Releasing slides before lectures – is it really a good idea?

I’ve recently been considering the risks and benefits of sharing presentational slides before lectures, and the effect it has on both attendance and performance. Some conclusions from my scoping are shared below. This review is not a recommendation that linear presentation software should be used in classes, clearly this is not the only way to structure learning.

Sharing lecture slides (almost universally PowerPoint slides) before a class is widely believed to not negatively impact attendance (e.g. by Billings-Gagliardi & Mazor, 2007; Frank, Shaw & Wilson, 2009; Worthington, & Levasseur, 2015). Billings-Gagliardi & Mazor (2007) conclude “Fears that the increasing availability of technology-enhanced educational materials has a negative impact on lecture attendance seem unfounded” (2007, p573). The evidence is not entirely unanimous though, with some research, particularly before 2006, pointing to a connection between pre-lecture release and attendance.

Sambrook & Rowley’s (2010) research had students report that their peers have used slides as a substitute for attendance, but even so, non-attendance was most likely to be linked to other factors such as illness or crisis, and slides were likely to be an assistive facility rather than a root cause of non-attendance. Dolnicar’s (2005) research showed why students attend lectures – he included such factors as students wanting to: find out what they are supposed to know;  avoid missing important information;  find out about assessment; and make sure they learn the key content, and they also attended because of university expectations. Others, for example Fitzpatrick, Cronin, & Byrne (2011), have looked at reasons for non-attendance at lectures and reported factors such as curriculum overload issues and poor quality of teaching. It is perhaps unsurprising that, according to the balance this evidence, lecture notes alone don’t appear to have an impact on attendance.

Within their research on making slides available through online environments, Sambrook & Rowley noted that “The most emphatic response [in their survey] was to the statement “lecture notes should be available on Blackboard” … the availability of webnotes has become expected” (2010, p.35). The value placed on pre-release of slides is also emphasised in students own pro-active stance on virtual learning environments (see for example Cain, 2012).

Research shows that electronic materials, which are shared before a class, are perceived as helpful to students’ preparation for learning, which in turn encourages attendance (Billings-Gagliardi & Mazor, 2007; Sambrook & Rowley, 2010). Specifically, as a result of advanced publication of notes online, students reported: i) better opportunity to retain content in the lecture when they had prepared, ii) being more organised note taking iii) recognition of opportunities to pick out areas of the lecture where they will need further explanation (e.g. to ‘zone in’ during actual classes) – these points were especially important for international students and students with dyslexia (Sambrook & Rowley, 2010). Additionally “[b]y posting slides before lecture, students have the opportunity to prepare in advance for class and perhaps feel more comfortable in volunteering thoughts and opinions” (Babb & Ross, 2009, p.878).

The sharing of slides before lectures is associated with better note taking and/or perceptions of better note taking (Frey & Birnbaum, 2002; Babb & Ross, 2009). Sambrook & Rowley (2010) suggest “Providing lecture notes in advance can address cognitive processing problems student face with working memory overload, when they are trying to both listen to the lecturer and write their own notes”. Some research does however point to an over reliance on slides as limiting note taking, so the benefit of processing information in note taking is diminished, in turn this could be linked to achievement: “In short, many instructors fear that … slides encourage less encoding and that less encoding will translate into less learning” (Washington & Levasseur, 2015, p.15). Often students note taking skills are not well developed (Haynes, McCarley, & Williams, 2015; Pardini et al. 2005). Making slides available in itself is not a silver bullet for note taking, but students do report using slides as a structure for their thoughts. Actions to develop skills note taking skills are recommended (Haynes, McCarley, & Williams , 2015).

Irrespective of early or late release, use of PowerPoint in a way that oversimplifies ideas can stifle discovery, hinder deeper learning, and provide knowledge in linear and disconnected forms (Kinchin, Chadha, & Kokotailo, 2008; Isseks, 20011). Sambrook & Rowley, through their review of literature, indicate that slides can be associated with knowledge being fashioned in restricted ways, but they go on to add that this is a consequence of the way the tool is used rather than the tool per se. Maxwell (2012), Apperson, Laws, L. & Scepansky (2008) and Iseeks (2011) advise that the use of bullet points on PowerPoints should be reduced with more use being made of visual stimulus and lecturer engagement to provoke deeper, authentic and human engagement and to “complement and enhance” delivery (Maxwell, 2012, p. 48).

