Introducing: “Getting Started With BoB”

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented focus on the value of online teaching resources. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am a long-standing enthusiast for a variety of digital tools for University education. In particular, I have been a champion for “BoB”, sometimes known as Box of Broadcasts. This tremendous collection of more than 2 million copyright-cleared TV and radio recordings for educational use has never quite achieved the levels of awareness and acclaim that i deserves.

Following a recent presentation about use of BoB for final year dissertations, I was invited to write a one-page “How to” guide. This is something I will certainly do in the near future. However, that invitation galvanised me into doing something I had thought about for a while, namely producing some introductory videos on using BoB. I have therefore made an initial set of four videos under the title Getting Started with BoB. The videos, available on my YouTube channel are:

  1. Unlocking the potential of TV and radio broadcasts in education looks at logging in, and offers a quick tour around the main features of BoB, including the interactive programme guide.
  2. Using the search tool does pretty much what it says on the tin. Use of a search tool may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are one or two specifics of searching in BoB that I felt would benefit from clearer explanation.
  3. Making clips one of the great features of BoB is the ability to pick out the extract that is most important for your teaching, learning or research. This video shows how to do that.
  4. Adding clips to your playlists finally (in this first set of videos) an introduction to the “playlist” facility within BoB – helping you, and others, find those nuggets of gold again next time you need them.

 

UPDATE: It turns out there are also a set of official BoB “how to” videos available via this link. The two sets have slightly different emphases and are complementary.

7 things I learnt from running my first Collaborate session

collaborate logoYesterday I ran my first session using the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra tool (hereafter Collaborate). Here I share some initial reflections on the the experience. I should point out that I hadn’t read any “How to” guides in advance, so I can offer no promises that what follows has any originality.

  1. Collaborate is a good tool. Running any teaching that relies on technology always runs the risk of being fraught. However, I came away from the session with a sense that we’d all shared a really worthwhile hour or so together.
  2. Students will drift in and out of the session (and not by design). A slight caveat to the first point, not so much Collaborate itself, but the fact that online sessions in general are partially dependent on the Wifi capability of the students. At various points students “left” the meeting only to return a few moments later. Helpfully Collaborate logs the number of times someone has been in the meeting, so congratulations to the student who fought with her limited signal and came back to the session nine times.
  3. Upload any material you are going to share as a PDF not a PowerPoint file. I was glad that a colleague and I had logged in to check the system before the session as my the formatting on my PowerPoint slides was bastardised by the tool. The PDF worked fine (but bear in mind you will lose any animations that you had – so if you want a sequential “reveal” (eg posing a question before revealing the answers) then this will need to be on different slides.
  4. Using the chat window for interactivity works really well. I was keen that the session was not a lecture from me, it was to be – as far as possible – a tutorial with input from the other participants. There is a “raise hands” feature for someone to indicate that they want to offer an oral answer, but we found that the chat feature worked rather more smoothly. We actually had contributions from several of the students, but I can envisage that you need to be careful, as with any face-to-face tutorial that you don’t allow any one person to dominate (may need a sensitively phrased “Fred, please give someone else a chance to answer the next one”) or making sure that everyone is actively involved (eg by targeting questions to named students).
  5. Having a moderator/co-tutor is really valuable. We had one member of staff monitoring the chat stream (and coordinating the “breakout rooms”, see points 6) whilst I led the discussion. I managed to keep a reasonable track of the comments, but she was able to add encouraging responses there, and occasionally interrupt if there was something I’d clearly missed.
  6. Breaking out into smaller groups for Q&A allowed more people to speak up. Having praised the chatbox feed as a feature, it is also good to give participants the opportunity to verbalise and questions. We subdivided the meeting into groups of about 10 participants. Clearly if you are going to do this, you need to have multiple tutors present so they can be shared across the groups.
  7. Arrive early, but give some advance thought to your “small talk”. I know there are two schools of thought about how you start an online meeting – for example some people advocate intentional use of the “waiting room” in Zoom to bring everyone into the meeting at the same time. I elected to arrive early and had some fairly natural greetings conversations with other early arrivals. However, these tended to be repeated by co-tutors and other staff arriving later. So [and I’m still ruminating on the rights and wrongs of this], if there are going to be several staff present, it may be worth deciding in advance who might pick up different areas of conversation . Clearly this won’t be quite so spontaneous, but it does avoid four people asking Miriam where she’s from.

