Deploying video in digital learning

Darcy is the Victorian E-learning Coordinator for the National VET E-learning Strategy. Passionate about lifelong learning, Darcy focuses on improving the use of media and technology to enable better personal development and learning outcomes. In this case, Darcy considers the use of online services for deploying video in digital learning.

When it comes to deploying video in digital learning—an essential component of the blended learning mix—there are a number of options and factors to consider:

Hosting video on YouTube

YouTube is a commonly used option for hosting video especially in education, perhaps because the service is free. YouTube’s servers optimise the videos and deploy them via their website and a range of mobile applications which they maintain for various platforms. A major factor for educators is that once a video is on YouTube it is publically accessible and promoted in the Google search engine.

If you wish you can limit audience by Google accounts, however in practice this would be hard to maintain. This can be an issue if the material has significant intellectual property (IP) value to your organisation, but some education organisations see the marketing benefits as outweighing the risks and are therefore taking advantage of this approach.

Other things to consider with regards to YouTube are advertising revenues from views, and video metrics which can highlight audience engagement graphically during the video, based on where users pause or exit a video.

With the TrainingVC e-learning delivery platform this video deployment method is achieved by simply adding a URL to the platform and doesn’t take up any file space in your LMS plan.

Hosting video on other services

There are several other online video hosting services out there. Vimeo provides a similar service to YouTube, however they have tools to control access and/or monetise the viewing of videos via a generic password. Publishing the password to learners gives some control over who can view the video, but could also easily be shared with others thus potentially losing revenue.

Hosting video on TrainingVC

Your TrainingVC data allowance will depend upon the plan that you choose – there is something for every type and size of organisation. You might, for example, start with a plan that includes 40 GB of data, but this space can grow rapidly if students are uploading projects and assignments. In this case, your storage can be cost-effectively increased via top-up packs. The key benefit of hosting video files in TrainingVC is that you have more control over who can access the content, which is particularly useful if the material has a significant IP value in your training delivery. TrainingVC video hosting is easily achieved by adding a file resource from within a course, so the format of the video file you upload needs to be compatible with your student’s computer and browser.

Content Chunking

YouTube data show that the most successful videos have a maximum length of two minutes. While this could be longer for educational deliveries, I would recommend splitting long video deliveries into sub-five-minute chapters or points. This allows the learner to consume content on the go in bite-size pieces, and also makes editing and updating video materials a lot easier for designers.

Edumarketing

Social media is an important part of any marketing plan, and can be used to give potential learners an insight into your educational content. This makes edumarketing a valuable representation of your brand when marketing to learners.

What next?

I recommend using a combination of TrainingVC and YouTube video hosting in your delivery/marketing mix if your materials are considered valuable IP, or a YouTube/Ad-revenue approach if your business is looking for progressive online revenue opportunities. Either way, let me know if you need a hand.

ACPET Conference 2014 – MOOCs, VHS and craft beer

On the 28th and 29th of August, Bernadette Parry and I went to the ACPET Conference to represent eWorks. Fremantle was an opportune locality, with a great selection of fresh beers within walking distance of the venue—at The Sail and Anchor, Little Creatures and The Monk. I took the chance to introduce a few ACPET members to the finer points of craft beer at The Monk brewery.

Pot of craft beer

My presentation on MOOCs in the VET sector on the second day of the conference showcased the Australian Childhood Foundation which hosts a MOOC via TrainingVC. I discussed MOOCs in general as an overview, and then focused on the possibilities of technology to scale education. Don’t get me wrong, while I do identify as a geek, I am not proposing that every learning outcome can or should be delivered digitally. From my discussions with many ACPET members I noticed that the perspective of many educators of what e-learning is about focuses on digital delivery of course material. While the CBT (computer based training) of the early internet ’90s did focus on a click next style of theory delivery, modern LMS systems like TrainingVC provide so much more opportunity for improving education models outside the area of delivery. An LMS, when exploited effectively, can be used to measure learning outcomes, synchronous educator to learner or peer interactions and so much more.

I also spoke about other industries and how internet connectivity has impacted them. We only need to look at the changes in the music industry to see significant change to models. Using home video as an analogy, the audience and I took a trip down memory lane, remembering large VHS cameras and running out of tape halfway through holidays. Post internet and mobile device disruption of video, YouTube now has 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. Generation Z expects to be able to broadcast publicly as fast as it takes them to upload their video.

The ensuing Q&A session was great fun, with lots of questions on how the revenue models for educators will change in the future. If we look at the large scale MOOCs of Stanford and Harvard, an early model seems to be taking shape. Offline learning material scales really easily when delivered by the internet, and modern consumers know this. Training content, thought of by many in the past as a significant proportion of your training intellectual property (IP), is being expected for free because consumers realise the cost in delivery via digital channels is low. This has led companies like EDx to shift the revenue generating focus to where the work becomes unscaleable (i.e. 1:1), which of course is assessment, accreditation and certification. While this has a lower price point and the margin will be smaller than the massive-scale music industry for example, successful companies have the opportunity for much larger audiences.

