Wednesday, October 29, 2008

SURFmediacore presentation

Yesterday I attended the surfmediacore presentation. A long name for a soon to be available facility to store video's which can be accessed from a homegrown application using Webservices (REST calls to be precise). SURFnet will soon be calling for pilots to access this service. Institutions can connect with the service if they have a wish which is not a standard facility in Surfmedia.
An interesting meeting and off the cuff I suppose you could think along the following lines as an example of an application you could build:
1. A building block in Blackboard in which a teacher can directly upload a video in Blackboard and it will be directly embedded in the course.
2. Large uploads for the media libraries we have at present in our institutions. Possibly combined as a service with the university library. Drawback is the upload of copyrighted materials (same goes for 1.)
3. Alerting service for teachers. There has been an alerting service for years for researchers showing latest research. What about an alerting service for teachers showing the latest teaching materials which correspond to certain keywords/phrases. This is based on the ideas in the Zoep project. The university library could search the Surfmediacore collection and show the latest relevant video's as part of a larger alerting service. I do wonder whether you really need surfmediacore to do this. Probably the university could also do a harvest using the OAI exchange which is also available on the surfmediacore.

Utrecht University is now in the SURF-federation!

Finally it has been arranged: The Utrecht University authentication is now connected to the SURF-federation. The reason why I am so happy is that we can now advertise SURFmedia in our institution. No need to create an own account for teachers and now finally teachers can easily limit access to their video's: students can access them using their university ID. If you enter the url to the embedded video students are neatly requested to enter their ID. Sadly, if you enter the url of the page describing the video students do not get a clear request.
We are working on a teachers manual and then we can get on with advertising. The main limitation is of course the fact we cannot upload copyrighted materials. A large part of the videos used in classroom settings are copyrighted materials (which can legally be shown in a classroom, but cannot be copied to a streaming server....)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who owns teaching materials?

Only a week ago I ran into an interesting question which arose for the first time. A member of the teaching staff had left university and removed course materials from his/her Blackboard course. Staff preparing the course site could not find the materials which were in place last year.
We have not got our Learning Objects repository in place yet, otherwise this would have been the perfect place to recover these documents. It does clearly show that a discussion on the intellectual property rights of teaching materials created by teachers is worth while. Actually: the discussion itself is not all the interesting, if a teacher has created materials while being employed by the university, the copyrights belong to the university. I practice however not everybody feels the same way about this and that is why it would be a good idea to raise this discussion.

Read my blog in Dutch

Thanks to a posting by Willem van Valkenburg I now have the Google translate widget on this blog. You can find it in the column on the right, half way down. The translations are reasonable, they sort of make sense. (I wonder how it will translate that sentence.)
This is of course also specially for Ineke who complained about my English at the last Blackboard user group meeting: Ineke, I hope this will help you out :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Do Weblectures require a new pedagogy?

I have been rather busy lately, and been away from my blog awhile. It is about time I posted some news. To start with I would like to respond to a discussion back in June which Rino Zandee posted on his blog (and Wilfred Rubens also wrote about) in response to an article in the NRC (and a posting on this blog).
Their position was: Weblectures require a new pedagogy.
I do not agree with them, but I think this is mainly a matter of definition. In the approach we have used at Utrecht University we have started to record lectures according to two models (both of which are called Weblectures):
1. Recording the F2F lecture for the students in the class. This was a very basic approach and has proven valuable. Students value the recordings as they can check part of the lectures, use them for revision and do not miss a lecture if they were ill. For students with several handicaps the recordings are extremely valuable as this allows them to follow the lecture again and improve their notes. For proof of this please read the full report.
Please note that trying to watch a full hour and a half of lecture is extremely boring, students only choose to do this if they really missed the lecture. We have never intended these weblectures as learning objects in their own right. In using this approach you do not need to change the pedagogy of the lecture, although of course a lecture can always be improved. In fact: teachers have improved their teaching by looking at their performance.
2. Creating a learning object specifically for online viewing. This is a completely different approach. An online lecture should be short, concise, rich in illustrations, 20 minutes max, preferably less. At least as important as the lecture is the embedding of this learning object in the learning process. Students do not generally learn by simply offering them information (a hint of a slight euphemism here ;-). They learn through activities in which they are required to apply the information acquired (assignments, discussions, essays and of course the classic exams). If this is your definition of a weblecture then yes: please do change your pedagogy before you stand in front of a camera.