Thursday, 16 April 2015

The growth in video in teaching and learning at NUI Galway

The Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit will take place on 28th May this year (you can pre-register here) and I was absolutely delighted to be invited to give a talk, based on our experiences at NUI Galway. The talk was recorded last month in New York City, against the backdrop of Central Park.

The recording "studio". Photograph taken by Anna Dutton.

All sounds a bit crazy? Well, yes, it was. Especially since this has happened before. But I did get to New York last month, where I recorded my talk in front of two video cameras, to two cameramen, a sound engineer and a couple of other people. I also attended the Kaltura Education Customer Advisory Board, and caught up with new developments in video technology for education.

When the invitation came in, I spent a bit of time thinking about what I could talk about. NUI Galway has been a Kaltura customer for almost 4 years, so I thought I'd take a closer look at the analytics available to us. I focused on the calendar years 2012 to 2014, for which we have full data.

The Big Picture

To give some context, we integrated Kaltura into our Blackboard environment at the very beginning of 2012, keeping it in "pilot mode" for the second semester of that academic year by only telling a few video champions about its existence. A small number of other academic staff stumbled across its functionality and also started using it.

By the Summer of 2012, once we'd ironed out any issues, and learned about it more as a team, we began to promote the tools more actively. In particular, we offered workshops and demonstration sessions.

The number of contributors (staff and students) who uploaded at least one video to Kaltura via Blackboard increased from 58 in the first year to 156 in 2013 and to 319 last year. I think that this increase is down to two things:
  • The promotion and training offered by the Learning Technologies team to support staff in their use of the tools, and
  • The ease of use of the tools themselves. Most staff are very pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to created a webcam recording or record themselves talking over a powerpoint.
The number of uploads in the first year was 287, compared to a total number of uploads of 962 in 2014. The number of media entries played in each of the three years speaks for itself.

The Analytics within the Kaltura Management Console allow admins to dig deeper into these numbers. For example the most played video in the last year is Examinations Advice  which was made available to students at the appropriate time of the year as part of a Blackboard System Announcement.

Breakdown per month

By extracting some of the data from Kaltura Analytics, I was able to take a look at the content contributions and views per month over the three years.

The graph for contributions has been adjusted slightly. It had been skewed by the fact that a single contributor uploaded 181 videos alone in January 2014. By removing that figure, the graph is definitely more readable. It's clear that very little activity is taking place during the summer months, outside of the teaching periods. There is a very definite increase in August, in preparation for the new academic year, with a lot of activity taking place in October and November, and a decline again as teaching ends in December.

Targeted training events took place in August 2013, December 2013, August 2014 and October 2014 - the effect of which is quite visible in the graph above.

The graph of content views per month mirrors that of contributions, but on a much bigger scale. Again it's clear that most of the activity takes place during the teaching period, with reduced viewing activity from May to August.

How is it being used?

The numbers and graphs are interesting, and certainly useful when you need to argue a case. But more interesting are the stories behind the numbers. For example, the contributors are not just academic staff - there is also an increase in video assignments, where the students create a video and upload through the Kaltura tool on Blackboard.

In my recorded presentation for the Kaltura Connect Education Virtual Summit, to be shown as the opening talk on 28th May, I give some examples of the uses of video in teaching and learning at NUI Galway. I had quite a lot to choose from.

A final thought

There's no doubt that video offers a lot of opportunity in teaching, learning and assessment, for teachers and learners alike. The Kaltura tools make things very simple for users - there's no fiddling around with file formats and post-production can be minimal. But just having the tools and making them available doesn't mean that staff and students will use them, or indeed use them in an effective and productive way for teaching and learning. Support and guidance is crucial. That's where the Learning Technologies Team comes in at NUIG. We can help with the technical stuff, but we're also ready to advise with best practice and a wealth of experience.

Friday, 10 April 2015

We are on Facebook!

After some consideration, the Learning Technologies Team in CELT has decided to create a Facebook presence. And so, we are here!

Our intended audience on Facebook is staff at NUI Galway, though we're delighted to welcome other followers from further afield.

The main rationale is because we're finding that traditional communication on campus is becoming increasingly difficult, and staff are too busy and inundated with email that they are not aware of what we're doing or how we might be able to help. With more informal and bite-sized pieces of information floating through their Facebook stream, we're hoping to increase awareness and engagement.

We'll provide updates on our activities and post information about upcoming events and workshops. We hope you'll comment on our activity, ask questions and offer your suggestions.

So, Like us, Share our posts and tell us what you think.


The student as researcher

Last week, myself and my colleague, Margaret Forde, had the pleasure to help out in chairing at the 12th Annual Conference of IT in the Humanities- a conference is the product of module CT327: Humanities Applications in which the final year BA Information Technology class present on independently research topics of their own choosing.

The conference was an uplifting and fascinating insight into the curiosity and rigorous research activity of undergraduate students at NUI Galway. Forty one diverse topics relating to Facebook, social media, Sci Fi  fiction, the perils of working conditions and electronic waste, innovations in IT applications for health, forensics, construction, natural disasters, online dating, activism, and digital identity were among some of the themes addressed. 
Photo: Pat Byrne (Lecturer) with her class of Final year BA Information Technology Class, 2015

Several aspects struck me as interesting and innovative about the design of the module.

Firstly, it took place over an entire academic year, giving students ample time to get engrossed in their chosen topic. Students came up with their own theme, and developed a paper outline by November last year. They repeatedly met one-on-one with their lecturer, Pat Byrne, to discuss and get feedback. By February, a full paper was due. This was graded and students received additional feedback both from peers, and from the lecturer. A corrected version for the printed conference proceedings was submitted, and a final presentation at the end of March (consisting of 20% of the marks) emulated in the event I attended last week. These published proceedings were a source of great pride for students.

Photo: A copy of the conference proceedings

More attractive curricular design features included the module facilitated cross-curricular interactions with masters students in conference translations who paired up with the undergraduate students. These masters students were looking to benefit from the opportunity of undertaking live conference translations, and they served as peer mentors in a way, encouraging students to meet deadlines and targets (e.g have their peucha keucha presentation fully prepared a week in advance of the end conference). I can't recall ever having a presentation that prepared as an undergraduate! And this preparation was evident in the confident delivery of students on the day.

Furthermore, the undergraduates benefited from one-on-one conversations and guidance with an academic multiple times in the year. Their work was read and peer-reviewed by classmates at various stages, enabling them to also see into each other's written worlds. Throughout the entire process, they learned how to independently research and to adopt all the research practices that researching, writing and presenting an academic paper entails. Active participants, active researchers. 

Congratulations to them all, and particular thanks to Pat Byrne for the invitation!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Marvellous Mapping: Reflecting on online identities and practises using Visitors and Residents Mapping

Last month CELT hosted a workshop, "Marvellous Mapping: Reflecting on online identities and practices using Visitors and Residents Mapping".

The workshop facilitators, David White and Donna Lanclos, took the time while they were here to sit down with Catherine Cronin for a short chat and here it is...

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Spring Lunchtime Lecture Series 2015

Last year I was asked by Elizabeth FitzPatrick, to assist with recording a seminar series for the School of Geography and Archaeology. The seminar series was organised to mark and celebrate the anniversary of 90 years of Archaeology at NUI Galway

It was a lunchtime lecture series, organised by staff in the School, in collaboration with the Galway City Musuem. The venue for the talks was the Education Room at the Galway City Museum. The talks were free and open to all. 

The lecture series was a huge success and drew large numbers each week. The video podcasts from these seminars are available to view at My Own Galway.

 The recorded seminar series is now being used by staff and students of the School of Geography and Archaeology as a learning resource. Such was the popularity of the seminar series that the School decided to run it again this year and the final lecture will be held tomorrow, March 27th, The speaker will be Conor Newman and his lecture is titled, The Sword in the Stone: the Galway Connection.

The seminar series has been a really fantastic example of the University successfully engaging with public and community. 

The 2015 series will be available online soon...

Monday, 9 March 2015

Learning at #cesicon 2015

I wasn't sure which identity to bring with me to #cesicon, the annual conference of CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland). Billed as an event for those who are interested in integrating technology into their teaching and learning, it seems aimed mostly at first and second level education. Since my professional experience is embedded firmly in higher education, I wasn't sure what benefit the event would be for me.

The free stickers went down well
In my new found interest in all things Wikimedia, however, I wanted to support the Wikimedia Community Ireland group who were presenting in a session called Wikipedia for Education. And so, I signed up as part of An Lucht Vicí. With my new (purple) avatar on twitter, I can no longer hide easily at events, and so I brought along my "me" identity as well.

The one identity that I tried to leave behind was the parent of two children in secondary school. My experience is that parents and teachers don't mix, unless it's at highly structured parent-teacher meetings, organised by the school.

I had a great day, which was full of learning. I was very impressed by the crowds of professionals that attended, mostly primary and secondary teachers, giving up their Saturday to learn and share. I was very impressed by the young people from St Brendan's National School, who were there to sell copies of their newsletter, the Eyrecourt Examiner, and even offered subscriptions and advertising space. It was great to finally meet some twitter friends such as @donenda and @simonmlewis.

