Video advances blended learning for students and faculty

Video uploading tools allow students and faculty to learn together.

Is well-organized and managed video access the key to successful blended learning in higher education? Officials at one university think so.

To achieve the accessibility and expanded storage space that it wanted, the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) employed Kaltura’s open-source online video platform to supplement its preexisting Blackboard platform.

NUI Galway’s Center for Excellence in Learning & Teaching (CELT) decided to invest in additional video technology because its staff believes that videos offer unique learning features for professors and students.

In a recent Kaltura summit on video use in education, Sharon Flynn, assistant director of CELT, said that when searching for information on the internet, her young son skipped the Google search box and opted to explore YouTube.

“I think this illustrates nicely how learning is changing for many people, and while I don’t subscribe to the whole idea of digital natives, at the same time I think that video has a lot to offer in terms of teaching and learning,” said Flynn. “The right video can really illustrate a point to a student and get a message across and can make a real difference.”

Understanding the value of video messages, NUI Galway set up its own YouTube channel that targets prospective students. Hoping to expand its video practice, CELT encouraged faculty members to explore how to make their own videos.

NUI Galway has a single studio available for making videos, and though editing assistance was available, some faculty members hesitated, citing the model’s unapproachability as their biggest deterrent. The faculty that did participate in making videos, however, quickly recognized the benefits—and began offering their students the opportunity to produce their own videos.

“The issue a couple of years ago [was] essentially storage,” said Flynn. “People were beginning to create their own videos, but we didn’t have any place to put them. We felt that we really couldn’t go ahead and encourage staff or train staff in how to make videos if we couldn’t provide some sort of central storage area for them.”

Flynn said many professors were hesitant to upload their course materials onto a public network like YouTube. Also concerning was Ireland’s recent economic downturn, leaving little available money to fund expensive technical support or pay for full-time computing experts. As a result, the university opted to move its Blackboard LMS to the cloud, and inspect other video support programs that could integrate well with it.

“Moving it to the cloud was a natural progression, a natural thing to do,” said Flynn. “It was the first major piece of infrastructure that we moved into the cloud [and] outsourced, and it was such a success that we decided that we should do more of it, and then those two ideas came together and we found out about Kaltura. We had heard a little bit about Kaltura and its possibilities, and we began to look into it and there were two things that we really, really liked about it.

“First of all, apart from providing the storage solution, it could be hosted for us, so we didn’t have to have technical experts on the ground, servers, and controlling access, et cetera. The second really good thing was the integration with our Blackboard system. Because all of our staff were quite happy to come into Blackboard and to use it for their courses, we’ve tried to introduce as many building blocks as possible to support new aspects within Blackboard.”

Kaltura offers faculty members simple tools and steps to upload videos. Typically, with Blackboard, if a professor wanted to use the same video in two separate courses, he or she would have to upload the video twice. Flynn said video files also tended to take up more space on the singular Blackboard platform.

University professors often complained they were unable to upload selected videos owing to copyright infringement issues. Because of this, Kaltura allows professors to control their video’s access.

“Because they’ve uploaded [the copyrighted video] to Kaltura, they can make that available just within their course,” said Flynn. “This has really solved a lot of issues for staff who had particular videos that they knew they wanted to share with their students, but they felt that there wasn’t a secure way of doing that.”

Flynn said professors and students are enjoying recorded lab demonstrations, a feature that allows students to view lab processes prior to attending the lab. Also, video-based student presentations are becoming much more prevalent.

“The idea [is] that you record the students doing whatever it is that they have to do, and make the videos available to students afterwards so that they can review [and] see what they did wrong, maybe pick up a few ideas, get some feedback and improve the next time around,” said Flynn.

Kaltura’s webcam recording feature allows professors to better communicate with distance learners. Professors can record class feedback or announcements and make their messages a little more personal.

Looking forward, Flynn believes that informing faculty members about Kaltura’s interesting features is the key to its long-term success at NUI Galway. She created a guidebook that explains how Kaltura works for professors, and hopes that her efforts will empower the faculty to step out of their shells and embrace the new technology.

“Now that we have started and we have the infrastructure in place, we need to ramp up our training, and we need to have a lot more of those studio workshops where we can bring staff into the studio and show them how it all works,” said Flynn.

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