

This week I attended the Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI), which is a hybrid event that involved three half-day streaming sessions from Harvard and two half days of face-to-face sessions in Madison.  There are local events all over the globe that center around the Harvard streams.  If you are completely unfamiliar with Learning Analytics, this information from Educause is a good foundation.  It's been very exciting to learn about Learning Analytics (LA) on the big scale from Harvard and the smaller scale from the UWs - mostly Madison.  Below are a few major general points. I'll also write a post on ethics and one on two specific tools used in the UW system, MAP-Works and the D2L Student Success System (S3).

Definitions 

There are a lot of terms used in this area and I realized that I wasn't 100% sure what they all meant, so here's some info for those of you who may be in the same boat:

Analytics: "the use of data, statistical analysis, and explanatory and predictive models to gain insights and act on complex issues." (Educause, 2012, p. 1).

Learning Analytics (LA): "a genre of analytics that entails the collection and analysis of data about learners" (Educause, 2012, p. 1). LA can consist solely of data generated by learners as they work on a course, or it can be supplemented by information about the learner like demographics, previous course work, high school information, standardized test scores, self-report data, etc.

Predictive Learning Analytics: obviously, LA that helps predict things like student success/risk, course recommendations, paths through courses, etc.

Educational Data Mining (EDM): "EDM develops methods and applies techniques from statistics, machine learning, and data mining to analyze data collected during teaching and learning. EDM tests learning theories and informs educational practice" (US Dept of Ed, 2012, p. 9).

EDM vs LA: "Learning analytics draws on a broader array of academic disciplines than educational data mining, incorporating concepts and techniques from information science and sociology, in addition to computer science, statistics, psychology, and the learning sciences. Unlike educational data mining, learning analytics generally does not emphasize reducing learning into components but instead seeks to understand entire systems and to support human decision making." 

Basically, my interpretation is the EDM is more granular and LA is bigger picture. 

Big Data: Well, obviously big data refers to lots and lots of data - the type of data that Amazon has, for instance. What we are working with in D2L is "little data."

Open Learning Analytics: Similarly to open source software, open LA provides access to source code, algorithms, and whatever other back end info is there (I have no idea).  The opposite would be proprietary or commercial systems, like D2L's or MAP-Works.  The presenters on the D2L tool said that they don't know exactly how the D2L tool comes to the conclusions it does - they set up a model, it's fed data, and it spits out judgments. Not open.

What Learning Analytics is not: One or a few "surfacey" measures, like test statistics or number of logins to the LMS.  Although that information can be useful, it's not big picture enough to really be considered LA because it's not predicting anything in comparison to anything else nor is it combining data to look at a bigger picture.

Learning analytics is a legitimate, emerging field on its own

Maybe that's an odd thing to say, but I didn't realize that LA was so big. I guess I thought it was a part of educational technology, but it's more aligned with computer science and data analytics.  Educational technologists would probably be the intermediaries to get a system set up and support it to get the information to faculty who provide the interventions based on the conclusions of the data.  Either a proprietary/commercial LA system or a LA professional (ideally, both) would be needed in addition to an educational technologist.

LASI was a big conference for the field of LA.  There was a focus from the Harvard sessions on the field in general, other professional development opportunities, and journals/publications.  A big part of it seemed to be building a community of LA professionals. I did not feel like the intended audience for the Harvard sessions (I got kind of an awareness-level of absorption - "oh, that's a thing?") but I learned a lot from the Madison sessions and it was interesting to get a peek at the more hardcore aspects of the field.

Learning Analytics Professionals

There was an entire session on LA professionals, many of whom work in private industry (rather than academia) making excellent salaries.  The owner of Structure (Canvas) described the main skills he looks for in a learning analyst:
  • Project management
  • Agile/rapid prototyping (create something quickly to start playing with it - also a desired skill of an instructional designer)
  • Communication 
  • Education theory (varying degrees of specialization depending on the specific application)
  • Statistics
  • Data retrieval (SQL, CSV, JSON)
  • Rudimentary/functional scripting
  • Visualization ("Make it pretty")
  • Data storage & management
  • Knowledge management ("How did we do that thing we did?") 
There was another Harvard session in which 30 doctoral students in LA introduced themselves and some shared their research, very briefly.  I think it's interesting that there are at least 30 doctoral students doing research in this field.