All in all, ACPET 2014 was an awesome event with lots of great discussions on education and interesting, passionate people to meet. Thanks ACPET — we look forward to next year.

Virtual Reality and E-learning – Endless Possibilities

Since Windows 95, the term virtual has been used to describe aspects of computer system interfaces, to make them easier for users to understand. Creating icons to look like actual folders or files and displaying windows on a virtual desktop, allowed users to relate computer programs and their various components to items in the real world.

More recently we have seen the term virtual reality (VR) in the media, particularly with the recent purchase of Oculus Rift (a prominent company selling VR headsets) to the social media behemoth, Facebook. In this article we will take a look at virtual reality and the possible applications of this intriguing approach to education.

First person gaming


Screen from Doom (video game)
Source: Doom mapformat screen
Author: Fredrik – License: CC BY-SA 3.0

The introduction of personal computers (PCs) brought more computing power to the home market in the late 1980s, which allowed developers in the early 1990s to create games that gave a first person perception of three dimensions. A notable example is ID Software’s game Doom, released in 1993.

Although these were dubbed 3D games and presented the user with a representation of a virtual environment, they were still displayed from a two dimensional device, typically a computer monitor or television. This level of immersion was enough to revolutionise the gaming industry, turning it into an estimated $30 billion industry in 1998, which was largely driven by 3D games.

Stereoscopic imagery


View-Master
Source: A GAF View-Master vewer model G red
Author: IlPasseggero – License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Another 3D technology, stereoscopic imagery, is an important aspect of virtual reality that is much older than computer games. You might be familiar with the perception of 3D provided by the famous View-Master based on an invention by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. By using slightly different images for each eye, this process creates the effect of 3D.

Virtual reality


Oculus Rift
Source: Orlovsky and Oculus Rift
Author: Sergey Galyonkin – License: CC BY-SA 2.0

While virtual reality is a broad term, it is mostly associated with hardware and software technology of 3D gaming in conjunction with a stereoscopic headset. The combination of both technologies greatly enhances the level of immersion experienced, as I can certainly attest after enjoying a virtual roller coaster ride at a recent Australian Virtual Reality Association meeting. While I remained aware, on some level, that it was a computer simulation, the visual and audio experience was enough to give me some of the bodily feelings of motion and adrenaline that I have experienced on real-life roller coasters.

Education and virtual reality

There are currently many discussions in the media about how technology is transforming education. The possibilities for virtual reality in an educational setting are thought-provoking and seemingly endless. The following statement from the book In Search of the Virtual Class (1995) is an excellent summation of the possibilities that virtual technology offers:

[Virtual technology] offers us the possibility of a class meeting in the Amazon Forest or on the top of Mount Everest; it could allow us to expand our viewpoint to see the solar system operating like a game of marbles in front of us, or shrink it so that we can walk through an atomic structure as though it was a sculpture in a park; we could enter a fictional virtual reality in the persona of a character in play, or a non-fictional virtual reality to accompany a surgeon in an exploration at the micro-level of the human body.

What an exciting time it is in e-learning!

Minecraft, motivation and the technology gap

Recently, I was asked “Can e-learning close the technology gap?” My answer was yes, in the same way a hammer can drive a nail into wood.

The question misses the human factor. Technology is, like the hammer, just a tool. Sure it’s an awesome one, but I argue that learner motivation has much more impact on whether learners succeed in any educational pursuit, regardless of the delivery mechanism.

Like many 10-year-olds, my daughter loves Minecraft and is constantly coming up with ideas for modifications (mods) that change or add different aspects to the game. I explained that her desire to create Minecraft mods was going to require some training in how to code.

Screenshot of a Minecraft gamePhoto by Reece Bennett // CC BY-SA 2.0

As a school holiday project, we started working through the exercises at learn.code.org. This MOOC provides a balanced curriculum, incorporating lesson plans that lead the learner through theory and concepts both on and off a computer. It has been a great experience for us both and she is getting more confident with programming techniques. Coming back to the Technology Gap question, here are the two most important factors in this example:

1. Motivation

My daughter really wants to make Minecraft mods, not to code JavaScript. I am not sure how long you would bang nails with a hammer if you didn’t understand why you were doing it.

2. Collaboration

Sometimes during the course, she gets stuck with an exercise and we need to talk it out rather than me just showing her. MOOCs offer educational opportunities to every potential learner with access to the Internet. They provide a reach unobtainable with brick and mortar, face-to-face and paper-driven education practices. We see high non-completion rates in these digital delivery methods, but I argue that low-completion rates are a symptom, not the root cause. For example, many people sign up to MOOCs, perhaps out of curiosity about the content, with no intention of completing the modules. (Stay tuned for further discussion on this issue in online education.)

Online delivery does not mean isolation for learners. Flipped classroom techniques, for example, are a nice balance of technology and human interaction. It is this human interaction that is an important part of cultivating intrinsic learner motivation. And it’s this internal drive that will empower learners in the information age; technology is merely the hammer.

What’s your view or experience on learner motivation? Continue the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter.