Delivery of blended courses

Higher education administrators and faculty (and students, for that matter) at traditional universities are comfortable thinking about, planning, and participating in face-to-face (F2F) classes. Administrators and faculty for online programs are comfortable thinking about using technology to deliver courses exclusively using technology. When those of us in traditional higher ed have used technology more recently, it has been to capture F2F lectures for later viewing. More extensive, integrated, and nuanced usage is needed in order to take full advantage of the technology and thereby deliver a superior education. We need to develop a more extensive playbook of pedagogies that we are comfortable employing.

When thinking about using educational technologies in a class or across the curriculum, you need to have a playbook of possible approaches available to you so that you can have a better chance of achieving the learning outcomes you desire. For face-to-face teaching, we have a selection — lecture, case discussion, lab work, and mini-lectures interspersed with exercises to name a few. We need to just as comfortable pulling out different approaches when different class set-ups are available to us. The following is an exploration of different technologies that can be used to support different pedagogies.

Playbook of pedagogies

As detailed in my earlier post How to provide a great, lower-cost education, several different teaching approaches are now available to professors:

  • Same time, same place (“synchronous, co-located”)
  • Same time (“synchronous, non-co-located”)
    • single remote place
      • high quality
      • normal quality
    • multiple remote places
      • singles
      • groups
  • Different times (“asynchronous”)

In the following I examine each of these and discuss the general technologies that are applicable to each.

Technologies for pedagogies

I am going to start with the synchronous (and especially a co-located) approach because I am assuming that the blended course will have some of this as part of the class. However, just because it is face-to-face doesn’t mean that technology is now not a part of the equation. Many technologies are in place that can support learning even in this most traditional setup.

Same time (all versions)

Classes in which the teacher and students are all participating at the same time (regardless of location) have lots of available tools. The professor can use MediaSite to record a lecture so that students can watch it later or, if they were not able to attend for whatever reason, watch it for the first time. When giving a lecture or otherwise looking for student responses, tools are available for allowing the professor or student to ask questions. LectureTools, Socrative, and PollEverywhere each have their own take on allowing a professor to ask questions and students to answer. (See my recent post on this topic for more details.) Either TodaysMeet or Twitter (along with TwitterFall) can be used to provide a backchannel that allows students to ask questions during a presentation.

For controlling the presentation while in front of the students, the professor can either use a wireless presentation pointer (e.g., Kensington Wireless Presentation Pointer) or Doceri. Doceri is like a wireless mouse for the iPad but it also allows the presenter to write directly on the screen over the slides (or whatever is on the screen). This software also allows the user to control the computer using the iPad. This software doesn’t enable the professor to necessarily do anything new, but it frees him/her up to move around the classroom more. It does make it easier for the professor to give control of the presentation to a student; all he has to do is give the iPad to the student instead of calling her up to the podium at the front of the classroom. If you want more information about this, then see my video demonstration and explanation.

If the professor is more interested in in-class activities and exercises, then Eggtimer can be useful so that students can better allocate their time usage during class. Another useful tool for in-class activities is a group text editor, and Google Docs provides quite a robust web app for this. (At this time the iPad app is not recommended; work on a laptop if you want to use Google Docs.) Students can work in ad hoc groups while brainstorming or developing an answer to some question, or the professor can assign groups and make the documents available in each person’s Google Drive, giving the right students access to the appropriate documents. Another tool for multi-user access to a shared document is Scribblar. This program is more of a graphical editor where multiple users can draw in a shared space; it also provides a tool for users to text each other and to speak to each other. It allows the import of PDF and PPT files for group editing and commenting. They maintain a set of videos that help demonstrate and explain the program’s operations.

Finally, faculty frequently want to provide “handouts” at the end of class. If these consist of links from around the Web, sqworl provides an easy-to-use tool (for both the professor and the student) for gathering the links and accessing them later. If the professor has text to distribute, then Google Docs can be used to make PDFs or Word documents available to a distribution list (such as the students in a class).

Same time, same place (“synchronous & co-located”)

All of the above applies here.

Same time, single remote place, high quality

It seems that Cisco telepresence has defined this market. To get an idea of what this product can do, look at the images on this page. The idea here is that two groups of people, who can be half-way around the world from each other, can have a nearly-face-to-face conversation over this type of hook-up. The two limitations are 1) high cost, and 2) each side has to have compatible hardware and telecommunications capability.

This approach is one that is made at the organizational level. All other decisions would be made after this choice because it changes what options you have available to you, such as size of the classroom and interaction strategies.

Same time, single remote place, normal quality

In addition to the information under “Same time”, the professor can use Google+ Hangouts On Air to broadcast his lecture or discussion (or whatever) live to YouTube. This web app also can record the broadcast for whomever you want to watch at a later time (with the same controls as any other YouTube video).

The real difference between this setup and the one to follow is how you treat the class. In this case, you can treat them as a group, and give them things to do as a group. They would generally know how to act and what to do because communication among the students would not be electronically mediated in any way.

Same time, multiple remote places (singles vs. groups), normal quality

In addition to the information under “Same time”, the professor can use Google+ Hangouts On Air to broadcast his lecture or discussion or whatever live to YouTube. This web app also can record the broadcast for whomever you want to watch (with the same controls as any other YouTube video).

The difference in having students dispersed as singles or in groups (either groups of students in dorm rooms or in offices or wherever) is, again, how you treat the class. As singles, you would have to think very carefully about how you might assign small group activities during the class itself. As groups, this would be natural and, actually, to be expected given that the setup so easily supports and calls out for these interactions. The students will be having them anyway; why not integrate them into the class?

Different times

The key to this approach is to think of how you can personalize what the student is going to do. If they are going to watch the video or do the exercise by themselves, then do all you can to take advantage of this flexibility. You aren’t addressing a group of students — think about addressing each student one at a time. Design the activities with this in mind.

I recently wrote a post describing several useful tools for video, movies, and screencasting (including Screencast-O-Matic, Qwiki, and YouTube). I also wrote a post on assessment tools that would be useful for this type of approach (including TED Ed and Flubaroo). In addition to all of these, both GarageBand and Screencast (for broadcasting via RSS feed) are useful for creating and disseminating a podcast.

Out-of-class approaches

Yesterday I posted an analysis of different approaches to communicating with your students when they are not currently sitting in front of you or remotely attending a live lecture.. In that post I consider the following approaches:

I certainly have my favorites but you have to consider your goals before you choose one (or multiple) of the above.

Class assignments have also changed with newly available technology; here are a few options:

  • Wiki
  • Curation tools
  • Mind mapping
  • Video
  • VoiceThread

See my recent post on this topic for a more in-depth discussion. This is a quite diverse set that provides many more alternatives than simply writing text reports and handing them in. These assignments can demand a different level of creativity from the students, but the faculty member has to be prepared to work with this diversity.

Finally, Google+ Hangout can be used for remote office hours. It provides a fairly seamless and straight-forward means of communicating among up to 10 people.


You can see in the above that the faculty member has lots of choices available to him/her when the move is made to a blended class. The school’s culture and technology will determine some of the choices; however, the professor’s knowledge of the choices and level of comfort with the technology will also be a large factor in how effective the class ends up being for all participants. My recommendation is to simply try out a couple of the above in a class this year. Just one day, just one approach. Work with some faculty and computing services support staff beforehand to give you some confidence that you can carry it off. However, at some point you are just going to have to do it!

Best of luck on your journey!

Video tools for cheap introduction to movies and screencasting

The tools for creating movies and screencasts have changed, and are changing, quite significantly. The time-frame for looking for significant changes in the market place is a couple of months at most; if you last looked at this area a year ago, then you need to get on it and see what else is out there.