Having explored some literature it is clear that early release of slides is an increasing expectation. There are considerable benefits of early release to some students (particularly international, dyslexic and those with less confidence to speak out in class).. On balance, understandable lecturer concerns about attendance are unsupported in more recent literature and there is even evidence that some more vulnerable students are more likely to attend classes if given time to prepare. The factors affecting lecture attendance concern a wide range of variables; where these lead to non-attendance, the slides provide a helping hand. Nevertheless, it is also clear that efforts to develop note-taking skills in students and the development of skills in the effective use of PowerPoint for educators would be well placed, to avoid students falling asleep with their eyes open (such is the title of a paper by O’Rouke et al, 2014) . In reaching this conclusion it does throw up a puzzle – if we use presentation tools for pictures, artifacts and stimuli, instead of an explicit guide to content, is their any point adding these to a virtual learning environment before a lecture? There is no evidence either way, or at least none that I have found, but presumably  some other means of pre-class indication of what to expect would enable the benefits of early release of slides outlined above (which rather presume a focus on course content) to be realised while maintaining engagement through a more creative use of presentational software.

Finally, it may be useful to note that there is experimentation occurring in to how to support learning through alternative technologies, particularly as the university’s role as authoritative transmitter of knowledge is under review, again O’Rouke’s paper provides a useful starting point for considering other modus operandi for the provision of resources.

References to download

Looking at the value of lecture capture

Looking at lecture capture led me to ask questions about the technology’s effectiveness. I can’t help feel that lecture capture is  counter-intuitive, since we know transmission based learning is less effective than active learning (so, why would we invest more in it and replicate it?) and we know that concentration spans for online engagement don’t readily lend themselves to hour long broadcasts (my own concentration sees frustration after 15 minutes!). Nevertheless adoption is on the increase  and students clearly appreciate the opportunity to apply catch up TV principles to learning – they value the flexibility.

As lecture capture heads towards the mainstream, I thought it useful to look at the evidence of the benefits and challenges of this technology, especially in light of a prediction that we may begin to move away from capturing lectures to viewing lectures as performances – something Professor Phil Race constantly emphasises with the idea of making the lecture unmissable and engaging.

My reading notes can be downloaded but the headline points were:

  1. More research is needed in to actual, rather than perceived effectiveness of lecture capture.
  2. Students appreciate lecture capture and believe it helps learning but the actual impact is unclear. Critically there is little or no evidence that lecture capture really impacts performance. Some subsets of users appear to show higher scores, but this may be associated with their diligence rather than the impact of heavy usage of downloads.
  3. The circumstances in which lecture capture is effective and the reasons for it are also unclear. Research suggests that content heavy subjects are best suited to this technology and interactive subjects less so, and this makes good common sense. By implication then, this point raises the question would lecture capture lead to a less interactive delivery style?
  4. Lecture capture is suspected as having a connection with more effective note taking and students appear to selectively watch lectures to address tricky concepts. These recurrent findings, irrespective of the growth of lecture capture, point to the value of addressing how students take notes as an academic skill and raise the question of how media can be used to address difficult concepts in watchable and debunking, even (dare I say) enjoyable ways.

If they are useful please help yourself to my lecture capture quick notes.

Jing-tastic; Audio visual tool

During a summer of local and international educational development workshops ‘Jing’ has had many outings. I was struck to see how this really simple facility never fails to make people say – “wow, I can really use that”. It’s a low ceiling technology with transformative potential. From my summer ‘tour’ here are some thoughts on how Jing can be used productively by those involved in teaching and supporting learning.

Formative feedback – an assignment walk through
As described here and also by Russell Stannard , Jing can be used to offer feedback on actual assignment work by enabling a visual-voice combination to be used. Feedback can be given and related to the assignment on screen. Early signs are that this approach is widely enjoyed by students who particularly value the ability to play and replay the feedback; the personal tones of the feedback; and, the privacy and convenience of getting the feedback in a location that suits them.

Best bits and “no no’s”(one to many feedback)
To feed forward and enable one group to learn from another, Jing can be a way of presenting good practice and things to avoid. This needs a little care to avoid showing individuals up, but with careful doctoring any ethical issues can be avoided! This can be used as a group feedback method, and can be a useful interim form of feedback when individual comments can’t be provided in time to be useful for the next assessment. Such videos can be added to the VLE or sent direct to students.

Correction
In addition to providing feedback, Jing can assist with directly facilitating corrections. This, I find, is particularly helpful with very specific and detailed tasks. The visual element can help enable the recipient to use tools to make future changes. An example would be a student who has issues with alignment being shown how to use the facility in Word, which shows the spaces and tab marks. In discussion with colleagues I am advised that the same principles may carry to correction of language or sentence structure.

Peer feedback
Lots of attention s being given to teacher led Jing feedback, but this is freeware and as a result can be easily utilised for students giving peer to peer feedback. This might even help with communication skills and confidence.

