Video Captions: They are for Everyone

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According to principles of Universal Design for Learning, because learners vary in how they can become interested or motivated to learn, it is crucial to provide multiple ways to engage learners (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014).  One medium to consider is video, which, when well-planned, can engage students and facilitate a sense of community.  However, when designing instruction, it is important to ensure that materials are usable and accessible to individuals with a range of abilities, ages, disabilities, ethnic backgrounds, language skills, experiences, and learning style.

One consideration is ensuring that video content offers captions. Captions are defined as “…on-screen text descriptions that display a video product’s dialogue, identify speakers, and describe other relevant sounds that are otherwise inaccessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captions are synchronized with the video image so that viewers have equivalent access to the content that is originally presented in sound, regardless of whether they receive that content via audio or text.”  (http://www.washington.edu/accessit/print.html?ID=1050)

Closed Caption Example

While one might assume that captions would be helpful primarily to students with a hearing impairment, in reality, all students with a range of abilities could also benefit. These include students with a learning disability, individuals whose first language is different than the language spoken in the video, students who watch the video in a noise environment, or any student who might benefit from both reading captions and listening to the accompanying audio. Findings from a recently released national survey of college students seems to support this practice, revealing that 35% of students said they always or often used closed captions when they were available, while 52% said they used them because they aid with comprehension (Linder, 2016). The study found that approximately 46% used transcripts for the same reason.

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is available to help faculty who want to learn to add captions to videos they have created, through a time-saving process that does not require directly transcribing the video. The basic steps are:

  1. Record a video using a video camera, smartphone, screencasting software, or other means.
  2. Upload the video to YouTube as a Private video. This prevents the video from being seen by anyone but the owner.
  3. Once YouTube has processed automatic caption for the video, download the captions as a .srt file.
  4. Open the .srt file using a text editor and edit the text as necessary to be more accurate.
  5. Upload the video and the .srt file to the MEDIAL server to embed the video in your course. On MEDIAL, you can protect the video by using the Personal security setting, so the video is only available to the owner and the students in the course.

If you have written a script, you can upload it to YouTube’s Closed Captions editor, and YouTube will automatically synchronize the script with the video. This is more accurate than the automatic captions, and you won’t have to edit the .srt for accuracy. Once YouTube has processed the captions, you can download the .srt file and then continue with step 5 (upload to MEDIAL).

If you have questions, please contact Dan Cabrera, Multimedia Coordinator at the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. He would be delighted to go through the process to ensure that you are comfortable adding captions to your videos.

References

Linder, K. (2016). Student uses and perceptions of closed captions and transcripts: Results from a national Study. Retrieved from  http://www.3playmedia.com/resources/research-studies/student-uses-of-closed-captions-and-transcripts/ on February 28, 2017.

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: theory and practice. Wakefield: CAST Professional Publishing.

Using Lynda.com Playlists to Supplement Course Materials

Lynda.comLynda.com, one of the most popular and successful video learning service offered, has been available to NIU faculty, students, and staff since Fall 2015. Since its release, users have relied on its extensive video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts for personal development. NIU faculty can now incorporate these high-quality materials to enhance and supplement their own course content.

Videos and courses from lynda.com can easily be added to Blackboard courses using Web Links, or embedded using html. If you have identified a series of videos you want students to watch, a playlist is even better. A playlist is a collection of web content arranged around a particular theme or subject area. Playlists are commonly used to collect and organize songs from musical artists or video content from YouTube. Similarly, you can create playlists of lynda.com videos by curating a collection of tutorials on a particular topic. For example, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center created a playlist on Online Teaching.

When you find a video you want to include on a playlist, click the + Add to Playlist button. On smaller screens, this may display below the video title, or be shortened to a simple +.

add to playlist

lynda.com profile drop down menu You can then create a new playlist, or add the video to an existing playlist.

To view your playlists, click your name in the upper right, and select Playlists from the drop down menu. You can manage your playlists here, including reordering or removing videos, adding a description, and making the playlist public. This is also where you can Share your playlist by copying the direct link for the playlist.