In the following I provide a quick overview of a few of the top tools for capturing screencasts (from your Mac or iPad or even from a Web-based tool) and then assembling these into published movies. However, before we get started, I need to define a few terms that I use in specific ways:

This is the fully-assembled final product that we all watch on YouTube (or similar site). The video going into the movie can come from screen captures, webcams, or digicams. It can also contain movies, subtitles, credits, and transitions between scenes.
This is a video that captures what is happening on a screen, and usually a narrator is describing the action.
This is the camera either directly attached to or built in to your computer. It captures the by-now iconic view of a “talking head” looking directly into the computer.
This is a video camera or point-and-shoot camera that can also capture videos away from the computer and then be downloaded into the computer for processing in the form of an MP4 or AVI file.

Web-based screencast tools



Screencast-O-Matic is a tool that you can start using on either a Mac or Windows machine without installing any software. You can use it for free in order to get an idea of its capabilities. Access to all of its capabilities costs only $15!! It can use video from either a screencast or a webcam but I didn’t see how to import video from a digicam.

With the free version you can record up to 15 minute videos from your webcam and screen capture, upload them to YouTube, and publish to MP4 and AVI (among others). For the additional fee, you gain access to some editing tools, a very nifty screenshot tool (I didn’t know that I needed this either until I looked at this video), plus the watermark gets removed from the videos. (Check their homepage for a more complete description of the features of this software.)

This is an amazingly full-featured tool given its ease of use and the ease with which you can begin to use it. With this tool, students and professors can easily experiment with publishing and creating videos of all types. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t at least give it a try.



Screenr is another Web-based tool that works on either a Mac or Windows machine. Just like Screencast-O-Matic, it uses a Java program to control the recording process. However, this tool is quite different from SOM in that it is quite limited in its functionality. It allows the user to create a screencast (in one cut), attach a text description, and then publish it. There aren’t any editing tools, nor is there any way to integrate video from a webcam or digicam.

Think of this tool as a quick-and-dirty, I-need-to-show-this-stuff-on-my-screen kind of program. In this role, it excels. It could not be easier or quicker than this Web-based tool: go to the Web site, click on the button, record what you want, stop the recording, and then publish the result. No extraneous things to think about. This is a great tool if that’s all you need.

Screencast tools for a Mac

QuickTime Player

The free QuickTime Player now has the ability to record a movie, audio, and a screencast. (See this article about this last feature.) It is actually quite simple to use this program. Go to the File menu and choose either New Movie Recording, New Audio Recording, or New Screen Recording. This then creates a media file that can be imported into other programs or published on YouTube as appropriate. For Mac users this is the natural place to start with their multimedia explorations.


If I were going to cover all screencasting and movie-making tools, then I would definitely include both ScreenFlow and Camtasia for Mac (or Windows). These are powerful tools with lots of functions and capabilities. However, since I am focusing on the inexpensive end of the spectrum, I will leave these for another day. But if you feel you have outgrown the programs I mention here, or if you need some features that aren’t provided by them, then these are great programs to look at next.

Screencast tools for iPad

Screencasting on the iPad results in a different type of video. Laptop or desktop-based screencasting is focused on showing what is happening on the screen — usually a PowerPoint presentation, a Web page, or even the operations of some other program. On the other hand, iPad screencasting is focused on capturing written input on the iPad along with recordings of direct manipulation.

A tool that is essentially a mix of the two types of screencasting tools is Doceri. It virtually connects an iPad to a computer screen, thereby allowing direct input and writing via the iPad interface but on the computer screen itself. I like this tool so much that I made a video demonstration of it.

Movie-making tools


iMovie is the reference moviemaking tool for the Mac. It is the tool for integrating video and audio from multiple sources into a single video which can then be published in all types of formats (from DVD to YouTube).



Animoto is a tool for creating a slideshow of photos set to music. It is quite like the slideshows produced by iPhoto (if you are familiar with that product) with the addition of text that the user can add throughout. The resulting video can be shared in all the usual ways, DVD to YouTube.