And I learned too - more than I expected. Gareth Callan (@gar_callan), from Coláiste Bhaile Chláir, gave a wonderful presentation about flipping the (second level) classroom. To be honest, I wasn't even sure that this was possible at second level in Ireland, but I'm convinced after Gar's talk. After a workshop with Mary Jo Bell (@7MJB) and Ciara Brennan (@PrimEdTeacher), I'm now creating and sharing videos with Vine, and made my first Animoto creation.

The Plenary Panel Discussion was excellent, particularly the young lady who spoke so eloquently about the disconnect between the technology she uses at home and the technology used at school. She asked a simple, but obvious, question: why don't teachers ask their students about what tech they use and might like to use as part of their learning?

By the end of the day, I was tired, but buzzing, especially after John Davitt's very entertaining keynote (talking sheep included). I had come to the realisation that we all have something to learn from each other and it might be no harm to step outside our boundaries occasionally.

But a week later, and as the parent in me reflected, I have a huge sense of regret about the event. My regret is about the teachers who were not there. It's almost 30 years since I did my Leaving Cert (yes, I am that old) and the learning experience of young people at secondary school has not changed significantly since then. I was particularly saddened by a statement over the weekend from one of the teachers' unions, that teachers NOT attend certain CPD opportunities.

Sometimes it's hard to balance multiple identities! Thanks to everyone at #cesicon for your enthusiasm and dedication.

Monday, 23 February 2015

CEL263 Learning Technologies Symposium 2015

On Friday afternoon, 20th February, we had a very enjoyable event here in CELT. During the afternoon, nine of our participants on the Learning Technologies module, as part of a PG Dip in Academic Practice, presented on their projects. All participants are members of academic staff at NUIG.

The project specification is quite simple:

You are asked to identify and complete a project, based on the material covered in the module, to incorporate Learning Technologies in your teaching.You are given free scope in identifying a technology or technologies and what you want to achieve. 

For the symposium itself, participants had to present for about 10 minutes and were required to use Prezi, to demonstrate competency with that tool.

During the afternoon, both I and the PG Dip Course Director, Simon Warren, tweeted about the event, and we were joined by some members of the class, and some external people using the hashtag too. See below an archive of the tweets from the event, gathered using storify.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Academic Writing and Wikipedia

Yesterday, the Times Higher had an article called Wikipedia should be 'better integrated' into teaching, based largely on a study carried out in Australia, but largely ignoring a lot of the work being done by the Wikipedia Education community in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in Ireland.

Last November I wrote about the EduWiki 2014 event which was exactly on this topic. While integrating Wikipedia into teaching isn't widespread, there are a number of people who are doing this, and have been for a number of years.

Our first Wikimedia event at NUIG was in November 2014, when we organised an Editathon on Vicipéid (the Irish language wikipedia) and Wikipedia. This involved MA students taking Irish translation modules, with a view to providing authentic translation opportunities. The event was very successful, and you can see Oliver Moran from Wikimedia Community Ireland talking about it in the video below.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Following the success of that first event, we are now planning further Wikipedia (and Wikimedia) projects. The next one will be in collaboration with the Academic Writing Centre at NUI Galway. Through this workshop/editathon we hope to stress the importance of research and referencing when creating or editing  Wikipedia articles, and link this to the skills required when doing academic writing for assessment or publication. Because the event will take place within the library, students will have resources immediately on hand, as well as the support of library staff.

I'll let you know how that goes!

With thanks to the Learning Technology Team in CELT (Blaneth, Fiona, Grainne and Labhaoise) for the filming and editing required to produce the video.


Monday, 26 January 2015

The Really Useful #EdTechBook and my small part in it

The Really Useful #EdTechBookWay back in July/August 2014, David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid) approached a number of people involved in EdTech, myself included, about an idea he had to collaboratively write a Really Useful EdTech Book. The book is now available for download and will be published on proper paper within the next couple of days.

To find out more about it, and to download your copy, visit David's blog. It's a fabulous collection of chapters from practitioners, researchers and professionals in the area of EdTech, and has a foreword by our own Catherine Cronin. There are some very positive reviews already on this site, including one from Steve Wheeler.

David has done an amazing job in bringing this all together. I don't know about the other authors but I don't think I met a single deadline. His patience is beyond belief, and he still seems to be talking to me!

For me, it was a great opportunity to be part of such a collaboration, which includes some people that I know quite well from twitter, one or two that I've actually met in person, and some others that I'm just getting to know.

One part of the whole process that I particularly enjoyed was being "interviewed" by David back in October. Using a google doc to support communication, David put questions to me and I responded. As it turns out, I was travelling at the time, so it was a great opportunity to really use google docs on a collaborative project. The interview was published in November.