In Blackboard, you can add your playlist to your course as a Web Link. Students will be prompted to log into lynda.com when they click the link. They use their z-id and password to log in.

Creating playlist can be a convenient yet powerful strategy to supplement course content, offer an alternative perspective to the instructor’s, and provide support to students to develop skills that may not be directly taught by the instructor. This might include teaching a technology for presenting a report more effectively, basic to advanced training of video editing for an assignment that offers the option for submitting the finished product as a video rather than in a word processing format, etc.

For more information on lynda.com, you are invited to view a recording of the online lynda.com workshop conducted on December 4, 2015. Faculty Development will also be offering a face-to-face lynda.com workshop during the fall semester.

MEDIAL: Updated Video Management with Webcam Recording

Helix Media Library (HML), the streaming media player for uploading and sharing video and audio content available to all NIU faculty, students, and staff, is now MEDIAL, available at hml.niu.edu. After a significant upgrade, the video management tool is faster, easier, and includes the ability to record video directly from a webcam.

Fastervideos on mobile devices

One of the primary benefits to MEDIAL is that videos are encoded and transcoded for streaming online to any device. This means videos are optimized for playing online, so that students are able to watch videos even with slow or intermittent internet connections, and multiple students are able to watch the video at once without issues. Transcoding the videos allows students to view them from a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

In the past, this has sometimes been a slow process with Helix Media Library, particularly with longer videos. The MEDIAL upgrade will speed the encoding and transcoding process up significantly, so there will be less time to wait after uploading a video. In some cases, encoding may happen at double the previous speed!

Easier

MEDIAL makes it easier for students to post videos in Blackboard. Students now have the ability to browse previously uploaded videos in addition to uploading a new video. The video playback controls have been enhanced, as well.

Record from Webcam

The most exciting new feature is the ability to record audio or video directly from a webcam. This functionality is similar to the Video Everywhere tool in Blackboard that no longer works since Google removed the ability to record from a webcam on YouTube.

medial-webcam

Video or audio can be recorded from within Blackboard and is stored securely within the MEDIAL library. That video can then be embedded within a Blackboard course. This feature is great for video announcements or providing feedback on an assignment. Students can use this, as well, to submit video or audio assignments – such as demonstrating for language proficiency, responding via sign language, or just for building a sense of community.

Tutorials

Learn more about using MEDIAL by watching these tutorials.

NIU Hosts International Delegation for Cultural Exchange and Professional Development

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Northern Illinois University (NIU) hosted faculty from the Anhui University of Finance and Economics (AUFE), mainland China, during the fall 2015 semester. The International Training Office was instrumental in designing and administering the program for the delegation of six Chinese scholars, which was focused on cultural exchange and professional development.

Chinese Delegation workshop in computer lab

Because of this focus, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center was asked to provide professional development opportunities in the form of workshops highlighting pedagogy and technology used in higher education settings in the United States. In preparing for these sessions, Faculty Development staff reached out to members of the AUFE delegation in order to assess their individual teaching experiences (both face-to-face and online), as well as their familiarity with a range of learning technologies. The Chinese faculty were also queried on their preferences for workshop topics. With this information, the center staff designed a series of workshops arranged in a sequence that maximized impact building upon each other. The delegation members attended workshops on a range of topics such as ‘Designing a Course’, ‘Writing and Assessing Leaning Objectives’, and ‘Introduction to Live Online Classes Using Web-based Technology’, to name a few.

In order to better prepare for the visit, Faculty Development staff received orientation training which focused on Chinese history, geography, cultural heritage, as well as exploring differences between Chinese and American cultures. We are grateful to Dr. Michelle Xia, an NIU Assistant Professor in the Statistics Department, for delivering that session. After arriving in the United States, the AUFE delegation received an orientation to American culture during their initial meeting with Faculty Development staff as well.

We were fortunate to have a graduate assistant who could assist with communication during the workshops. Lucia Wang served as an interpreter during lectures, group discussions, and reflection activities. Because she also has deep knowledge of teaching pedagogy and technology use, she was an invaluable asset.

