8 tips for creating video in online learning

Instructor-generated video can increase student satisfaction with, and engagement in, online courses. But there are many variables to a video’s success. Here are eight tips to help educators create effective videos for their online courses.

video-online-learningAccording to a new report published in the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, instructor-generated video can have a positive influence on student satisfaction with, and engagement in, online courses.

Research conducted by the American Academy of Neurology also reveals that “watching videos helps boost brain plasticity,” or the ability of the brain to undergo physical changes at any age. Learners who were trained to perform a particular task through videos performed better than those who learned through images and text, the researchers found—and they concluded that video has a “higher impact on the brain.”

However, researchers emphasize that the format of the video, its platform, and the subject are all variables in the video’s effectiveness.

“Creating interesting, professional videos does take some planning and technical skill,” says eLearn Magazine. “There’s also a fear of perceived high cost. But none of these barriers are insurmountable. By employing … tips to know when to use it, how to maximize its effectiveness, and how to keep costs reasonable, you can make video a key part of your next online course.”

Here are eight tips to help educators create videos for their online courses.

1. Know your video vocab.

Before beginning the video creation process, Purdue University’s ITaP program suggests that you become familiar with the terminology associated with video creation, terms such as…

  • Compression: Reducing the file size of a video by packing the information into a smaller space.
  • Framing: Composing a shot in the cameras viewfinder for the desired content, angle, and field of view.
  • High Definition Video: Video that is of higher resolution that standard video. Generally, the packaging on a webcam or video camera will identify whether or not it is capable of producing high definition video.

Interactive learning spaces new campus must-have

Universities invest in innovative furniture, space design concepts for building “soft skills”

design-spaces-campusAccording to innovative universities, it’s not the mobile devices and software that are key to building the “soft skills” so valued by today’s workforce—it’s the interactive learning spaces part of building design.

And it’s a transformative trend that more universities across the country are seeking to implement in traditional classroom environments; the idea behind the redesign being that interactive learning spaces promote discussion and interaction between students and the lecturer or professor.

According to Jason Meneely, an associate professor of interior design at the University of Florida, today’s students are driving the trend, with many seeking a more interactive learning environment instead of the traditional lecture hall model that universities often rely on.

“It’s really about solving problems,” said Meneely. “A lot of the soft skills students learn are what companies look for. How to work collaboratively and creatively, and remain comfortable even when they do not have all of the answers, is important.”

Part of redesigning the space, explained Meneely, is how the furniture in the room is arranged, which directly affects how students learn. Traditional lecture halls do not facilitate discussion between students well, which in turn can cause a class to become one-sided with only the professor contributing ideas to the classroom, he said.

Furniture companies, such as Steelcase and KI, are already starting to partner with universities to change the way the typical college classroom looks. The goal isn’t to find a way to pack more students into a class, but to figure out a way to make the education experience more interactive.

(Next page: How to design interactive spaces; furniture of the future)


4 ways to ensure your university app connects with students

Program director gives best practices on how to design with students in mind for optimal engagement

app-students-designThere is no doubt that today’s college student is tech-obsessed, with some studies citing that students are carrying on average seven devices around campus.

In order to meet students where they are, we educators need to go mobile. To succeed, however, we have to do this in a way that meets the young person’s desires for functionality and the institutions need for sharing important content. Plus the design also needs to be cool.

As the director of University 101, a first-year student seminar, my goal is to help new students make a successful transition to the University of South Carolina, both academically and personally. The University of South Carolina has a reputation for being innovative, and I have been an advocate for making our courses, and particularly our textbook, more mobile friendly.

The response to the mobile app we created for University 101 has been overwhelmingly positive: Students like having all of the info they need on their mobile devices—in their pockets instead of in their backpacks. Plus, the interactive elements offered on the app allow students to engage with the material in a more enjoyable manner and allow us to include more content than could be delivered in our old print text due to size and budget constraints.

Our instructors are also excited about mobile. They especially like the ability for students to email assignments digitally rather than having to collect physical paperwork.

While we have used the app for our course textbook, university apps are a great way in general to communicate with students, professors, alumni and potential prospects. And there are various platforms available. We used Mag+ as it was easy to learn and we really like the features they offer, but Adobe DPS, Oomph and many others are also good choices. What you choose will depend on the level of creativity, cost and design work you want to invest.

Here is our formula for making a winning app:

1. Write out goals and measurements

In order to measure the success of your app, you have to know what you expect from it at the start, as well as how much time and resources you can devote.

Creating realistic goals and designing around those goals helps you achieve a better outcome. For example, is it realistic to assume that 90 percent of students will regularly use an app if there is nothing attractive or interactive about it? Probably not, since you are competing against Instagram, Facebook, and Yik Yak for their brain space.

If your initial goal, however, is to get students to move 40 percent of their homework and class communication to mobile, that is a specific and measurable goal you can design around. You need those students to want to open and use that app, thus forcing you to make it more fun, engaging and easy to navigate.

