5 steps to a better Course Introduction video

I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years about making better course introduction videos – I picked 5 for 2 reasons:

  • “5” is a manageable number for busy web browsers
  • “5” forces me to share the most important (and potentially most useful) lessons.

(Note:  an a bonus for me – it’s my first listicle – a new term I only learned in December thanks to Dave Winer, Scripting News.)

Lesson 1:  Use the best quality equipment you can afford and know your apps

Most of the podcasting and video equipment guidelines recommend equipment that is out of my price range for the small number of introductory videos I make. I’ve captured decent video with my smartphone (Samsung) or with a reasonable quality ($60 Cdn) webcam. But what really helps, IMHO, is recording clear audio. I have a “Big Blue” Nessie Adaptive USB Condenser microphone.  It does a good job at a reasonable price.

There’s an app for everything these days – the free ones generally have limitations. Make sure you’re aware of them before you start recording. I’ve spent a lot of time reshooting videos when I found out the output formats were incompatible with the site or service to which I wanted to post the video. Converting can be fussy and result in unacceptable quality losses. I’ve started combining screenshots with straight video – means I have to pay more attention to these issues.

Lesson #2 – Script your introduction – set a time limit – think about longevity

I’ve created (and watched other people’s) rambling and unhelpful introductory videos. Set yourself a time limit and stick to it. For intro videos I suggest 3 minutes or less – or break up your video into different topics.

Take the time to writer (or type) a script. I use a storyboarding approach and draw, write my ideas on paper. Although it would be faster to type, this keeps me from getting too wordy.  I try NOT to write complete sentences so I’m not tempted to “read” my intro – sounds way too stiff and boring. But I want to tell the viewer what they want to know, for example:

  • What the course is called and what it’s about (briefly)
  • The value of the course to them (if it’s a prerequisite for something else, what concern they might have that it will address, how it will help them do a better job (maybe even get a better job?)
  • Who I am (briefly – they can find my resume elsewhere if they’re that interested)
  • How long the course is and anything unusual about the length, mode of delivery, or design

Try not to refer to time or place information that might date your video. Although you don’t want to use the same intro video too many times, it is a real time-saver to have it ready to go when you teach the course again.

Lesson #3 – Create an atmosphere or feeling – set the tone – be authentic

Think about how to connect with your viewer – what will make them want to stay and listen/watch? First impressions can matter – what impression do you want them to take away from your short introduction video? I try for a blend of friendly – approachable – cheerful but still knowledgeable and trustworthy. Watch your phrasing, the intonation of your voice and particularly, the expression on your face. Try not to look too serious and don’t keep looking at your script as it can make you look shifty or harassed.

Lesson #4 – Plan on retakes – save your disasters (you’ll laugh afterwards)

Although I don’t need as many as I used to, I still need to record my introductions several times. I still fumble my words or find that I’ve misjudged the lighting or turned off the camera when I looked up or down so I look like a demented zombie.

Take the time to get it right – even if it means taking a lot longer than you may have estimated. Make your video as visually appealing and watchable, as easy to listen to, and as useful to your viewer as possible.

Lesson #5 – Learn the basics about video formats and publishing

Size matters in video production. The format of your video (whether it’s avi, mp4, swf, wav, or other web format) and aspect ratio or dimensions (e.g., 512 x 288 or 640 x 360, etc.) matter in how easily you can upload it to a website or learning management system and, more importantly, how easily it plays back for your viewer. Read some of the general guidelines on the web or that are provided by your video recording/editing app. Test out a short sample before you really work on refining your content or presentation.

I’ve learned so much through trial and error, although I still have more to learn. But hopefully, these 5 lessons will help you as you record your course introduction videos.

Let me know if you have additional lessons to share.


Extend your learning (some sites I found really helpful)

University of BC’s Do-it-yourself Media site – http://diy.open.ubc.ca/

Vimeo’s Video School site – https://vimeo.com/blog/category/video-school

 

Exploring feedback for FLO

What exactly do we mean by “constructive” feedback? Do we actually model the behaviours we ask students to demonstrate? Do we provide clear explanations of what we expect? Do we provide constructive feedback when the students’ feedback is weak, superficial, slapdash? Do we scaffold our learners so they can consciously build and flex their critical thinking and collaborative or team-work skills?

My reflections on constructive feedback were inspired by a random Twitter post fimage 4 steps constructive commentsrom Howard Rheingold who shared a Diigo collection of links related to online facilitation. When I took a quick look a DS106 post on Constructive Comments caught my eye and, while scanning the article, I found an image tweet from @deedegs (Danielle Degelman 25 Nov 2014) Her visual list of the “3Cs and a Q” made me think about how I present, scaffold, model, promote constructive comments in my online facilitation.