Emerging Field

So the emerging part is important. There's not a lot of info or structure to data governance, for instance.  There is a LA pilot happening in the UW-System with D2L that has been pretty rocky.  A master's program specifically in LA is in the works (Penn State, I think?).  A journal just started this year.

Kimberly Arnold, UW-System LA guru, shared the Gartner Hype Cycle which is just fascinating. Here's the one from 2013. Click to make it bigger if you can't read this.


Big data is at the peak of inflated expectations, while predictive analytics is predicted to reach it's plateau of productivity in less than two years.  Wikipedia tells me that the plateau of productivity means that "mainstream adoption starts to take off." Starts to take off. I'd agree with that it's starting to take off.

Then she shared the diffusion of innovation figure. You've probably seen this before:


She said that people ''in the know" about LA indicate believe that LA is in the innovators to early-early majority area, which might be a stretch.  It's new - we're just figuring this out.  So the thing to think about here is what kind of school are you in - an innovator, early adopter, early majority, late majority, or laggard?  Is the culture welcoming of bleeding edge technologies like this?  Probably more importantly, are there people who will do something with the data that's collected?  Do you want to spend time figuring things out, or latch on once the bugs have been worked out?  Oh, there are some bugs...next up I'll share what I learned about the D2L Student Success Pilot.  To be continued!

References: 

Educause. (2012). Learning Analytics: A Report on the ELI Focus Session. http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/learning-analytics-report-eli-focus-session

US Department of Education. (2012). Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics. https://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2012/03/edm-la-brief.pdf


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Creating an Accessible PDF

I am certainly no expert on creating accessible PDFs, but here's what we figured out today.  A PDF we scanned resulted in two columns of text that were being read across the columns, rather than going down one column and then moving on to the next, as it should.  For instance, it was reading the text below as "At age three Katherine Schneider discovered An expert living on disability, she has she was blind" rather than "At age three Katherine Schneider discovered she was blind."



My amazing student used his Google skills to learn that first we needed to add the Accessibility panel in the right side of Acrobat Pro by going to View, then Tools, then selecting Accessibility, as in the screenshot below.


Then under Accessibility, "TouchUp Reading Order" allows you to select text in the order you want it to be read.  There was an image, so I added alternate text describing it.  I will send it to Katherine in the hopes she can now read it with a screen reader and update this post if necessary.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Online Grading via D2L (mostly)

Grading online offers many benefits: students like seeing their grades in D2L and it helps you so they don't continually bug you for updates, you're being environmentally friendly by saving paper, and it can save time once  you get your workflow down. Recently a professor told me her biggest reason for grading electronically is that she can look back at her feedback to students and see how they've grown, versus when she gave them paper feedback, only one of them got to keep it.  Personally, I prefer reading electronically because I can sit in a more ergonomic position looking forward at a screen rather than down, but I know not everyone is sold on reading digitally.

If you're new to grading in D2L, be aware that there are an amazing amount of functionality in the grade book and a few unexpected twists. UWEC educators can contact our D2L admin or me for help (I mention myself second since I am not as knowledgeable - yet). There is also D2L documentation for instructors here.

I have spoken with some instructors who grade via email rather than D2L. I don't know about you, but email organization is not my strong suit, so I'd like to keep everything I can in the D2L site for that course. Some universities actually restrict grading information from email due to FERPA because the email of state employees (which UW instructors are) is considered public. As far as I know, UWEC does not have a restriction on what grading information can go in email.

Anyway, let's get to it! I've categorized some tips under a few main categories below.

