Establish Social Presence with a Welcome Message Video

One great way to begin a new year/semester is to prepare and share a welcome message video for students enrolled in your course(s). Whether the course format is face-to-face or online, posting a welcome message online can facilitate the establishment of social presence, and thus begin the process of creating a sense of community. This initial effort to connect with students can provide opportunities to orient students to a course, where an instructor discusses course expectations/organization and encourages students to obtain course materials and assigned textbooks early. In addition, students may have an opportunity to observe an instructor’s passion for their field. The welcome message can also work to set a student’s mind at ease, as they perceive their instructor as a real person.

While providing a welcome message video can be especially important for students of online courses, it is also relevant for face-to-face courses. Instructors can send a welcome message in advance of the start of the semester, and provide an introduction to the course before the first day of class regardless of the course format.

Faculty can create videos with their smart phone or tablet, or with a webcam on a desktop workstation or from a laptop. A welcome message video can be added to a Blackboard course through MEDIAL or YouTube.

Considerations for Creating Your Own Welcome Message Video

When planning the creation a welcome message video, here are a number of considerations that faculty and instructors should keep in mind:

  • Although the expression of a welcome message can be heart-felt and spontaneous, consider using a script or outline. Captions derived from a script can be added to the video to enhance accessibility, benefiting students with a range of abilities and disabilities.
  • Think about the setting where you would want to record the video. Lighting and sound quality can enhance or compromise the quality of the recording.
  • What image do you want to project to your students? Formal or informal. Will you be recording inside your office, or outside in front of an iconic landmark or well-known university building.  Or perhaps inside you automobile.
  • How long should the video be? It is recommended that welcome messages be brief and to the point, rather than extended descriptions of each aspect of the course. Remember, you are establishing social presence in advance of the first class session, not just giving a shorter version of your initial lecture.

For more information or tips on creating your own welcome videos for your students, please contact Dan Cabrera, Multimedia Coordinator (dcabrera@niu.edu or 815-753-0613).

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.

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