As the Facilitating Learning Online workshop has evolved, I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating with several dedicated, passionate faciliators who strive to explain, demonstrate and facilitate the importance of constructive feedback or comments. When I began facilitating FLO, the workshop had built in weekly opportunities for peer-to-peer group feedback (i.e., each week a team of participants would facilitate a learning activities for the other members of the workshop). At the end of each weekly “mini-session” or “short learning activity”, the facilitators would encourage feedbackparticipants (to share constructive feedback on their experiences with the team of facilitators). We explored a number of different starter posts in a shared discussion forum to clarify what we were looking for in terms of “constructive”. The participant feedback, and any responses from the facilitation team members is open to the class.

During 2016, at the suggestion of FLO Facilitator, Beth Cougler Blom, we explored different ways of structuring the weekly learning activity team feedback. We asked the participants to share their feedback using these questions / prompts :

  1. _____________ (fill in the blank) really helped/supported my learning.
    My learning might have been better if ______________ (fill in the blank).
  2. I like….  (what you liked about the facilitation and why)
    I wish…  (something that you wish the facilitators would have done/encouraged)
    What if… (something that describes another alternative or option rather than what the facilitators did)
  3. What did the faciitators do that you really liked?
    What did the facilitators do that were challenging for you?
    What other kinds of facilitation strategies could the facilitators have tried, either as alternatives or add-ons?

And when I review our structures and approach in light of Danielle’s 4-step feedback, I think I might reframe it this way:

  1.  Appreciate  (identify something you valued or appreciated in the learning experience)
  2.  React (What did you think of the experience? What did you learn? Be specific but not judgemental – use “I” sentences.
  3. Suggest (What might you suggest be done differently – why? How would this change improve the experience from your perspective?)
  4. Connect (Can you relate something that was said or read or viewed with other discussions or activities? Have you any relevant personal/professional experiences that may be useful to share?)
  5. Questions (What questions do you still have – about the topic or about the strategies or choices the facilitation team made)

During the upcoming BCcampus FLO workshop that I’m co-facilitating with Leonne Beebe, I hope to explore different ways to emphasize the importance and critical thinking that is involved in providing truly “constructive” feedback – both through the use of different feedback structures, and by asking good questions to stimulate our participants to embed this approach in their learning and practice.

So, when you think about how you encourage your learners to provide “constructive” comments or feedback – what are the essential elements you emphasize?

Sylvia

Losing the personal touch in online teaching?

One of the best things (IMHO) about the Facilitating Learning Online workshop (offered regularly by BCcampus and Royal Roads University) is the emphasis we place on building a sense of community for learners and a sense of being “seen” by the instructor and other participants. Previous studies of the experiences of learners online highlighted the sense of isolation that they felt and the importance they placed on receiving timely feedback on their actions and assignments from instructors.

Personalized Learning DesignerI just finished tracking down a tweet that mentioned a webinar on the potential value of using a Personalized Learning Designer in Moodle. I was curious how Moodle would “personalize” learning. I reviewed some back-and-forth discussion about what it was and why it wasn’t available in current versions of Moodle (https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=224834) and found the actual description of how it works. If I’m understanding it correctly, you (the instructor) devise a series of “rules” that states something you want to do or respond to a student doing (events, conditions or actions); the rules automate the instructor-student communication process so you never miss a beat, particularly during the crazy-busy times at the beginning of courses when you’re teaching several courses with large cohorts. You can find some examples of rules in this article from Moodleroom: “Three rules you can’t live without

While I can see the benefit to some instructors, I have experienced the “fussy-ness” of rules – if you don’t set them properly they end up causing confusion, miscommunication and additional work to correct. If you have a team of learning designers or instructional technologists, this may not be an issue (or if you’re good at writing rules and setting consistent conditions). But I wonder how much of the “personal touch” would be lost and how the development of a sense of “instructor presence” might be hampered by using a tool that intends to “automate facilitation” and make your course run like “a well-oiled machine.”

I guess my concern is that so many of the new apps and tools are intended to take away the need to focus on our learners; to get to know them and to develop a relationship that is mutually respectful and provides support and encouragement at times and in ways that best suit each student. By automating that relationship we may ensure that we never miss responding to something that we pre-identify as expected and important but we may lose the unexpected opportunities to emphasize “learning moments” or suggest alternatives or simply acknowledge and praise our learners when they may need it most.

I’ll be curious to hear what intructors find when they use this new tool (and to hear what participants think) although I understand it’s only available to a limited group for now (“the Personalized Learning Designer is a feature of joule, the Moodlerooms distribution of Moodle available only to Moodlerooms hosted customers“)

Four FLO Facilitators at Festival of Learning

Well, this blog post has been sitting in my Evernote notebook since the Festival of Learning in Burnaby this past June! The summer has just flown by!

Festival of Learning location

BCcampus Flickr https://flic.kr/p/H1ByGE

I had the pleasure of co-facilitating another “get the word out about FLO” conference session at a new professional learning event called “The Festival of Learning” (#FOL16) that took place June 6 – 9, 2016 at the Delta Villa Hotel in Burnaby, BC. Not to be confused with a similarly named event early in May, the June Festival was conceived by the BC Teaching and Learning Council and organized by BCcampus and a platoon (army?) of volunteers to offer an unprecedented range of learning and sharing opportunities for BC educators.