In addition to attending our workshops, the International Training Office arranged for the visiting scholars to attend multiple ELS sessions for improving English language skills, faculty-led workshops such as ‘How to Publish and Flourish’, and meetings of the Faculty Senate, University Council, and the Board of Trustees.  During their stay, members of the Chinese delegation also enjoyed a number of opportunities for cultural exchange including field trips to the Chicago Art Institute, the 21st Annual Native American Harvest Pow Wow at the Naper settlement in Naperville, a Chicago Bulls’ games, and a visit to the Wisconsin state capitol. These adventurous faculty also gained a sense of the diversity of people and places in the United States by traveling to New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

In reflecting on their time at NIU, the Chinese faculty were eager to express a deep appreciation for their experiences. When asked what the most important thing they learned from the Faculty Development workshops, one person reported, ‘….the philosophy and the ideas of teaching. A good teacher should be a good instructor, good director, good designer, good actor, and good listener as well. He (or she) should be open-minded, responsible and whole-hearted for the students and one’s teaching career itself.’ Another faculty member said they would miss NIU faculty’s attitude toward work, ‘Faculty at NIU are thoughtful and passionate, and each course is prepared carefully…. teachers respect students and have patience.” Finally, when asked what they plan to use/share upon their return to AUFE, one person wrote, ‘I’m going to apply the methods of metacognitive and reflective thinking and the techniques and skills of responsive teaching methods for my future teaching area. Engagement matters much in teaching. I’ll try many teaching skills learned in NIU to get my students more engaged and learn more.’

Because of such a positive response by the Chinese delegation, it is likely that international cultural exchange and professional development programs will continue to take place between Northern Illinois University and other Chinese universities.

Enhancing Live Online Sessions with the New Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, Part II: Updated Features and Faculty Feedback

Students watching online sessoin

During fall 2015, we introduced Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – an updated version of the existing web conferencing tool that can promote online collaboration and interaction. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can be used to hold live class sessions, offer virtual office hours online, or conduct meetings with students or colleagues. One of the most exciting improvements in this release of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is that sessions open quickly directly in a web browser, with nothing to download or install in order to join a session.

This time, we want to discuss additional features that can enhance online synchronous courses as well as share feedback from the faculty and instructors who participated in beta testing or piloting Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. The beta testing program began in spring 2015 and allowed NIU faculty and instructors to explore the revised interface, test upgraded features, and provide feedback to Blackboard to continue improving the product. In the summer and fall 2015, faculty and instructors piloted Blackboard Collaborate Ultra in their courses. During that time, a number of existing features were enhanced and a few new ones were introduced.

Feedback from Faculty

A major advantage to using web conferencing is the ability to bridge distance so that students can participate from wherever they happen to be. Whether due to job demands, family obligations, transportation issues, or other causes, distance and travel time can represent a significant barrier to pursuing education. Web conferencing can address these concerns by allowing you to present material, engage in live discussion, and keep long distance students connected to live class sessions. This was supported by one of the faculty members,

This program will allow me the opportunity to communicate course content with the class in a timely manner so that no material is missed. A few years ago, I had an RN reservist who was pursuing a MS degree and was deployed to Germany.  I was able to Skype him into the class each week, but it was cumbersome and didn’t allow for him to see the other students well.  This program would successfully include a student unable to attend the course face-to-face.

Another faculty member expressed a similar sentiment,

I used the tool for a course offered to first-year graduate students, many of whom work full-time and are considered mid-career. Once the technology adjustment was made, they found it extremely useful to interact with the instructor without making the trek to the campus.

During the pilot courses, novice users of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra found it to be quite intuitive, with a short learning curve, making it easy for faculty and students to begin using it quickly,

I had never used Blackboard Collaborate, yet learning how to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra was very easy.  The process is very intuitive and the students also seemed to pick it up easily.