Summative feedback – a tour of the mark sheet
Students have fed back their desire to know how marks have been allocated. One way this can be brought about is through the use of Jing to discuss the mark itself; perhaps by the tutor talking through the feedback sheet, one section or outcome at a time. In this way Jing can be a useful complementary technology.

A reflective tool for students (an audio layer in the battle against plagiarism)
One of the ways we can mitigate plagiarism, and encourage learners to reflect on their learning processes, is through the inclusion of an annotated bibliography in any assignment. As an alternative, perhaps catering for different styles and preferences, students could review their own assignment and create a walk through of any difficult points, any areas that they feel could be improved and any things they would do different in future. They could also comment on how they found particular readings cited in their work.

Recalling assumptions (project management tool)
As part of my role is project management, Jing also helps with remembering what we did and why. A two minute voice over on a spreadsheet means that when we go back and think how on earth did we arrive at x, y or z, that we have the detail captured from the moment. Jing is now, therefore, becoming a favourite of accountants and data managers as well as teachers!

Apps 2012

Image

As I have progressed through my EdD my ways of working have got a little smarter. There are four apps that have served me well in 2012 for supporting my studies …

1. Reminders (so in the hours where I have too much to do I can remember what they were!)

2. Good Reader – managing my online library downloads and annotating my reading without reams of paper. By far the best reading app I have found (still).

3. Good notes – high levels of functionality, a great jotter and annotator – good for generating diagrams and mapping out thoughts.

4. Splashtop – allows my desktop (including Endnote) to be fully functional from my ipad or phone. Excellent when not wanting to be stuck at my desk.

Two more fab apps (not study related)  for 2012 have been

5. Screenchomp – Jing for the ipad – great for audio visual feedback for students and again this means there is no need to be desk bound.

6. Spelling – my best parenting app! So the kids can input the spelling list for the week and then run the tests until the spellings stick. Very motivational for kids who hate spelling.

The Jing feedback experiment

Since the last post on Jing (screen capture) I have tried it out more intensively by making 45 videos for formative feedback on personal development. I received draft submissions from students, opened them on the screen, started the video capture and recorded as I went.

Lessons learnt …

  • Read through once only and highlight in yellow any areas where a comment should be made (a higher level of scripting than that means you may as well write the feedback first )
  • Live with imperfection. Unless you edit the feedback in an audio editor, Jing is one take only. Live with the odd, ‘errr…..’ … pause or stumble or else the videos will take a ridiculous amount of time.
  • Manage expectations: Jing feedback was sought once word got around, this created a rush at the last minute. For the sake of workload give cut offs, and only feedback on a pre-determined amount of work.
  • Opt out not in. Given the openness of feedback, being technically accessible by others and given the alternative nature of the approach brief students and tell them what you are doing and why, and offer an opt out. No-one chose this.
  • Practice makes efficient. The first handful of videos took forever. Had I not made a public commitment to do this I would have ditched it out of sheer frustration. It did get better.
  • Using other types of video in class meant that this was a familiar approach to students. It was in synch with classroom methods. For example, I used video feedback to playback a critique of a case study.
  • It saved an awful amount of time by removing the need for proofing my own feedback.

While it may seem labour intensive to offer 45 verbal feedbacks I was secure in the knowledge that 45 written feedback attempts would take an awful lot longer. The depth of the feedback was also more than could have been realistically achieved on paper. You can say a lot in 5 minutes.

What did the students think …

  • Students thought this was fantastic!
  • ‘Like a conversation’
  • Personalised
  • ‘It was like having a one to one tutorial’
  • Enabled them to work through changes one at a time with the video open and their work open at the same time
  • Only one technical glitch was reported
  • Lots of feedback is possible in this way

Other Jing ideas…

An alternative approach I saw recently was a tutor talking through the grade sheet. Giving a verbal commentary on why decisions were made as they were. A different take on Jing.

As a spin off from this work, experimentation shows Jing can work well with White Board technology too, so that in-class examples can be used and taken away. A blue tooth mic and you’re away …

(How to make a Jing feedback video is outlined here http://www.techsmith.com/education-tutorial-feedback-jing.html )

Jing – Better late than never

Having used Captivate for screen capture I never really saw the need for any other software of this type. However I have been experimenting with Jing, after seeing it used by Russell Stannard, and I have been mightily impressed! Essentially this super simple software allows you to take a video of your screen with the ability to add real time audio, and then with a one click upload the video is placed in to a cloud space, thus generating an access URL for sharing. Super quick, super intuitive! As a cross platform user it is helpful to be able to use a single cloud account to upload from my different machines and without the need for Mac and PC licenses at a high cost.