Analysis of Broadcast Science as a Capstone Project

For a number of years I have been offering final year projects for undergraduate bioscientists at Leicester in which they examine the science (and sometimes the ethics) of broadcast media coverage on a topic of their choosing. The key tools that facilitate this work are Learning on Screen’s archive of screened media BoB (sometimes called Box of Broadcasts) and the related Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT). I was delighted on many levels to be invited to give a presentation on Analysis of Broadcast Science as a Capstone Project for the second #DryLabsRealScience network. Slides here.

Firstly, I think the #DryLabsRealScience initiative is a brilliant example of grassroots collaboration across different institutions at a time of unprecedented change [it would be great if University top brass were pulling together in the same manner, but I digress]. Here are academics helping each other to help their present and future students have the most valuable university experience possible, regardless of whether or not social distancing measures restrict some aspects of traditional teaching.

Secondly, I’m always delighted to talk about the potential of BoB and TRILT as resources for both teaching, and I suggest, research in a University context. These are fabulous tools and they really deserve be more widely known and used across many disciplines in the UK HE sector.

Finally, the invitation was a chance to pull together some of my thinking on this type of project – it will hopefully prove the catalyst to finally write up this work in a more formal way. Systematic analysis of print media (using tools such as Nexis and Factiva) is a well-established research model in many disciplines and BoB now offers the scope to conduct similar studies on a boundaried collection of TV and Radio resources.

Using lecture capture tools for uses *other than* recording lectures (1): Taxonomy of applications

Back in 2018 my colleague Matt Mobbs from the Leicester Learning Institute and I undertook a project to identify innovative uses of our institutional lecture capture (LC) system, in our case Panopto.

taxonomy

An outline of the variety of Pedagogies Involving Capture Technology at the University of Leicester (in 2018). The uses are discussed more fully in the text.

Universities around the world have invested huge amounts in both the software and associated hardware to facilitate the recording of lectures, which can subsequently be made available for student to watch asynchronously. A whole conversation already exists around best practice in use of the LC systems for this primary function.  In this project, however, we were more interested in innovative uses of the technology over and above the standard recording of large venue, and largely didactic, teaching; we wanted to know about Pedagogy Involving Capture Technology (PICT) beyond the classroom. With the help of our research assistant Gemma Mitchell (now University of York), we carried out a series of interviews with staff at the University of Leicester to find existing examples of good practice, with a view to producing a guide for the benefit of the wider community. Continue reading

7 tips if your exam has turned into an online assessment

Faced with the sudden closure of campuses, many student expecting to have traditional summer exams in a sports hall or similar venue, are now facing online assignments with revised regulations. The following post offers tips for students facing such a scenario. Note it has been written in the first instance for Bioscience students at the University of Leicester, so some of the specific details may need to be adapted to your personal context.