One common complaint expressed by faculty who are considering whether to put their courses online is that online teaching can be a somewhat impersonal experience, with little to no opportunity for faculty-to-student, student-to-content, or student-to-student interaction. However, as reported by one NIU instructor, her students seemed to enjoy this updated web conferencing tool,

Feedback from students was very positive- they told me that they really liked the convenience of being able to have this session online.  They also indicated that they felt they were able to get to know their classmates a little bit better.

In addition to presenting their own content to students, another potential application is for faculty and instructors to invite a guest lecturer to a class session to speak on an area of their specialization.  In one instance during the fall 2015 semester, a faculty member invited an expert in substance abuse to speak to her upper division psychology students in a face-to-face class. Because travel logistics and other obligations made an in-person appearance all but impossible, web conferencing offered a convenient solution. The guest speaker was able to join the class ‘virtually’ from her office at another institution. Students were able to ask the guest for clarification when necessary as well submit questions, thus benefiting from the guest speaker’s clinical and research experience,

I have used collaborate 2x – once in the workshop ….. to train on it and then also with a guest lecture.  Things went very smoothly in the class you taught and I was impressed with how participants could interact by raising hands and typing questions/comments.

Although a primary use of this web conferencing tool is for faculty and instructors to conduct live online session for their courses, an alternative use for Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is to hold online meetings with research associates and collaborators,

I have used it on several occasions both for teaching as well as to work on research projects with colleagues in other parts of the country.  I like the features of being able to share files on the screen as we discuss items.

New Features Added

Now that the core functionality is completed, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra continues to be updated with small additions on an ongoing basis. These changes do not significantly change the workflow for using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, but do improve the experience for both faculty and students. Here are a few of the tools or upgrades that were recently added:

  • Content Zoom: Individual users can now control the zoom level of the content, which makes it easier for participants to view content at a size appropriate for their screen-size. Participants can choose between ‘best fit’, ‘actual size’, and ‘zoom in’ or ‘zoom out’.
  • Private messaging between Moderators and Presenters: Within the general chat window, Moderators and Presenters now can access a private chat feature to other moderators and presenters. This helps you coordinate with other faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants, or support staff who are assisting with your session.
  • Visual indicator when you are sharing video: All participants can be more aware now of whether or not they are broadcasting their web camera. When your video feed is on, you will see an ‘eye’ beside your avatar image
  • Participant connection indicator: Faculty and instructors can now tell at-a-glance who is in their session and who might be having trouble connecting. New indicators have been added that inform faculty when someone is in the process of joining their session, if users are connected, and how strong their connection is. This is as easy as hovering a pointer over participants in the ‘Participant’ panel to see the indicators.
  • Audio via telephone: If faculty or students do not have access to a microphone, they can still participate via the new integrated ‘telephony’. Now, faculty and students have the ability to call in to a live session using their phone, where they can listen or speak to session participants.
  • Audio indicator: For those participants who are using a microphone, an indicator icon (dark microphone) appears beside their name and photo in the ‘Participant’ panel, permitting faculty to identify who is speaking and who has turned off their audio. This can be important as the indicator will move to whoever the current speaker is as a discussion unfolds.
  • Mobile access: Students and other participants can participate in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Sessions from any iOS, Android, or Windows Mobile device using the free Bb Student app.

 

Final Thoughts

The consensus opinion among faculty who commented on their experiences using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra was favorable. Here are a few other comments from faculty who have tried Blackboard Collaborate Ultra:

I enjoyed using the technology and I feel like it has a great deal of promise.  I am looking forward to using it in the future.

The technology seemed to work well and everyone who has used it liked the overall look and feel. Overall, very positive, very easy to use. Love it.

I am so glad that this program is available and I am looking forward to using this again in the future!

For the pilot, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center had to manually create Blackboard Collaborate Ultra sessions. It will be available for everyone and integrated in Blackboard beginning in summer 2016. If you would like to try it early, or for more information, training, or consultation on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, contact Dan Cabrera, Multimedia Coordinator for the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at dcabrera@niu.edu or 815-753-0613.

 

Photo Credit: www.laudio-lucistore.It

 

 

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