D2L Grades in General: 

  • Weighted categories can do work for you if you are currently backing into a 100 point course. Categories are great, because you can still pick any arbitrary point value within a category, but it's still only worth whatever percentage of the grade you choose. So rather than something being worth 20 points to equal 20% of the grade, you could still make it worth 100 points. 
  • "Switch to spreadsheet view" allows you to type right in the Enter Grades page, but text feedback must be left under "Grade all" (the drop down next to assignment name)
  • A tricky little thing that not everyone realizes is that students can't see their final grades unless you set D2L to calculate and release them. More info here
  • You can verify exactly what a student sees! Here's a video. Text is on this page
  • If most students will receive the same grade, you can set them all to that grade and just change the few that are different. That's under Grade All - then choose the drop down next to the assignment title and then Grade All again. Make sure to change the different ones right away! 
  • You can grade over time and release the grades at the end via the dropbox and discussions. 
  • It is probably a good idea to export your grade book here and there in case something odd should happen. (There's a Export button on the Enter Grades page)

Grading Papers in the D2L Dropbox:

  • The Dropbox is an efficient place to grade because you can see the paper on the left and type in the feedback box on the right. You can also record up to 5 minutes of audio. 
  • Downloading files, typing your feedback in them, and reuploading can be very time consuming. An alternative would be to have students number their paragraphs so you can easily refer to them in the feedback box. 
  • If you want to provide feedback via iPad, I wrote a blog post on that here

D2L Rubrics Tool: 

  • The dropbox is probably the most advantageous place to use D2L rubrics because this is the only place students can see them before and after use. They are also available in grades, discussions, and quizzes but students only see their final score through these tools. They may save you time in grading, however.
  • It's important to get them just the way you want them before associating with a tool and starting to grade. 
  • The "custom points" option allows you to choose a number within a range rather than having to identify the exact points per option ahead of time. 
  • The documentation on rubrics can be helpful, but feel free to ask for help. 
  • One tip a participant offered was to have your rubric created in Word or elsewhere before putting it into D2L. 

Grading Short/Long Answer Quiz Questions: 

  • This is the only place in D2L you can grade all responses to one question without seeing student names (called "blind marking") recommended here
  • Go into "Grade" in the drop down next to the exam/quiz and then click on the Questions tab (below). Check the "blind marking" box and then click on a question to begin grading that question. 

Grading Discussions: 

  • You can associate a discussion topic with the grade book under the Assessment tab when editing the discussion topic. 
  • However, this does not work if you are using group-restricted discussions, because they are all separate topics. 
  • It can be helpful because you can click on a student and see all of their posts in the discussion at once to grade them on their initial post and replies. 

D2L News: 

  • It might seem odd to include the News in grading, but the News is a good place to provide general feedback to an online class about assignments, much like you might do at the beginning of a face-to-face class. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Embedding a Blog into the D2L News Area: Optimal Blog Settings

A question arose about whether it was possible to have a blog in D2L for the instructor to post news, updates, etc. and allow the students to reply. Well, D2L does not have a blogging tool, but it is possible to add a blog to the course home page via an iFrame. Here's what a very simple Google blog looks like within D2L. Keep scrolling to learn about the settings I chose for the blog.


I just kept the default template which is called Simple, but I went into Layout, then Template Designer and reduced the right sidebar to as small as possible and increased the "Entire Blog" area to 1030 px.

I anticipated that instructors would not want to have sharing buttons on their posts, like the screenshot below, so my next task was to figure out how to get rid of those.
Eventually I figured out from the help of a blog post I would credit if I could ever find it again that they need to be removed from the HTML via Template. 

After clicking Edit HTML, I found the area that said "shareButtons" and deleted a bunch of stuff after it. The first try, I deleted too much and got a warning (HTML is not my forte). So I tried again and learned that I needed to keep the end </b:includable> and then it worked. (click on the image below to see it better along with my note) 


This is a cool idea, but we'll see if it presents any funkiness in actual usage! I'll report back if so. 

I will also write an additional post about how to add the iFrame to the Course Home page since this one has gotten rather long. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How to Record Audio in PowerPoint 2013 and Publish Using iSpring Free

1. Design your PowerPoint following best practices, such as one concept per slide, the use of graphics/images that back up your point, very limited text on the slide, etc. Here are PowerPoint Design Tips.

2. Important Note: Make sure your PowerPoint is .pptx NOT .ppt or the audio will not save. 

3. Record audio on ONE slide to make sure it works properly. 

3a. Under the SlideShow tab, choose Record Slide Show. You can record from the beginning or from the current slide (you'd have to click on the slide you want to record before doing this). This is a fantastic feature because it is easy to edit slide by slide later, since PPT breaks the audio down into individual slides.