  1. 24 hours does not mean 24 hours. 24 hour periods have been set for each assessment, but you should not expect to work solidly on it for all of that time. The broad time window is to allow for connectivity, accessibility and/or time zone issues; remember that the intention is to be close to the original exam format.
  2. Revise before the assessment day. Although it is an “open book” format, aim to do the relevant revision in the days before the assessment. Ideally you want to know roughly what you intend to say without looking anything up, and just consult sources to confirm the details.
  3. Stick to the word limit. Since you don’t have the usual 2-3 hour time constraints, a word limit has been applied. The word count has been calculated by looking at past papers to see how much previous students managed to say in exam essays. The limits have been set at, or even slightly above, the length of good answers – you really don’t need to be writing more than this.
  4. Quality > Quantity. As always, the quality of content remains more important than writing “enough” words – i.e. have you answered the actual question asked, in sufficient depth and in a well-constructed essay (e.g. with an introduction and a conclusion?)
  5. Save your answers, and back them up. Remember to save your answers regularly during the day – you don’t want to lose all your work. Save every time you lean back in your chair, go to get a drink or go to the loo. If you don’t automatically have saving to the cloud activated then make back-ups periodically as well. Check whether the system has been set to allow upload of single or multiple versions. If an assignment has been set up to accept multiple submissions before the deadline, you can upload a version of your answer once you’ve got sufficient to make it worthwhile but remember to replace with the final version before the deadline (see point 7).
  6. Use your own words. Remember that answers are going through plagiarism detection software so don’t cut and paste from a source into your answer, not even whilst you are working on it and intend to rephrase later! If you are reading from one or more sources, close them, write what you want to write, then check you got it correct.
  7. Don’t miss the deadline. Aim to submit well in advance of the stated deadline. On this occasion late submission = 0% not a sliding scale of penalties. (And if you are in a different time zone make sure you have the correct time in mind). Know in advance what the procedures are if you experience connectivity issues.

 

12 Things I learned from the “From Emergency Remote Teaching to Effective Online Teaching” webinar

AdvanceHEOn April 28th AdvanceHE hosted another in their series of online webinar run in response to the Covid19 pandemic. The focus of the session was on differentiating between the unanticipated switch to online teaching and assessment that Universities have had to adapt to in recent weeks, and the development of more thought-through digital learning once the dust has settled.

The session had three presentations. First up was a recorded talk by Dr Torrey Trust (@torreytrust) from University of Massachusetts (Amherst) on The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Quality Online Instruction. This was followed by Dr Eva Wong from Hong Kong Baptist University sharing, in particular, some insights learned the earlier experience of a sudden campus closure, triggered by the social and political unrest of 2019. Finally, Prof Dave White (@daveowhite) Head of Digital Learning at University of the Arts, London.

Rather than taking you blow-by-blow through each of the talks, I’d like to pick out some highlights and reflections drawn from across the whole session. Continue reading

Time to call on BoB for help?

[Post updated April 24th, see additional notes at bottom – including details of new playlists, and free trials of BoB]

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has forced a radical rethink regarding so much of “normal life”. The cessation of face-to-face teaching at universities is just one of the areas in which people are having to investigate workarounds to usual practice. One of the interesting observations over this past week has been the sudden adoption of technologies which have been around for a while, but have never quite found the level of engagement that they deserved.

bobhomeIf you are a UK academic or student, I would like to add another example into the mix – the online TV and Radio repository BoB (https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand sometimes known as “Box of Broadcasts”).

BoB has been around in a variety of formats for about a decade. It currently has over 2.2 million copyright-cleared broadcast programmes available to stream, and over 120 universities and colleges are subscribed – if you are at a UK university you probably have access already but never knew it!

I am a massive enthusiast for BoB, and for the related Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT). For full disclosure I am a Trustee of Learning on Screen, the organisation that runs both resources – but that role stems from my enthusiasm for their potential not vice versa!

I have written several articles and run workshops about ways BoB can be used in teaching. Rather than repeat myself now, here are a couple of pertinent links:

  1. An article Boxing clever in Times Higher Education from 2014 (link)
  2. A seminar Do you know Bob? Adventures with technology-based resources for teaching (and beyond) which I ran in in April 2019 (link)
  3. Another talk As seen on TV: Using broadcast media in university teaching from December 2018 (link) – there are inevitable overlaps between this and (2) but they were tailored for different audiences, so probably worth looking past the initial similarities – the “back end” of the two talks are rather more diverse.
  4. My work in this area was also written up as a case study (link)

In the recent past, Learning on Screen have started to develop subject-specific playlists. A few of us have also tried to co-ordinate disciplinary blogs, which allow for more description of the content and discussion of potential applications. As an example, see our Biology on the Box site.