So far I have used it to create a video of where to find information within our intranet and have created a ‘catch up TV’ screen cast for those unable to attend a face to face session last week.It is so easy to use; I have no hesitation now about using this to facility to offer formative feedback students submitting draft work.

Jing in action

Jing in action screenshot

C-Map

I am asked increasingly about concept mapping software. I have previously favoured iThoughtHD; however, while this is very intuitive it is not so good at enabling inter-label links (something only realised after a little time and intensive usage!). C-Map was recommended to me as an alternative. Though not native to the ipad, it has a greater focus on the links rather than the labels and in turn this helps the author to think about structure, more than the brain dump. It forces the user to clarify: Why is x connected to Y?

“A concept by itself does not provide meaning, but when two concepts are connected using linking words or phrases, they form a meaningful proposition”. (Villalon and Calvo 2011 p18)

C-map is downloadable for Windows and Mac and wonderfully, is free.

Below is my own mind map to demonstrate C-map (though I am confident that there are better examples!!). Click to view.
Lydia's map of learning theory

Villalon, J. and R. A. Calvo (2011). “Concept Maps as Cognitive Visualizations of Writing Assignments.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society 14(3): 16-27.

Ithoughts HD Mind-mapping

After never being very satisfied with the online mind mapping software that I have tried – finally some intuitive software that my seven year old can use. ithoughts HD cost £6.99 but does exactly what it says on the tin. The iPad is perfect for mind mapping as ideas can be shifted around the page in a very straight-forward and playful way, no clunkiness. For anyone interested in visual representations of their ideas I would definitely recommend this.

Interacts neatly with Dropbox.

Export maps as pdf, jpg or a whole menu of other file types.

Hyperlink content with ease.

Screen shot below.

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Brevity

Listening to Stephen Fry exploring ‘brevity‘ was a  reminder of

  • the skill needed to achieve brevity
  • the depths it is possible to reach through brief communication -the importance of brevity to make an impact
  • the relationship between brevity and information filtering

It may also be a prompt to recall that fewer words for assessment can have advantages

  • help develop efficient approaches to communication
  • have impact as others have time to engage with the work
  • [still] allow depth of reflection

Getting to grips with Grademark and Turnitin: Tools for assessment efficiency and enhancement

This week we had a most excellent learning and teaching forum session from Cath Ellis of Huddersfield University. The focus of the afternoon was on electronic marking using Grademark. I am fairly confident that this idea will be taken up by colleagues since it could:

– Save time as paper scripts are not sent around the university, paper submissions no longer required reducing the administrative burden and in the marking process comment banks deal with repeated errors particularly around grammar and punctuation to save time there.

-Add consistency amongst marking teams in the advice given over common errors.

– Enhance the student experience, allowing them to submit off campus without travel time or receipt queuing and enable privacy when receiving results.

-Allow the tutors own comments to be highly personalised and supportive as their time is not spent on repetitive comments.

– Enable simultaneous marking and plagiarism checking as the tutor’s eye is drawn to areas of similarity (to published work, other submitted assignments) with a coloured overlay provided in Grademark/Turnitin. The tutor can see for example if coloured areas are appropriately referenced. Plagiarism checking becomes more integrated to the assessment process.

-Help the diagnosis of issues in writing style, grammar and punctuation through aggregated reports for groups or individuals to inform the support provided.

Cath’s blog describes some of the subtleties of Grademark use. Also a concise presentation from Solent details the benefits of Grademark and Turnitin particularly from a student perspective.

There is something unequal and opaque about academics having enhancement tools and facilities not open to students and so it is good to see a peer to peer marking facility in Grademark too. Given that teaching staff do not always include peer review in their methods I am not sure that simply having the facility will mean people use it.

As a student At The University of Liverpool it is really useful to have access to these facilities for pro active academic development. Before I submit any work a course requirement is that it must go through Turnitin as a draft. This enables me to see, using the coloured overlay as described above, where I may of displayed poor academic practice (or in the worst case plagiarism). Where the similarity index is high I may see, for example, that my paraphrasing is not sufficiently different from the original or that I have used too many direct quotes. See graphic below for a view of how the similarity overlay looks to a student.

20110716-093038.jpg

The use of a draft submission facility for students along with some support to interpret the reports and an academic development programme to offer knowledge of what good academic practice entails, seems to be a very comprehensive package of support. It equips the student to understand why it is important to address issues of academic development and at the same time offers knowledge and tools to support self-review and self-help. As a student I would now not wish to submit a final copy without the opportunity to self review using the draft facility.