Leave the settings on the next dialog box both checked. Let me know if you want more info on that.



3b. Click Start Recording. It will automatically start recording, so make sure your headset is all ready to go. (You can trim the beginning or end of your audio afterward via the Playback tab when you've clicked on the speaker. Cool, huh?)  Keep your slides short.

A recording short cut menu appears at the top left of your screen. Below is a screenshot with a description of the buttons typed in blue.

X: Click the x on the top right to save your audio and get out of recording mode.
Redo: if you mess up and want to start over click the arrow going back.
Arrow: Click the arrow to go to the next slide.



4. Listen to the slide you just recorded. Click on the speaker icon to listen.

WHY? I have experienced a lot of problems with the correct mic working in PPT 2013. It is often necessary to disable the internal mic and the doc mic on laptops in order for them to use the headset mic. Regardless, I highly recommend recording just one slide and then listening to it and making sure all is well. Recording an entire presentation with horrible or no audio is very frustrating.

5. Record the rest using the slideshow tab as described above.

6. Save it.

7. Publish using the iSpring Free tab. Choose where to save it.

8. It will create a folder with three files in it. Upload just the .swf to D2L as you would upload any other file, like a word document.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Universal Design?

I recently wrote a blog post on universal design but I don't think that I made a compelling case for why it is important so I want to elaborate. After the universal design webinar, a faculty member shared that she had a student who was deaf who actually dropped out of the program because she couldn't get the accommodations she needed. There was one general course in particular that included a lot of video that was not captioned. I don't know the details, but providing disability accommodations is a legal requirement. Universities can get sued for not being responsive to the needs of a student with a disability. Since I'm interested in people, I mostly wondered what it was like to be that student. It must have been very disheartening to realize that it was not going to be possible to take these courses. Did he or she totally drop out? Change their vocational plans altogether?

I have a student transcriptionist who is making a dent in the large pile of instructor videos that need transcripts. A big area that I think we can improve at UWEC is providing captioned versions of Hollywood movies that we stream (streaming is ok'd by our copyright office because they are in a password protected server). In the past, the answer to captioning was to provide the DVD to the student so he/she could watch the captioned version individually. I think we need to do better, especially for online courses. Online students are often not on campus so they may not be able to run over to McIntyre Library to check it out or stop by the instructor's office to pick it up. Also, what if it is checked out of the library? What if the instructor had purchased it and can't find it? This can put the student behind in his or her coursework, singles out the student as being different, causes the student to put in more effort than other students to obtain the same content, and gives the message that accessibility is not an important consideration.

Captions Help Others Too

The key with universal design is that these design strategies (captioning, in particular) help many people such as...
  • Students who may be hard of hearing but do not officially identify as having a disability; think about non-traditional, returning students in particular. 
  • Students who have not disclosed their disability, hoping it will not be a problem. Stigma is still an issue. There are definitely more students with disabilities on campus than those registered with the SSD office. 
  • International students who are good at comprehending written text but struggle with understanding native speakers of English. 
  • Anyone watching videos in which the speakers have strong accents. I use captions frequently when actors have accents to help me understand better and I do not have a hearing disability. Also, I recently met with a professor who was reluctant to create videos because of her accent, but when I said we could caption them she felt much better about it. 
  • Anyone in a situation where it is not possible/awkward to turn the audio on or up loud enough: sleeping roommate and no ear buds, in a computer lab with no speakers, on a bus, etc. I often use captions when I'm watching shows while exercising because I can't turn it up loud enough to cover the noise of the elliptical machine. 

What About a Transcript? 

Transcripts are often a good option: they can be helpful students are studying for exams after having watched the video, offer a different modality for students who prefer reading over listening/watching, and provide access to students who have slow internet or who have to pay for their data usage. However, DVD movies almost always need to be captioned because a transcript by itself is probably not going to be very meaningful.

Options 

Another universal design strategy is to provide options for students to meet course outcomes; does a student need to write a paper or could they respond with audio or video? The example that quickly came to mind here is my husband (who does not have a disability) has always been a strongly auditory person. Throughout college, I helped him with his papers, not because he didn't know the content but because he struggled with writing. For an English course, writing is important, but is it always necessary for biology? Could he provide an audio file instead with the required information? On the other hand, I would choose a written assignment over other modalities if given the choice.