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, quote by Sharon Flynn It also gave me a chance to reflect on the topic of my own chapter, which asks if the work of the learning technologist is having any long term effects on the culture of the university. While we can "measure" our productivity in terms of numbers of workshops, numbers of people trained, support tickets closed, projects brought to completion, etc, how do we know if we're making a longer term impact?

I'd really like to thank David Hopkins for including me in this collaboration. It has been an exciting and novel experience. I think we can all be proud of the Really Useful #EdTechBook.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Making CPD fun - the 12 apps of Christmas

I've just signed up for this initiative - the 12 apps of Christmas - offered by the Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre at DIT, and facilitated by Frances Boylan. Based on a similar programme led by Chris Rowell at Regent's University London, this looks like a fun approach to continuous professional development and kudos to the LTTC team for implementing it.

The video on the site gives an overview of what is going to happen. Starting on Monday 1st December, and continuing for 12 working days until Tuesday 16th December, an app will be considered each day. According to the video, there will be a short demonstration of how the app might be used in a teaching and learning context, and there will be an optional exercise.

Like an advent calendar, there is a sense of excitement about what might be behind the next door!

Already there is an active twitter stream using the hashtag #12appsDIT, and numbers signed up for the event have reached 260. No doubt there'll be many more by the start of the course.
I'm hoping to find out about some new, useful apps and to learn more about embedding them in teaching practice.

12 Days. 12 Apps. 10 minutes per day.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Blackboard Education on Tour comes to Dublin

This is a brief report from the Blackboard Education on Tour event which took place in Dublin last week, on Tuesday 4th November. First of all, I'd like to mention that the Irish user community really appreciated that Blackboard included Dublin in its tour, making it so much easier for us to attend. It was good to see such a great turnout from various Irish Institutions.

The programme for the day included 2 tracks: Product Discussion and Professional Development. I'd have loved to get to some of the Professional Development sessions, but because I was the only one from NUIG, I decided to stay in the Product Discussion track.

The event was opened by Demetra Katsifli who welcomed everybody to the event and spoke about Blackboard's development priorities for the EMEA region and some specific examples of where Irish/UK requests have influenced product design. The big one here is delegated and anonymous marking, which is starting to be addressed in the April 2014 release. She also mentioned the particular problem that we've experienced, the Irish language character set and how it works in Collaborate (hint: not very well). The good news is that they've fixed the issue for á, but we're still waiting for ú to be addressed.

Leading the evolution of learning delivery
Demetra then introduced the keynote for the morning, Brad Koch, Vice President for Product Management. Brad spoke about Blackboard's Vision (a world inspired to learn) and Mission (to reimagine education). His talk was very much in keeping with the message that Blackboard has been developing and communicating for the last year, and clearly influenced by Jay Bhatt, Blackboard CEO. See my notes from BbWorld14 and the Blackboard Teaching and Learning conference in Dublin earlier this year for more on this message.

Rather than go through each session in detail, I'll give an overview from my notes on each development/innovation.

Blackboard Learn SaaS
During his keynote at BbWorld14, Jay Bhatt announced that Blackboard is moving into the cloud. This means that Blackboard Learn can be implemented on one of three platforms: self hosted; managed hosted (in Amsterdam for us); or in the cloud SaaS. For cloud installations there are some specific advantages, including zero downtime for upgrades, scalable resource allocation, and protection from Denial of Services attacks. It appears that all managed hosted environments will eventually be moved into the cloud, but it's not clear what are the cost implications for an institution.

Support for MOOCs
Blackboard's open education platform is now available and can be used at no charge by any Blackboard institution. It uses the SaaS platform. An institution can request an institutional account through their client manager.

A new Mobile Learn for students is in design and will be available for iOS, Android and Windows. Functionality for instructors has never been supported in the app, so two separate apps will be developed, one for students and one for instructors, reflecting different workflows.

Blackboard's first app aimed at instructors is now available and works with any Learn installation running the April 2014 release (or higher). It is currently being localised from the US version to one that is more consistent with Irish/UK terminology.

The app (available for iPad only) will allow instructors to grade student assignment submissions using rubrics, and facilitates voice and video feedback. It also includes an individual risk profile for each student, which can be customised. Students at risk can be emailed from directly within the app.

Unfortunately it requires a data connection. Otherwise it looks like it will be a useful tool for instructors, as long as they have decent wifi.

November Release
On Tuesday we were told that the November 2014 release was due to launch next day (this was the October 2014 release). While the April 2014 release fixed about 400 bugs in the system, the November release addresses a further 560 bugs.

