Making a video that keeps the viewer’s attention

I have certainly seen and made my share of boring educational videos, but there are ways that each of us can opt out of this process and make some that actually keep the viewer’s attention. Leila Meyer wrote an article For Campus Technology titled “5 Lecture Capture Hacks for More Engaging Videos” that nicely captures some of the ways that we might make better videos.

Search Techniques video

I have some experience with four of these approaches that I’d like to share:

  1. Dynamic green screen: An example of this is the YouTube video I have embedded at the top of this post. Since I have made about 50 of these for a class, it’s probably pretty clear that I like this approach: the slides are clear, my facial expressions are obvious, and it was easy for me to highlight items on the slides. I made these using a green screen setup in my basement plus Techsmith Camtasia video software for my Mac — not the easiest thing to create but, once it was setup, very easy to use.
  2. Virtual green screen: This uses the approach of the previous point but does not require an actual green screen setup — it is all handled with some specialized hardware and software. Check out Personify.
  3. Lightboard: I got to use one of these in a demonstration and it was simply outstanding. If you like to write on a board while explaining a topic, then this is the approach for you. It requires a studio and some specialized hardware, but once your school has set this up, it is extremely easy and natural to use. Highly recommended.
  4. Multi-perspective video capture: MediaSite has created an enterprise video solution that allows you to capture a lecture from a class. It requires a good audio capture for a classroom and, of course, a good video capture set up as well. It is relatively easy for the faculty to do but it doesn’t provide a specialized experience for the student — it feels just like sitting in a class (without having to be there). This is more of an enterprise solution to this situation.
  5. Interactive video: Both eduCanon (for an individual teacher) and Techsmith Relay (more of an enterprise solution approach) are tools that support the creation of interactive videos. It probably makes sense to experiment with the first, see how it works for you, and then (if enough people at your school support it and there is enough money in the budget) think about getting Relay.

A couple of options were also pointed out in the comments to the above article that I want to be sure to highlight:

  1. Office Mix: This add in for PowerPoint seems to be tailor made for educators to create interactive presentations for a flipped classroom. I don’t have any experience with this but it looks like it’s worth investigating.
  2. Zaption: Zaption also provides a tool for creating interactive video lessons. Be sure to check out their gallery of examples.

If you find yourself creating videos that simply show PowerPoint slides while your voice drones over them, and you think you can do better, you are right. Several of these examples are available for teachers to experiment with on his/her own, some with very little up-front cost. New tools are appearing all of the time so flexibility and a sense of experimentation are probably both key if someone is looking to making engaging videos this year…and next. This software is not going to stabilize for some time so just take the leap and start trying out some of these tools.

LinkedIn is a worthy and serious competitor for most colleges

LinkedIn Logo

On April 9 LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com, a provider of quality courses and online videos that made its name in teaching consumers and professionals how to use technology. Late last week Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle of Higher Education analyzed the move in How LinkedIn’s Latest Move May Matter to Colleges.

Her point can be captured in this quote:

[I]t’s a sign of the growing interest in making academic and other educational credentials more visible and transparent to employers and others with reason to see them.

LinkedIn offers college rankings, university pages, and tools to support the decision on where to attend college. Crucially, it also provides tools for people looking for jobs and for companies looking to fill job openings. Ms. Blumenstyk cites Ryan Craig, an education investor, who said said

[T]he most fundamental disruption facing colleges will come once a “digital marketplace for human capital” takes hold.

The question before us is whether or not LinkedIn is going to (soon) become this wide-spread marketplace. Pieces are falling in place for LinkedIn. People will be able to take Lynda.com classes and have their LinkedIn profile automatically updated. Companies will be able to trust these updated certificates more than member-generated ones. Further, these automatically updated certificates will be more easily searchable since LinkedIn/Lynda will be more consistent with their tagging. Given these two changes (increased trust and better searchability) the tags for the Lynda courses will be more valuable and thus desired than those for non-Lynda courses. This would drive more students to Lynda for courses that they think would be valued by employers.