An additional option is to provide just an audio file for a video, so that students could download it and listen while driving, for instance. Of course, the audio would have to stand alone from the visual aspects which may involve more words to describe visuals, or simply may not work well depending on the content. This also could be an accommodation for someone who is blind or who has low vision.

Making the Case for Universal Design

Sometimes it's difficult for me to stand up for these strategies because "real life" is usually not very accessible. For instance, we don't have every classroom session captioned or interpreted into sign language. We don't even have microphones in most classrooms. Many instructors say "well I've never had a student with a hearing disability, so don't bother with transcribing my videos." I've begun saying "you haven't had any students with hearing disabilities that you know of." It is important to note that students with disabilities may emanate more toward online courses in the hopes that their disability requires less accommodation in this modality. In this regard, I believe it's especially important to focus on universal design for online learning and ideally for hybrid courses since it can be a natural step to move to online or back to hybrid once instructional materials are created.

My hope is that eventually it isn't even necessary for most students with disabilities to disclose because courses are created using universal design strategies and that these strategies help students who do not have disabilities succeed as well.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Universal Design for Online Learning

Last week I viewed the webinar "Using Universal Design to Support All Online Students" offered by Dr. Tom Tobin via Magna Online Seminars (more info here). I did my Ed.S thesis on the topic of online course accessibility, so it was more of a good reminder than new information but still a valuable use of time to reinforce we are on the right track if nothing else. Here is a synopsis of what I got out of the webinar.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is basically a way to design a course that helps all people learn. A key aspect of this is to provide options and choices to students as much as possible, while still accomplishing course objectives. UDL reduces the need for individual accommodations later. This is important, because putting some accommodations into place such as captioning can be very time consuming and can put students with disabilities behind in their course work.

A big difference between universal design and disability accessibility is that universal design strategies help all people, not just those with disabilities. An example I frequently share is that I use captions on TV and movies frequently although I do not have a hearing disability; it helps me understand better primarily when people have accents. In addition, many of the examples provided in this webinar were relevant to mobile devices or for individuals who have slow internet speed.

Dr. Tobin provided five strategies, most of which I agreed with. The first, however, I did not: it was "start with text" meaning read from a script when creating a video. I've found that reading from a script is a skill that most people do not have and it comes out sounding really boring. People learn better from a conversational voice (I know this has been found in research but I can't remember who. I will look it up eventually!). I generally recommend that people have an outline and speak extemporaneously if possible. I think this is ok because I have a student who can create transcripts. However, some people need a script and that's ok!

Another strategy was to "make alternatives." So, stills with text, video, audio, etc. Like in many MOOCs, there could be an option to download the video or watch it online. This is pretty standard.

The next is "let 'em do it their way" which refers to allowing students choice in how to complete assignments - write a paper, make a video, record audio. I have seen rubrics that focus on the content and not the modality so this is do-able. However, sometimes the modality is part of what is being assessed. In the case of business writing, allowing students do to a video or provide audio would miss a key objective of the assignment.

One participant asked later about how to get students to complete activities if they are "optional" which was a good opportunity for the presenter to clarify; this is not about making things optional (i.e., students choose to do them or not) it is about giving options to accomplish the objectives, most commonly in the modality.

The fourth is "go step by step." This means chunk your content into small pieces and help students understand the relationship between the chunks and the progression by scaffolding. I definitely recommend small chunks as well, because it fits better with attention spans too.

The final strategy is to "set content free" - free from file formats and free from the clock, referring to instructional videos that can be watched multiple times, on demand. A common recommendation was to put videos on YouTube for maximum accessibility on different devices, vs giving students a PowerPoint in which case they are required to have Microsoft Office.