(Next page: Best practices 2-4)


Texas university finalizes major partnership to expand access

Pearson to provide online learning services for baccalaureate, graduate and certificate programs at University of Texas at El Paso

online-access-pearsonThe University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is partnering with Pearson to expand access to an estimated 5,000 under-served students regionally and nationwide through UTEP Connect, a suite of fully online baccalaureate, graduate and certificate programs.

The first eight programs, including health, criminal justice, communication, and education, will launch in May 2015. 

Access and excellence are foundational to UTEP’s overall mission, says the University, which they say has a successful track record of graduating an under-served, Hispanic market. The new initiative will also provide adult learners who need to earn their degrees while working full-time or who have not had the opportunity to finish their degrees because of family obligations with the opportunity to improve their lives through higher education.

Pearson will provide online learning services, including marketing and enrollment consulting, technical services to power online programs, customized digital content, online tutoring, and analytics to evaluate student performance and learning outcomes.

“UTEP is pleased to have an opportunity via this partnership with Pearson to extend our reach to current, prospective and former students whose employment and personal responsibilities may impede their pursuit of an on-campus degree or certification program,” said UTEP president Diana Natalicio. “We look forward to working toward more efficient and effective strategies to streamline pathways for talented and motivated students to achieve their highest educational aspirations.”     

Pearson’s Managing Director of Higher Education Services, David Daniels, said, “Our partnership with UTEP underscores our effort to increase access to online education options that are as rigorous as on-ground degree programs. UTEP is an outstanding example of a university that is investing in its community to reach underserved segments and get more students on the path to career success.”

UTEP has an annual enrollment of 23,000 students and has proven success graduating Hispanic students. Washington Monthly has ranked the University number one in providing social mobility three years in a row.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


“Oscar” winners of innovation in higher education

Wharton QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education bestow the “Oscars” for innovation to institutions around the world


StacieStauffSmith Photos / Shutterstock.com

In a global competition meant to inspire, and of course reward, those institutions with innovative approaches in higher ed to enhance learning and student employability, two lucky institutions were each awarded $25,000.

The “Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education,” took place on December 9th in Philadelphia after having received submissions from 427 universities and enterprises from 43 countries. Overall, there are 21 awards judged by a panel of 25 international experts–a ‘who’s who’ of higher education, says QS.

QS Quacquarelli Symonds, publisher of the QS World University Rankings, has developed this global competition in partnership with The Wharton School SEI Center of the University of Pennsylvania to highlight innovative best practices that better meet the higher education needs for today’s diverse student body.

“QS recognizes that world university rankings cannot measure the incredible innovations in learning solutions taking place in universities and enterprises around the world,” said Nunzio Quacquarelli, managing director of QS. “’Wharton QS Stars Awards: Reimagine Education’ is our answer.  We want to shine a light on the very best learning and employability solutions around the world, for the benefit to current and the next generation of students.”

The overall award has a prize fund of US $50,000, offered by IELTS, and the judges decided it should be shared by two overall winners:

  • PaGamO, the worlds’ first multi-student social game (National Taiwan University) in which students compete to amass virtual land and wealth by answering questions correctly; they can then buy defenses to protect themselves from monsters and other competitors. This platform is popular for teaching probability in Chinese, teaching math to K-12 students in the U.S., teaching dentistry to U.S. Ivy league undergraduates, and has been adopted by a fortune 500 company to teach management and leadership.
  • PhET Interactive Simulations (University of Colorado Boulder) provides interactive animations to teach students fundamental scientific principles. Over 130 simulations have “already inspired over 45 million students around the world,” notes QS.

(Next page: Winners in other innovation categories)


Robot platform for STEM to inspire next generation

Resources for educators and college students include iRobot® Create® 2 programmable robot, 3D printable files and starter project instructions


Create Hero

Educators and students interested in next-level robotics education now have the chance to not only program and design robots, but work with online printable 3D files.

iRobot Corp., which delivers robotic technology-based solutions, announced  updates to the company’s STEM outreach program, including the launch of Create 2–a pre-assembled robot platform, based off the company’s Roomba® that gives educators, students and developers firsthand robotic programming experience.

iRobot also unveiled online resources, including 3D printable files for new parts, faceplate drilling template and educational projects and instructions.  Educational projects are designed to get users up and running quickly with their Create robot, said the company.

“As a global leader in robotics technology, iRobot believes its greatest social responsibility is to ignite students’ passion for STEM-related careers through the excitement of robots,” said Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot. “Robots have a cool factor unlike any other learning tool. Create 2, with its online resources, reliable hardware born of the award winning Roomba, and ease of customization delivers more robot than anything available to students and educators at or near its price. We are so excited to be able to make this available to the educational community.”

DJ Create 2

DJ Create 2

According to the company, iRobot’s multi-faceted STEM program provides universities with a range of resources to help bolster STEM learning–from programmable technology and robot activity books to classroom visits, tours and mentoring.