What is a college to do? It is clear that the college cannot act on its own. If every college created its own tags for its own courses, this would require that companies learn the vocabulary for each college from which it hopes to hire…something that clearly is sub-optimal. So, again, what is a college to do? Here is one possible approach (assuming a motivated group of cooperative-feeling academics) that would be easier to implement for institutions that have stayed on top of their learning goals and assurance of learning activities for assessment bodies:

  1. Form a working group across multiple institutions for this pilot.
  2. This working group should come up with a superset of program-level learning goals (e.g., these) from across all the institutions.
  3. Have each institution choose 20 classes from similar areas (e.g., economics, finance, or engineering) and tag each class for the applicable program-level learning goals.
  4. Now have the working group come up with class-specific knowledge tags for each of the classes. The working group should come up with standards for how many tags should be the norm for each class.
  5. Each institution would have to come up with a way for students to opt in to the sharing of information about courses taken.
  6. The institutions would have to get their technical staffs together with LinkedIn’s technical staff in order to come up with an API for uploading these tags to LinkedIn.
  7. Further down the line, national organizations for each academic area might think of defining a standard vocabulary for each area.
  8. Also, colleges and universities would want to publicize these tags in their course catalogs so that students would know what benefit that he/she would receive. Further, faculty would have to be given tools for assigning and then maintaining the tags for their courses.

This is quite the commitment (and, regardless of how it appears, provides just a glimpse of the complexity of the process) but the alternative is to cede the benefits that LinkedIn can fairly easily grab…and, with them, a good sized chunk of the future education market.

Using the Doceri whiteboard app for the iPad

I recently received the Doceri Goodpoint Stylus along with my previously downloaded Doceri Remote app for the iPad and the Doceri Desktop application for my laptop. I am extremely impressed by this combination of hardware and software, so I put together a video that explains just what it is and what it’s like to use it. They have lots of good videos on their site, but I always feel better if I see some type of non-affiliated endorsement of a product than if it is strictly a corporate, official demonstration. Well, I hope this 13+ minute video fills that role for you. You’ll probably want to watch it on YouTube instead of embedded on this site.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about this product. I will follow up as soon as I can. Thanks!

Introducing “Living & Learning Digitally”

In the fall 2012 semester at Michigan’s Ross School of Business I will be teaching “BIT330 Web-based information resources” (its official name) or, more accurately, “Living & learning digitally.” A current, evolving draft of the course Web site is now available, but understand that it may change significantly in some aspects in the next couple months.

Overview

This 3-credit course will be taught MW4-5:30pm. What is usually thought of as the course content will be delivered mostly online via pre-recorded video. Students will only infrequently need to actually attend class at the “official” time. I will have frequent online office hours via Google Hangouts. There will be lots of twitter usage, and participation will be related to the timely completion of online activities. This course has no prerequisites and is available for sophomores, juniors, & seniors.

For a previous incarnation of this course, I made this video. I will update this soon, but you should get the general idea of the class from it.

Purpose of the course

The course goal is to prepare the student for living and learning digitally. This preparation will be accomplished through academic study as well as through usage of current technologies, both well-known and under-appreciated. The following are the four basic threads running through the course:

Communicating digitally (via text)
  • One-on-one: Perhaps not shockingly, at times we will use email to communicate among ourselves. I will also use twitter to reach you, and I expect you will do the same (if you don’t already).
  • One-to-many broadcast: I will use the course twitter account to send out announcements to the class. I expect that everyone will follow this account during the semester and will (probably) have the messages forwarded to their phones.
  • Publishing: We will experience three different modes of publishing in this course:
    • Blog: As part of your weekly learning tasks, you will write short blog entries to the public course blog site. The audience for this blog is an informed college student who is not taking this course.
    • Wiki: Each student in the class will create an analyst’s report on some business & industry. The information will be gathered through the application of all the tools (see below) that we will learn about during the semester. Students will get to choose their own topic (with some guidance provided by the instructor). The creation of this report is something that student’s in previous years have enjoyed immensely.
    • Digital book: An addition to the course this year will be the production of a digital book by all the students in the class. While this has been done in other UM classes (most effectively and famously by Brian Coppola in the introductory chemistry class), I do not believe that it has been done at Ross (or in other business schools, though I may be mistaken about that). Each student will contribute a chapter (with guidance from the professor and others in the class) to a book that the public at large can use as a reference to the most powerful tools and interesting applications that we learn about in the class. We will publish the book at the end of the semester, with each contributing student getting appropriate credit. The goal will be that future classes will add to & revise this book as appropriate.
Communicating digitally (via video)
Part of the purpose of this class is to get students comfortable with communicating via video in a relatively structured setting. I believe that current UM students will be asked to go through lots of similar learning activities in the future either in their jobs or in more advanced studies. I also believe that getting a head-start on learning how to succeed in such an experience will be valuable for these students.

  • One-on-one: We will use Google Hangouts for one-on-one tutoring and Q&A when it is needed.
  • One-to-many: I will create short videos that introduce the topics and tools that we will discuss in the class; these will be lectures in front of a board, lectures with PowerPoint slides, basic talking head, or me demonstrating a Web-based (or iPad-based) tool. These videos will be available on YouTube.
  • Within small groups: For office hours I plan on being available on Google Hangout a couple of times during the week. Right now, up to 10 people can hangout together; until we find out differently, I assume that this will be sufficient.
Finding information
Almost all of the above describes the process of the class. The topic of study for the class will be how to find information on the Web that is relevant and appropriate to the question at hand (specifically, business, industry, or career related). Of course, learning to be a competent user of Google’s search tools will be a starting point for the class; however, dozens (if not hundreds) of other tools are available that a well-informed student should be aware of and know how to use. (See the list below for the types of tools that we will be investigating.)
Managing information
The big problem in search used to be finding informational resources that were relevant to a particular query. That is no longer the case. Now the problem is finding too many such resources. Today’s student (and manager) must learn how to narrow down his/her search for more appropriate information and, then, know how to manage the seemingly never-ending flow of information to his/her desktop. During the course of the semester, students will be introduced to several different tools that should help the student stay on top of his/her information inventory.

Much of the course will focus on Web-based tools, but I plan on also introducing mobile tools when appropriate.

Specific topics discussed

Again, with the understanding that this list is provisional, here are the topics and types of technologies that I currently plan on discussing and introducing:

  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Web search techniques (4 days)
  • Resource quality evaluation
  • RSS (2 days)
  • Blog search
  • News search
  • Twitter (2 days)
  • Automation tools (ifttt & Yahoo Pipes)
  • Image search
  • Pinterest
  • Page monitoring
  • Research tools
  • Change notification
  • Video search
  • Social search (digg, reddit)
  • Metasearch
  • Custom search engine

Conclusion

Well, that’s it for now. If you’re a UM student, you should be able to sign up for this class in the usual ways. Even if you’re not a UM student, you should be able to use much of the information on the site (and interact with me to some extent). Here are some other thoughts:

  • If you are interested in getting some insight into the development of this course, follow me on twitter at drsamoore or read my blog.
  • If you’re excited about the course:
    • If you’re a UM student, tell your friends about the course and get them to sign up.
    • Send me a public tweet (include @drsamoore anywhere in the tweet except as the first characters) describing why — and use the hashtag #bit330 when referring to the course.
    • Follow bit330 on twitter. This is the account I will use during the semester for all course-related information. Until that time I will periodically post more targeted status reports and other informational items on this account.
  • If you have questions about this course, send me an email at samoore@umich.edu. If you send me an email, put BIT330 in the subject line. (Or, of course, send me a tweet, either public or private.)
  • If you think I’m missing something that would make the course better, again, send me a public tweet describing what that “something” is.
  • Soon I will post a video that should give you some more insight into the course. Be on the lookout for an announcement within the next couple of weeks.

I hope this provides enough information to get you unnaturally excited about taking a class. I hope to hear from you soon!