At UWEC we are making strides toward universal design. It is a concept that our instructional designers believe in and are going to promote. Our video department is going to provide both a captioned and uncaptioned version of the DVDs streamed for online courses and my student is at least making a dent in captioning instructor-created videos. We are focusing on making pdfs that are screen reader friendly, and are going to explore what other steps we can take within our learning management system to make things as accessible as possible to help all students succeed.
--
I added another post further explaining the rationale for universal design here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Avoid "Drag and Drop" Images in Google Blogger

A faculty member called asking why his blog was only showing one post, even though he had set it to show 7 posts at a time. I verified the setting, had no clue, and googled it to find this page which said [essentially] that dragging and dropping images can cause this problem. How random is that! I asked the professor if he had dragged and dropped images and, yes, he did so he removed the post and redid it by inserting the image and it went back to showing 7 posts per page.

Unfortunately Blogger then began misbehaving in other weird ways, so he moved from Firefox to Internet Explorer which resolved that issue but called again later to know why he couldn't get text to wrap around the new images like it had before, which required moving back to Firefox. Oh Blogger!

Monday, February 10, 2014

How to See the Student View of the Gradebook in D2L

I thought that the only way I could see the student view of grades was by impersonating them as an administrator, but it turns out instructors can do this without administrative privileges. Hurray!  It is handy to see what they look like to students, because it is very different than the instructor's view. Here's how.

In the enter grades area, click on the name of a student. Then next to their name you will see a little drop down arrow. Click that and choose Preview.


The resulting window shows you just what it will look like to them.

One other tip I learned recently it that if you use categories in grade items, it is least confusing to students if you use a category for everything, even if there is just one item. The uncategorized items just look just a little bit different by not being indented, whereas categories have a shaded background setting them apart better.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Copying HTML Pages in D2L V 10.1

There are many nice features in the new D2L upgrade but copying HTML pages is not one of them! It used to be very simple and now it is many steps. I created a video today showing how to copy HTML pages.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Grading D2L Dropbox Submissions on an iPad

This post is in response to a question about how to grade documents submitted to the D2L dropbox on an iPad using iAnnotate, so here's a run down of what I think is the easiest way. Suggestions welcomed.

First, I learned that students do not need to submit PDFs to the dropbox but iAnnotate needs to be "registered" to convert doc to PDF which means you need to create an account for it if you haven't already (yes, another account. I was really excited about that). That saves a step for the students anyway.

Using the Safari browser to access D2L, I was able to click on a .docx file in the dropbox and had the option to open it in iAnnotate which then converted it to a PDF (after registering my iAnnotate account). The option to open in iAnnotate should appear when you touch the document, on the top right. Mine first wanted me to use Pages, but there were more options just to the right of that if you tap "Open In".



The odd thing is that when the document opens, it replaces the D2L window you were just viewing. You can use the back button to return to D2L.

The next step would be to do whatever annotating you need to do and save it. iAnnotate is a pretty robust program.

Getting the annotated PDF out of iAnnotate and back to the student is the next step. I generally don't recommend emailing students their grading feedback for multiple reasons, but that is the easiest way because you can just go to Email and send it off. If using D2L for grading (which the students prefer, surveys have found), you'll need to go into D2L and add a grade and a note that you emailed the document.

If you want to reupload it to the D2L dropbox rather than emailing, you'll need to do so on a computer. First connect iAnnotate with a storage solution such as Google Drive or Dropbox.com and then save the files there, go to them on a computer, and reupload to the dropbox. That is a lot of work! Don't do more work than the students!

Another option that involves no annotation but allows you to be more specific would be to request for the students to number their paragraphs in the document. Then, you can leave text or audio feedback in the D2L dropbox, yet clearly indicate which area of the paper you are referring to.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

LucidChart Educator Accounts

LucidChart is a relatively intuitive concept mapping program that is available online for free. I like it because adding items is just "drag and drop."

The confusing part is choosing the best account. Below is a screenshot of the registration page.

If you'll be using it quite a bit with students, you (the professor) can request an educational upgrade for the class on this page. Make sure you are using your edu email account though. The educational account is the equivalent of a Team account (see screenshot below). The professor first has to sign up for LucidChart and login. The request is sent and you will get an email from education@lucidchart.com that contains a URL to give the students to sign up. You could just forward the email or post the URL in D2L.

There is free account to use without having to request anything, but the functionality is limited. If LucidChart will be used for just one or two basic assignments, the free account is probably ok but when I made one complex chart I filled up my account.

