Video assessment made easy with Moodle Video Assignment App

Rob Davenport works in web design, development and Moodle admin at TAFE SA and has a background in lecturing web design and multimedia. Like many of us Rob has been frustrated by how complicated it can be to manipulate video and use it for assessment – so he and his colleagues at TAFE SA have been doing something about it.

Much has been made of Digital Natives over the last few years. They are fluent in the use of and also the creation of digital content. Not just words (or Word documents – boring!), but images, audio and video. These types of content are published daily by most regular social media users.

Social media is also mobile

Moving on from the digital native concept is perhaps the idea of smart nativesthose that have grown up, or are so comfortable with use of smart phones and tablets that it is second nature (or perhaps even first nature). Seeing as the boom in smart devices started with the iPhone introduction in 2007, many students in vocational or tertiary education have probably spent much of their high school years (taking the school leaver profile) Facebooking, Twittering, SnapChatting or Instagramming through life.

These social media services can be a fantastic way to communicate with students, opening up possibilities and direct engagement on the platforms they already use. Communicating via these channels means meeting students at their level, speaking to them in their language. If they’re already listening, then your job as an educator is half done.

Issues arise when making them less practical or appealing, however, if these social media platforms are used as primary educational tools, for example, rather than as complimentary, optional forms of communication. Other Issues like privacy, audit trails, evidence collection, record keeping and IP ownership (to name a few) also quickly come to mind. Of course in using them, all users are providing personal information to the service provider for their commercial use. Compelling anyone to do so as part of studying is therefore a dubious proposition at best.

Credits: IMG_6329, by Martin Alleus

Taking video is easy – doing something with it is hard.

Every smart phone and tablet these days can create HD video. It’s as simple as bringing up the camera app, selecting video and hitting record. But when was the last time you took some video from your smart phone, downloaded it, edited, compressed and then published it somewhere? No, I haven’t either – despite being fortunate enough to have the skills and software to be able to. It’s simply too much fuddling about – who can be bothered?

YouTube to the rescue! Or not.
Along came YouTube to provide an easy to use service and place for anyone to publish and share their videos online. But even ten years after YouTube was established it is still very difficult for anyone to do anything else with their videos. And all of the privacy and other caveats apply just as much to Youtube as they do to other social media services.

The challenge in managing video is dealing with the sheer size and technical details involved in the format – things like codecs, data rates, interlacing v’s progressive, muxing, variable bit rates etc. If you don’t know exactly what each of those are – you are not alone. That’s part of the problem – it’s complicated.

Is video the best form of evidence?

If I were going to court I would rather have video evidence to support my case. It’s pretty hard to deny what everyone can see in plain sight. When it comes to evidence for assessing skills, the only options better than video that I can think of are actually being there (interacting) with the student, or via a live feed such as Skype or Video conference. Even then, the picture quality needs to be high – again enabling some interaction in real time with the student. In both of these cases being on the scene (or having the connectivity and technology) on location may be problematic and very time consuming. Additionally, unless it is video recorded, you can’t go back to review performance later on.

More recently a concern has been whether the identities of the people doing the e-learning are who they say they are. Compliance requirements in this area are growing as cases of dubious practices have emerged. How to authenticate the identity of the student is an increasingly important challenge of online and remote delivery.

Video assignments submitted via smart phone or tablet

A solution currently being implemented by TAFE SA is a smart phone (and tablet) app that integrates with the assignment activity in Moodle. It is called Moodle Video Assignment and can be found in the iTunes App Store. It is currently in beta testing for Android and will soon also appear in the Google Play store.

How does Moodle Video Assignment work?

The lecturer can set an assignment, and in addition to the File and Text submission types also has the option to select Video. This enables the Moodle Video Assignment App to see the assignment.

Students, once they have the app set up, simply:

  1. Choose the video assignment from a list
  2. Select or record a video
  3. Submit the video.

All of this is done within the app, and can be done from anywhere that has adequate internet connectivity.

The ability to select a video from the devices library means the video recording location can be anywhere the device is taken. So it doesn’t matter how remote the location, the assignment can be uploaded when the student has returned within range of mobile or wireless network connectivity. This also enables the student to prevent using up limited (and costly) 3g or 4g data usage, as they can wait to be on a home, school, work or campus wireless connection.

The HD video taken by the device is also compressed within the app prior to uploading – again minimising data usage, and making the upload process much quicker and reliable. Users can select their desired video quality between three presets. Maximum video length can be set by the lecturer, and videos are generally recommended to be less than five minutes’ duration.

Can everyone use it?

The app and associated Moodle assignment plugin are being made available and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. It extends upon work undertaken as part of the New Generation Technologies business activity’s Emerging Technology Trials (2012-2013).

The components required are:

  1. Moodle Video Assignment plugin installed into a Moodle site. Available from Github currently. (Will be added to Moodle plugins repository in the future).
  2. Amazon S3 storage account – this is where the compressed videos are placed, so it won’t adversely affect your Moodle hosting.
  3. Moodle Video App installed onto an iOS or Android device.

For more information please visit the TAFE SA website, where you can access a free demo as a student would experience it, and all the resources required to it get up and running on your own Moodle.

Can you help us to make this work?

It’s early days, but in the hands of creative and energetic teaching staff the possibilities for this app are huge and varied. Step one is for you – the lecturer, teacher or instructional designer – to get on board. Let us know what you think!

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