Our quartet of FLO afficionados and practitioners: Beth Cougler Blom, Leonne Beebe, Sylvia Currie, Sylvia Riessner was offered a 3 hour time slot to explain the “power of FLO” and the potential the five week Wednesday sessionworkshop offers to develop online facilitation skills (and the value of the FLO OER resources available for other institutions to develop their own “in-house” offerings).

Although the 3 hours sounded generous at first, we quickly found ourselves scrambling to tighten up each section to ensure that we covered the important elements about the FLO workshop while still making the actual session interactive, engaging and useful for participants. We also integrated some Liberating Structures facilitation micro-structures (modified for constraintsimpromptu networking activity of time and space as we had a fairly awkward presentation room) – Impromptu Networking and Shift and Share AND shared a template for creating engaging and interactive online learning activities.

During the session, we explained:

  • the evolution and “flow” of the Facilitating Learning Online workshop
  • the weekly topics, team facilitation activities, and “stream themes” used to focus the discussion, activities and reflections during the 5 weeks
  • the value of shifting roles from participant-facilitator-participant

We took turns sharing:

  • what we valued most about our involvement with FLO
  • some statements from past participants about what they valued about FLO
  • brief descriptions of the focus activities (facilitated by different teams of participants each week)

Our participants in the Festival session seemed surprised at the scope of the FLO workshop, curious about the OER resources available, and left with a “grab-bag” of ideas for addressing their own challenges around engaging learners online.

 

 

 

Facilitating FLO at ABEABC conference – in two part harmony…

Harrison Hot Springs hotel

Location – ABEABC Conference

Location – ABEABC Conference[/caption]Last week really proved the value and benefits of co-facilitation! Sylvia Currie and I had been invited to share what FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) was all about with a group of adult basic education instructors at their annual conference in Harrison Hot Springs. Normally I would have hesitated to take on something like the conference session while I was in the middle (Week 3!) of a FLO workshop. But I was able to plan ahead with my co-facilitator Beth Cougler-Blom and she covered my absence during the 3 days I was in Harrison. And my previous co-facilitation of FLO with Sylvia Currie meant that our planning went smoothly and I knew we’d work well together during the conference session.

The Adult Basic Education Association of BC (ABEABC) formed in 1979 and today, 37 years later, is run by an amazing group of committed, knowledgeable adult basic education and literacy instructors. The organizer of this year’s conference was Leonne Beebe, currently an ABE-Math instructor at University of Fraser Valley and an FLO-FDO facilitator (Facilitating Learning Online-Facilitator Development Online)

FLO LogoLeonne invited us to the conference as she knew that many of the topics that we deal with throughout the five week FLO workshop are relevant in adult basic education contexts. We selected three important topics to focus our 90 minute session on Thursday afternoon (April 21):

  • workload management,
  • assessment approaches, and
  • responsive facilitation.

We began with a brief explanation and illustration of FLO’s weekly themes and topics and tried to convey the sense of community that we try to develop and the emphasis on participation and reflective practice the workshop offers.

FLO ThemesSylvia and I tried a “string” of micro-structures drawn from Liberating Structures menu (http://www.liberatingstructures.com/ls) to engage the ABEABC audience members in sharing and analysis of elements of student success and instructor challenges in online ABE courses.

Impromptu NetworkingWhat, So what, Now what1-2-4-ALLMin Specs

 

 

 

We began the session with Impromptu Networking, asking participants to introduce themselves and share a statement of what they wanted to “get out of the session” with other participants. This structure can be done in different ways but we chose to divide the participants into two small circles; each person was given a minute to share, a minute to listen and then they were asked to move on to the next person. On the last cycle, we asked them to exchange cards and, explained that we would re-unite them at the end of the session so they could do a personal “check-in” to see if the other person achieved what they wanted at the beginning.  I think that the participants found this energizing and connecting but, as a facilitator, I think I need to find a way to capture the outcomes for my own satisfaction. Did our participants achieve what they wanted? Were they satisfied with what they learned?

We used the “What?-So what?-Now what?” structure to help participants identify important questions around the three main topics (Assessment, Workload Management, Responsive Facilitation). We used those questions to pre-load three stations around the room; participants were asked to move to the station that was of most interest to them and engage in a modified 1-2-4-ALL and Min Specs. They had had a chance to reflect on their questions (1) and we began their station discussions in pairs, then moved them to station groups (4) and then shared back their discoveries or questions to the large group. The Min Specs was used to draw out ideas for what could be done to address the question they decided to focus on at each station.

An interesting exercise and I think most of the participants left with some new insights and ideas into important areas of ABE practice in online environments. We had an opportunity to try another way to engage learners and discovered ways to refine and adjust our next use of micro-structures. And we learned a great deal about the challenges these educators face in trying to support learning and success for their diverse students!