Be careful to avoid accidentally signing up for the free trial of one of the other accounts.



It is possible to sign in with Google or Yahoo to avoid creating an additional account just for LucidChart.

We tried to get an account for the whole university so anyone with a uwec.edu account would automatically get the upgrade but, unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. If the university has Google Apps for Education, integrating is possible so students don't need additional accounts. From what I understand, simultaneous/collaborative editing is only available if Google Apps is integrated (meaning, multiple people cannot work on the same LucidChart from different computers at the same time). We do not have Google Apps for Education at UWEC, but some UWs do.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Publishing and Uploading Adobe Presenter to D2L

This is part 2 in a series of posts about Adobe Presenter but I have not written part 1 yet! This post assumes you have already designed a beautiful PowerPoint and added audio via Presenter (NOT via PowerPoint itself). I'll update this when part 1 is done :)

Publishing: 


Click Publish at the top in the Adobe Presenter tab.

Choose where to save it. It will try to save on a folder in your H drive (if you work for UWEC) so if you ever can't find one, it is probably on your H drive. These files are not gigantic, so you may be able to actually save it there. Click Choose to save elsewhere if you would like.

This is important: if you save it somewhere else, make a folder (or sub-folder)  for all this stuff to go into and select it to save in there. Call it something similar or the same as your PPT file. If you don't do this, it's not the end of the world or anything but you'll have a whole bunch of rogue files and moving around files afterward is a pain.

The screenshot above shows that I chose to save this on my P drive in the "PowerPoint Design Tips" folder which I created just for this. The title of my PowerPoint is also PowerPoint Design Tips.

You can change the settings if you want to do different things but we're not getting into that here. Click Publish. When it's done, it will play the presentation.

Uploading to D2L


Now you'll need to find the folder where you saved the published presentation. Here's mine:


If you open it, you'll see a whole bunch of stuff. You don't really need to understand what these all are, at least not right now. Get out of there!

Now zip this folder. Zipping allows you to keep all these files together, because they need eachother to play the presentation. To zip, right click on the folder and choose "send to" and then "compressed (zipped) folder."


It will make another folder with the same name, but .zip will be after it and the icon will look different.


Now go to D2L. You'll need to be in Manage Files. Click on Table of Contents, then Related Tools, then Manage Files.


This is the "behind the scenes" area where all of your content files live.

Click Upload and search for the zip file. This process varies slightly depending on your browser.

Unzip the file by clicking the blue drop down on the right side and choosing unzip.


Now click on the newly unipped folder to enter. Click the drop down next to the file that says "index.htm" and choose "Add Content Topic" on the bottom. 


On the next screen, choose the appropriate module on the top left (or create one if necessary) and enter a descriptive name. It will automatically pull in a title. Short title is not required.


Click Add and go to the content page and test it. Pat yourself on the back if it works. Let me know if it doesn't or if you're totally frustrated and want help.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting Started with Camtasia for Windows

Here are basic instructions on how to get started with Camtasia on Windows.

What is Camtasia?


A “screencasting” program that allows you to record whatever is on your computer screen with audio.  Good for software demos, how-to videos, recording PowerPoint presentations, and much more!

How to Install Camtasia on UWEC computers 


(not available on personal computers)
* UWEC users should contact the Help Desk if you have problems 36-5711

Windows:
  1. Using Internet Explorer (required) go to appstore.uwec.edu. 
  2. Search for Camtasia (the search box is on the top right and you may have to scroll over to find it). 
  3. Click the Install button on the bottom right. 
Mac:
  1. Open the Self Service app (I just search for it in the spotlight)
  2. It doesn’t matter if you login or not. 
  3. Camtasia should be listed. Click install.
    1. Note that Camtasia for Mac is very different from the Windows version. This post focuses on Windows. 