Qwiki is the most intriguing tool that I discuss in this post. It produces very slick, polished videos that are a combination of videos, photos, and other information. They have demo on their Web site. As they say on their Web site:

Each “Qwiki” is easily created through a browser — enabling users to combine pictures, videos, infographics and their own voice into a beautiful, interactive presentation describing anything.

And it’s free! You owe it to yourself to check it out and see if you can take advantage of what it has to offer.



YouTube is the all encompassing video publishing site; however, it also has the ability to capture and edit video. If you go to your video upload page, tools are available to record video off of a webcam (as well as, of course, upload videos off your digicam). YouTube now also offers tools to edit your video after you have uploaded it (including trimming and shake removal); here is one video among many describing the site’s capabilities.


So many choices are available to you now for your video and screencasting needs. Things could change soon, and will. Some of these free or cheap programs could become more expensive or disappear. Others may survive, but it’s unclear which ones are which. Your best bet is to retain familiarity with a variety of tools, and don’t become too dependent on one of them. Be flexible!

In the meantime, you have to do something. If you are beginning to explore video, I recommend that you start with Screencast-O-Matic. It is cheap and you can begin to get an idea of what the process is like. As your demands increase, you should move on to using QuickTime (for free) to import video off your digicam; you might also compare its screencasting tools with those of SOM.

Now you might also have some slightly different needs. You might want to explore the iPad-based screencasting tools; it gives much more of a sense of demonstrating some task to a viewer. If you want to present photo-based information, Animoto provides a tool for creating polished slideshows.

As for assembling the final movie, YouTube is turning into a reasonable alternative for handling simple movie assembly. However, for Mac users you really can’t beat iMovie for a moderately advanced movie production studio. (I’m not even going to mention Final Cut Pro.) Finally, Qwiki provides a great tool for possibly taking the production values of your videos to a completely new level.

The most important recommenation: do something. Get in the game, or be left behind.

Podcasting and Screencasting (ISTE12 workshop)

On Sunday morning I attended a session on Podcasting and Screencasting at ISTE12 led by Robert Craven (twitter at @digitalroberto, Web page). This was a seriously hands-on session in which we covered lots of software. The following are a listing of the software we used, my key take-aways, and then lots of detailed notes about the software that (possibly) only I will be interested in, but I included here just in case.


This is the software that we touched on during the session:

Web sites
Mac software
  • GarageBand
  • iMovie
  • QuickTime
iPad apps

A little context

Podcasting involves creating an RSS feed that delivers a series of media files that can be listened to or watched on a wide variety of devices (ipods, ipads, iphones, smart phones, computers). Podcasting has been around since September 2004. There are three varieties of podcasts:

Just an audio recording
Essentially a series of pictures with accompanying audio discussion
A more complex audio/video lecture or discussion

The process of podcasting involves creating a podcasting stream (empty at the beginning), creating the media file, attaching the media file to the RSS podcasting stream, and then subscribers to your RSS podcasting stream actually receiving the media file automatically.

BTW, of the 30 people in the session, only about 3 used PCs; the rest used MacBooks and iPads. Apple has quite a market share in education.


Here are the main points (outside of the detailed software knowledge that I gained) related to this topic that I learned. Note that I focus on Mac software and iPad apps since that is what I use; his Web site has lots of details about PC software.

  1. GarageBand is a great piece of software for creating audio and enhanced audio media files. It has all that you need, including the abilities to:
    • Manage the process of recording the different voices in the podcast (including volume, trimming and otherwise editing),
    • Insert music clips to be provided as background for the podcast,
    • Provide a full library of freely available music clips,
    • Provide integrated access to iPhoto, and
    • Publish the podcast to your computer-based iTunes.
  2. QuickTime (free with OS X now) provides an easy way to create a screencast. This is a great starting point before getting into more expensive software such as Screenflow and Camtasia for Mac. This also provides the abilities to capture the screencast and export it into iTunes.
  3. BTW, MacBundle, MacUpdate, and MacHeist periodically have bundles of software (for maybe $40) that includes Screenflow so it might be worth it to wait around before buying it at full price.
  4. Screencast provides a great way to create the podcasting RSS feed once you have created the media files. This is the tool that creates the RSS feed URL that anyone can put into iTunes when they want to subscribe to the podcast.
  5. The Display Recorder app (currently $1.99) is a screenrecorder for the iPad. You can export the screencast to your Photo Library or open it another app on your iPad (iMovie, Dropbox, EverNote).
  6. The ShowMe app enables the creation of a whiteboard type of screencast. It allows you to write on the screen, take a picture, record a voice. You can also do a little editing within the app. You can only post the resulting screencast to the site.