These are tricky and uncertain time, but I’m hoping that when we get a chance to look back after the storm, the appropriate rise of online tools for pedagogy will be one of the plus points to emerge from the tragedy.

UPDATED (24th April): As the lockdown has continued and with the increasing realisation that emphasis on online teaching will persist for a much longer period afterwards, Learning on Screen have started a series of disciplinary playlists as the cornerstone of the development of more teaching resources. The lists themselves are within the members-only site (via this link).

I was asked to curate a Biology in Broadcast Media list (see this link, again within the members area I’m afraid). Learning on Screen made a promotional video (open access) about the playlist (see https://vimeo.com/407951233) and they also asked me to host a two-hour “takeover” of their Twitter account. I have make the latter thread into a PDF file, which can be accessed via this link.

Introduction to the other playlists can be found on the Learning on Screen Vimeo account (here). Where you can also find a video (here) about other current developments, including free trials of BoB until July 2020.

Avoiding Scientific Misconduct in Prague

I recently spent an excellent few days in Prague, attending the 43rd FEBS Congress, at which I gave a talk about the importance of bioethics teaching, and ran a workshop on developing case studies in ethics teaching. A session on the final morning Scientific (mis)conduct: how to detect (and avoid) bad science illustrated one reason why this is a crucial dimension in the education of scientists.

prague1

I live-tweeted the presentations and organised them at the time within five threads. The post below represents a first attempt to use Thread Reader (@threadreaderapp) which operates a very straightforward “unroll” tool. Following the sad demise of Storify, I was curious to see if this would be a suitable alternative for curation of tweeted content. I have elected to offer both links to the unrolled threads and screenshots of the resulting notes. I’m relatively pleased with the outcome.

Getting back to the content of the session, it proved a really insightful overview of several aspects of research misconduct, and publication ethics. Continue reading

Taking part in a Twitter-only conference: some reflections on #PressEDconf18

pressedED18

On 29th March 2018, I participated in the Twitter-based conference, #PressEDconf18. Those who follow me on Twitter (@cjrw) may know that I am an occasional contributor to the weekly Wednesday night #LTHEchat live discussion which has been running since 2014. I am also an enthusiastic live-tweeter at conferences, usually including the official Hashtag which allow for interested parties to follow what others are saying about the event as well as facilitating aggregation using the soon-to-be-sadly-missed Storify service.

This event was slightly different from a regular conference as there was no associated physical gathering. As keynote contributor Jim Groom noted, “I’ve been to conferences that used a hashtag, but this is my first conference that is a hashtag“.

JimGroomTweet

Although this was not the first event to take this format, it was certainly one of the first, and it was interesting to be part of a pioneering approach. #PressEDconf18 was the brainchild of Natalie Lafferty (@nlafferty) and Pat Lockley (@Pgogy). The theme was educational uses of WordPress blogs (for full schedule see here). I submitted two proposals; they were in the format of a tweet, so it wasn’t an especially onerous task. One related to my use of a WordPress blog to host Careers After Biological Sciences, a repository of careers awareness resources built up over the past decade. The second was more generic advice for anyone considering starting up an educational blog. It was the latter that was accepted. Continue reading

Some tips for developing online educational repositories

As part of my work enthusing about the use of broadcast media in teaching, I am in the process of writing a guide to the use of Learning on Screen’s Box of Broadcasts resource. However my reflections on this project, coupled with the development of other blog-based resources such as Careers After Biological Science, set me thinking about some more generic recommendations for anyone thinking of setting up an online collection of educational resources. These crystallised quite naturally into a series of questions to ask oneself about the purpose, scope and authorship of the materials.

On the advice of a couple of colleagues, I submitted this to the Association for Learning Technology blog. I was delighted when they accepted it, since members of that community are likely to be developing similar resources. My self-check questions can be found via this link.

altcblog

 

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