A roadmap for the March 2015 release will be available in December.

A new Collaborate app will be released at the end of the month and will include live video, web tour, private and group chat.

A new, Java-free, Collaborate experience will be in-browser, making it easier for students and instructors to join a Collaborate session. We should expect improved quality in both audio and video.

The new Collaborate experience will be available in the later half of 2015, though there may be some early availability to some institutions in Q2.

Blackboard Offline
This seems to be a facility that will allow students download their course content in context for easy access when not connected to a network. This could be useful for students in transit.

A building block will be released later this month. For students it requires a one-time download of an app to a laptop.

ULTRA - the new user experience
I first heard about the new user experience, under development, a year ago at the Eduction on Tour event in London, 2013. Stephanie Weeks gave a presentation at the time, and she gave another presentation on the same topic (though further developed) at BbWorld14.

In Dublin, we had some more demonstrations of the new design, which does look very nice indeed, and quite different from the current, now-outdated, user experience. The new "restful" API involves a much simpler navigation, with easy transition from the top level into courses and elements within courses. There will be a simple x button to close windows - instead of the dreaded OK button hidden at the bottom right of pages in the current design.

Within a course, there is a search function! There is a simple lock icon on a main course page to indicate (and toggle) availability. The email system will be properly integrated so that replies will come back into Blackboard.

All of this will take some getting used to, for many of our users. And so it was a relief to know that the new interface can be enabled at institution or course level. An instructor will be able to decide if and when they want to convert older courses.

However, it will be some time before this lovely new experience can be available to us all. It will be available for pilots and first tries towards the end of 2015. We should not expect to be fully migrated as an institution for 2 or 3 years!

The new interface requires the SaaS infrastructure.


There was a session on the Blackboard Analytics product, which was described as more of a service than a system. This requires integration with various data sources on campus and produces analytics and reports at the student, instructor, course, sys admin and strategic level.

My impression is that it looks great at a strategic, institutional level. But it may be too much for individuals, students and staff.

Integrated Packages??

During his keynote, Brad mentioned that Blackboard will not be selling the Content and Community systems separately in the future, echoing the comment made by Jay Bhatt in Las Vegas at BbWorld14. It is still not clear what this means for costs for licensing institutions. The question was raised last week, but the response was very vague - in 2015 Blackboard will look at the "bundling situation".

This "brief report" has gone on a little longer than intended, and I haven't mentioned the newly resurrected Irish Blackboard User Group (BUG). I'll leave that for another day.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Editathon on Vicipéid and Wikipedia

An Editathon on Vicipéid (the Irish-language wikipedia) and Wikipedia is being organised on Friday, November 7 from 09:00 to 13:00 in the computer lab in the S Block, NUI Galway. This collaboration was initally proposed by members of the Wikimedia Ireland Community and three of their members (Shannon Eichelberger, Eugene Eichelberger and Oliver Moran) have kindly offered to supervise the training and support of participants.

The aim is to highlight the value of An Vicipéid/Wikipedia as a learning resource and to improve its quality by encouraging Irish traslation students to participate in the event. The event’s theme is The National Monuments of Ireland. This was chosen on account of the Wikimedia Ireland Community’s previous collaboration with the international photography competition Wiki Loves Monuments.

Members of staff from Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge will also be present during the event both to support students and participate themselves. Training and support will be provided throughout the morning and certificates recognising their participation will be presented to all students. Refreshments will be available during the event.

There are 20 workstations in the lab and therefore 20 official places at the event. 8 places are being reserved for MA students taking Irish translation modules. The remaining 12 places are available to other students or interested members of staff.

09:00 – 09:15 Welcoming Address from Dónall Ó Braonáin, Príomhfheidhmeannach an Acadaimh
09:15 – 10:15 Initial Training
10:15 – 10:30 Tea/Coffee in Room 106, Áras na Gaeilge
10:30 – 13:00 Editing your choice of page on the theme of The National Monuments of Ireland
Please note: If you have appointments/classes during the morning, please call in for any part of the Editathon - even if you miss the training (support will be available throughout the morning)

1.    To assist in the smooth running of the Editathon, you are asked to reserve a place by ordering a ticket (Ticéad MA for MA students or Ticéad Mac Léinn/Ball Foirne for all other participants)

Please note: As places are limited, you are encouraged to bring your own laptop and connect via WiFi. In this case, there is no need to order a ticket – please just show up when you can.

2.    You are also asked to create a Vicipéid/Wikipedia account in advance at and if possible, choose a national monument that you wish to work on and register your interest at
o    here  (Gaeilge)
o    or here  (English)