Planning for your first video

  • Get a decent microphone and a quiet place to work since you will need to record audio. (We hope to have a recording studio in Old Library later in 2014!) Avoid using the built in mic, in most cases, because they are usually not high quality and they will pick up a lot of room noise. Here is a blog post with tips on recording audio. 
  • Figure out where you are going to store your footage. The files can be large. 
    • The projects drive is good for temporary storage (up to a year). Staff and faculty can create personal projects folders by going to mass.uwec.edu/projects and logging in. 
    • UWEC people can get an archive drive by contacting the Help Desk. 
    • I rarely save my working files, unless I have made lots of edits. It is possible to get the files back out of YouTube and edit some aspects if necessary. 
  • Figure out where you are going to put the video when you are done. YouTube, Vimeo, V-Brick, screencast.com - here is more info on that aspect. Instructors have no requirements; staff should check with others in their department to see if they already have a YouTube account, for instance.
  • Figure out what you're going to say and do! Don't go into this blind! I usually have bullet points or steps. I rarely use a script because I find reading while recording difficult and listening to a conversational voice is more engaging (rather than a voice that sounds like it's reading). I know people have different preferences though and some people have to use a script. If you want to be fancy, you can make a script, record video, then record the audio. I am not that fancy! 
  • Practice. I practice while recording just in case I get it right on the first try, or it's a low stakes video that can have a few mistakes (or editable mistakes). Getting used to recording yourself takes a while. Expect your first videos to be very time consuming. It gets easier though. And try to get over hating the sound of your own voice! Pretty much everyone hates the sound of their own voice. 

The Process

Here is a video from the Camtasia website that shows the recording process. My only suggestion contrary to this video is to not record in full screen, unless you know you are definitely going to zoom later, because it reduces your available space and adds distractions to the video, such as the programs you have in your task bar, the time, etc.

1. To Start Recording, Open Camtasia Recorder. This is either in your start menu or you can search for it. You can record many ways, but I recommend recording in 1280x720. This is a widescreen format that looks good on YouTube. If you're putting your video somewhere else you may want to do a test in this size to verify it's good.


      2. Size the window(s) you are recording to fit with the 1280x720 Camtasia window.
       What I mean is adjust whatever you're recording so it fits in the Camtasia recording area. Below is my whole computer screen. I have a nice big monitor, but I only want to record the Google Chrome window so I made it smaller. You can record multiple programs, so make sure they are all sized to get going. 
    1. 3. Make sure your mic is picking up audio and record a test. You should see green in the audio area like below. It's really frustrating to record a whole video without audio. I recommend recording a test of just a few seconds of talking at a normal volume to make sure it is using the correct mic. 
    2. 4. Record! Once you know how to edit you can edit out mistakes afterward. 
    3. 5. Preview what you recorded. Then probably record again because the first time wasn't very good. If it's good, celebrate. 
    4. 6. Either Save and Edit, or Produce. If it's good as-is, you can produce right from this screen. 
    5. Produce means make it into a format that people without Camtasia can view, like MP4, or put it on YouTube. I send it right to YouTube. 
    1. Either way you have to save what you just recorded. This is called a .camrec file. These files can be very large, so find a good place to save them like the Projects drive. (I rarely save them once I'm all done and it's up on YouTube - decide whether you will ever need to edit the raw footage again). 
If you chose Save and Edit, I recommend choosing YouTube & Screencast (16:9) for your editing dimensions (see below). This means it will be HD on YouTube. It will be crisp and clear. (I also vary from the Camtasia tutorials in this regard. Trust me here :) 



This video from the Camtasia website gives an excellent overview of the editing area.

When/if you make edits, Camtasia creates a .camproj file for them. This file consists of JUST the edits you have made and requires the .camrec file to function. TIP: Use a consistent naming strategy and store all files in the same folder. Here is a video showing how to save. 

If you're having fun, learn how to edit. I cannot recommend the TechSmith website enough - they have some fantastic tutorials. Here are a few that I highly recommend:

  • How to edit out mistakes (they call it "cutting unwanted media") - the only thing I would add is a recommendation to back up the play head and watch it to make sure it did what you want. 
  • How to add callouts - callouts are great ways to call attention to certain aspects of the video. This tutorial shows how to add arrows, text, blur spots, etc. 
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If you're totally overwhelmed at this point, you may want to look at a simpler program that accomplishes the same thing called Screencast-o-matic. No download is required (but it does need Java which can be a pain) and when you're done it just prompts you to publish it. There's just one file. No editing is available in the free version.