One of the attendees said that AirServer provides a good way of mirroring your iOS device onto a Mac or PC.

Also, be sure to check his link about digital storytelling from his Web site. This is less about the technology, and more about the process of telling stories.

Robert did a great job with this session, and I walked out with a much clearer picture of just what is involved in screencasting and the following creation of the podcasting RSS feed. None of the software is expensive, and all of it is easy to use given the underlying complexity of the process. I will be using all of this software in my classes next year.

Detailed notes

The following are my personal notes from the session. You will probably not find them useful but they provide a more detailed picture of what we did during the 3 hour session.

  1. GarageBand to create a podcast (New Project/Podcast). Can have multiple layers of sound. Be sure to pay attention to the icons in the bottom right corner: the loop (garageband library), the “I” (for real instruments), and the iLife suite (for iPhoto, iMovie, etc.). This seems to not work with the combination of my Plantronics520 and my old MacBook Pro.
  2. Use the playhead (triangle at the top) to cut a track (Split or Apple-T) at the point where the playhead is located.
  3. You can use the “+” sign to add a track for another person’s voice.
  4. When recording your voice, check the Recording Level so that there is no red, and so that the peak is about half way in the bar. This is available by clicking on the “I” icon in the bottom right, and “Recording Level” slider at the bottom right and the colored bars in the upper left.
  5. It’s real easy to use your iPhone as a microphone. Then you can import those clips easily into GarageBand for podcast creation.
  6. At the beginning and end of a track put an audio loop. If you have a series of podcasts, then use the same ones each time. Have some music by itself for 2-3 seconds before your voice begins (and into the beginning of your speaking) and then after your voice ends (and after you stop speaking, and through the credits, if there is such a thing).
  7. To adjust a track volume, use the inverted triangle at the left of a track. You can adjust the whole track at once, or you can adjust for a special segment of the track by clicking on segments of the line.
  8. To preview the podcast, and to see any images that you have imported, click on the image box to the right of Podcast Track in the upper left.
  9. When you are done, make the menu choice Share/Send Podcast to iTunes — this is the iTunes on your computer, not the big iTunes in the Cloud. This will open iTunes and begin to play the track.
QuickTime for screencasting
  1. Choose File/New Screen Recording to create a screencast file.
  2. After finishing the recording, you can use Edit/Trim.
  3. When done, choose Share/iTunes to put it in iTunes on your computer.
  4. Jing is the equivalent application for a PC.
  1. Go to and sign in.
  2. Each folder is a separate podcast channel so that they can be subscribed to separately.
  3. Create a folder and be sure to make it public and check “RSS Feed”.
  4. Click “Upload content”.
  5. Once it is uploaded, then go to the folder in screencast, click on the “Share” icon. Copy the iTunes Feed URL.
  6. In iTunes, choose the menu item Advanced/Subscribe to Podcast. It should begin to download almost immediately.
  7. Click on the podcast, and then click on the “Settings” button at the bottom of the screen. Change the settings as appropriate.
DisplayRecorder (for iPad)
This app (currently $1.99) is a screenrecorder for the iPad. You can export it to your Photo Library or open it another app on your iPad (iMovie, Dropbox, EverNote).
ShowMe (for iPad)
This allows you to write on the screen, take a picture, record a voice. You can do a little editing within the app. You can only post this to the site.
Provides a way for multiple people to comment on an image that has been uploaded to a Web site.