As part of the company’s commitment to supporting STEM education in schools, iRobot is building upon its program to include:

  • Create 2 programmable robot platform – a pre-assembled mobile robot based on the Roomba 600 Series that provides an out-of-the-box opportunity for educators, students and developers to program behaviors, sounds, movements and add additional electronics
  • Projects and instructions – basic programming examples and starter projects of varying difficulty to give students and educators a head start on their first robot programming assignment. Initial projects for students and educators include:
    • “DJ Create 2,” – a roaming, robotic DJ that allows for control of music through a Bluetooth-enabled mobile device
    • “Light Bot,” which uses a light painting tutorial to create LED images
  • 3D printable files – instructions and files to build new parts with 3D printing, including how to replace the bin with a cargo tray and for additional project parts (3D printer not included)
  • Communication cable – a serial to USB cable to send commands from a desktop or other computing device to the robot
  • Face plate drill template – for safe drilling into the Create 2 and mounting of hardware for projects, said the company

iRobot is the lead organizer and founder of National Robotics Week, which will be held April 4-12, 2015. National Robotics Week provides opportunities for students and educators to learn about robotics through a variety of events across all 50 states.

Create Tether

Create Tether.

For more information about iRobot’s STEM program and Create 2, please visit www.irobot.com/stem.

Create 2 Pricing and Availability

Create 2 is available in the US starting on December 10, 2014 for $199.99. Additional detail on features and availability can be found on www.irobot.com/create.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


5 ways to prep for the end of Windows Server 2003

University, IT industry discuss how institutions can best prepare for the switchover

server-Windows-2003Microsoft is ending its support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015, affecting 24 million systems, according to Microsoft statistics.

Though Microsoft won’t divulge the market share that represents, most of those affected servers are expected to be in large and small businesses, with a smaller percentage in higher education.

While the servers themselves will continue to work after the end of support, continuing with these servers is inviting crashes or information compromises, according to technical experts and the U.S. government.

The danger of operating an unsupported server, according to an alert from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S.-CERT) is the risk of viruses and other security threats, which could lead to “loss of confidentiality, integrity and or availability of data [and] system resources.”

While the end of support won’t impact colleges and universities as much as it will their corporate counterparts, there are still some of these older servers in higher education; meaning IT managers will have to determine how they will manage the migration to either Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012. Microsoft has yet to announce when its next version of Windows Server will be available.

(Next page: Best practices; what the Indiana University of Pennsylvania faces)


Want more diversity in STEM?

STEM advocate discusses how leading institutions are addressing isolation within courses

science-STEM-womenThis week, during Computer Science Education Week, as educators and administrators discuss ways to attract more students—women and minorities especially—to study computer science, remember that it’s not enough to simply encourage under-represented groups to take their first STEM classes.

Educators must recognize that they play a major role in keeping these students engaged and supported throughout their academic careers. Traditional class structures can perpetuate feelings of isolation.  Attracting women and minorities to computer science is one thing; keeping them there and easing their path to graduation (and beyond) is a separate thing altogether.

It was the late 1990’s, and I was one of only three women in the undergraduate computer science program at IIT Kanpur. I spent many nights alone in the computer lab, struggling to complete challenging programming assignments, watching longingly as my male classmates huddled together across the room, asking and answering each other’s questions and working collaboratively to master the complex material.

After attending an all-girls high school in India, I was far too shy to speak to my male peers, much less ask for entrance into their all-male study circles.

After graduation, I moved to the U.S. to earn a master’s degree, and I landed software development jobs at selective firms, including Oracle and Facebook. I came to the U.S. assuming that the social learning challenge I faced in India was unique.

I was shocked to hear time and again from my U.S.-educated female classmates and colleagues that my experience was not at all unique. Sure, most U.S.-educated female college students know how to talk to boys, but many also felt intense isolation in their STEM classes and especially in their computer science classes.

Computer science classes are highly collaborative, or rather they should be. It’s tough to master computer science material without collaborating with others. And it’s tough to collaborate with others when you look and feel so different from your peers. We see this in studies of women leaving STEM careers: isolation is a key “antigen” leading women to leave. That isolation persists in the corporate world, but begins much earlier during the K-12 years and builds during college. [Learn more about Computer Science Education Week]

What are some techniques professors can use to mitigate feelings of isolation among women and minorities in their STEM classes? Hopefully many academics will explore this very topic, but here are five starting tips I’ve found along the way:

1. Modify the lecture. Make learning active.

A recent study from the University of North Carolina and the University of Washington has shown that modifying course structures beyond the traditional lecture format can significantly improve student outcomes for some under-represented groups, and specifically for black and first-generation students taking biology courses. Their study implemented course structures that encouraged ongoing study and skills practice and collaboration, or active learning, while decreasing the reliance of material from lectures, or passive, solitary learning. The result: the achievement gap between black students and their white and Asian peers was almost halved, and the gap between first-generation students and their white and Asian peers was almost eliminated.

(Next page: Tips 2-5)