This is part 2 of a series of posts on flipping the classroom. You can read part 1 here.
When I made the decision earlier this year to flip my video production course, I knew it was going to take some serious re-design. I’ve been teaching in the straight lecture format, reserving class time for lectures, teaching the software, and some group activities. Assignments are to be completed on the students’ own time, for the most part (there is some in-class lab time for assignments but it is not as frequent as I’d like). Now, class time is going to be 90% lab work and 10% me blathering at the front of the class. Since the students are going to be learning the course material on their own time, I have to make some big changes to the way that material is structured.
First, I went through the existing course and extract everything that I considered “new material” – stuff that the students need to know before we can move to the next step. I listed everything out on paper, and then figured out whether this material needed to be in the form of a video, a presentation, or a blog post. Once I had the media figured out for each section, I got to work on creating. I started with the videos as I knew they’d take the longest.
My tools for producing the videos are pretty simple. I am using Screenflow to record screencasts of my Adobe Premiere tutorials and of any process related tutorials I need (such as how the students will upload their finished video assignments to YouTube, and then attach the link in BlackBoard for marking). I tried to keep the videos to no longer than 6 minutes, and if it was going to go longer I’d break it into multiple parts. Note that Screenflow is a Mac-only product, but there are other cross platform products out there such as Jing and Camtasia Relay that are equally good and will give you the results you want. All you need is the software and a decent quality microphone (I use this Sennheiser USB headset).
Now, some of you may ask why I chose to create all new videos instead of just Googling up some Premiere tutorials on YouTube. There’s a few reasons. First, I wanted to make sure that the material related to exactly what I need the students to be working on, and that it is in context of their specific assignments. That way, it’s crystal clear to them. The first rule of a healthy classroom is to remove ambiguity. Second, as much as there are plenty of great videos online that do walk throughs of various types of tools and concepts, there’s boatloads of crappy ones too. I want to make sure that the students are being taught the right things as they pertain to the course outline, and I also want to make sure that there is consistency – having a bunch of videos all made by different people seems disjointed to me. Third, and this one is really important – I want to make sure that there’s a connection between what’s going on in the classroom and what’s going on outside it – and what better way to do this than to have me teaching them on both sides? That personal connection between student and teacher is vitally important. It makes it feel more that I am there with them, every step of the way.
Organizing and recording 10 videos, doing minor edits, uploading them to YouTube and then embedding them in the web site, took me about 2 solid days of work. But now they are good to go, and until the software version changes or I need to add new information, I can use them till the cows come home.
At Algonquin College, we use the BlackBoard Learning Management System (LMS). This is a pretty common tool across post-secondary institutions, and it has its up sides and down sides. One thing that it does well is lets you embed other web pages into the LMS interface. One thing it doesn’t do well is blog-style updates (Announcements don’t quite cut it). So, knowing this, I set about building a site in WordPress that is just hosted off my personal domain. Right now there’s just an introductory page up there, but what you don’t see is that I’ve scheduled all the posts for the entire course in the background. One day before the course starts, all the content will come online for the students to see. I’ve grouped and categorized the tutorials to make it easy for them to find things. It’s all going to be there in one place, that they can access directly from BlackBoard.
The WordPress site took me about 2 hours to post and configure. I’m just using a standard template because it doesn’t need to be fancy – it’s all about delivering the content in a clear, concise way. This will not only be a space where students can get the new materials they need for their homework, but where I’ll be able to post updates, interesting links etc. that pertain to the course. Students will also be able to comment, ask questions, and contact me right through this site.
So, using a combination of a WordPress site and a YouTube channel, I’ve been able to get all of the course material online in a format that the students will be able to use effectively and efficiently. At the end of each class, they’ll get their homework assignment to be completed before the next class. And they will show up armed with knowledge and be ready to apply it in class.
photo credit: hVargas