Category Archives: VLE intermediary

Teaching using a VLE #6 Video for Muddiest Point (and flipping)

Adding video to your VLE is easy with modern kit, it frees up class time, allows you to repeat concepts your students struggled with and can be a starting point in transforming the way you teach.

So we covered audio in the last lesson and pretty much everything we said for that also holds true for videos.

Again you can free up class time by taking one “thing” from your lecture and making a quick video about it.  If making a video aim for about 5 minutes.

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Maybe getting the film students to help me with my 5 minute video was overkill

You can take videos easily using your smartphone OR you can get a video camera and setup a simple shot (this can work well when you are using a board to explain something – which for a lot of educators will be firmly in their comfort zone 🙂 )

One of my favourite video ideas is the concept of “Muddiest Point” where you take a “point” in your class that students either didn’t understand or misunderstood and then make a quick video covering that point.

The way this is often done is to have post-its on the desks and any time a student doest understand something they write on a post-it, you take in the post-its at the end and anything that appears a few times you make a “Muddiest Point” video. Because the first time you explained it is was “As clear as Mud!”

Here is an example I made earlier today

There are lots and lots of ways you can use video in your course, it really is worth having a play around and seeing what suits you.  If you want to really see how much you can use this to transform your teaching then watch this TED talk (worth a look even if you already know about flipped classrooms)

Finally just to give you something to aspire to here is a short video from the “History Teachers” – see how much info is crammed into the 4 minutes (I wish my videos were this good)

Teaching using a VLE #5 Sounds like learning

One of the things I used to run into when trying to get teaching staff to experiment with teaching and see how tech could help was the “Curriculum”.  Basically on a 10 week course they would have a couple of 100 “things” to tell the students and so they would give a lecture that covered all the “things” for that week, they had told the students, their job was done – they didn’t have time in the lesson to experiment because that would mean they didn’t have time to mention all the “things”.

Now I must admit that I don’t run into that problem anywhere near as often these days, but if you are wondering how to free up some time in your face to face sessions one of the easiest is to look through your session and choose 1 “thing” to tell your students outside of class.


Then you simply record an audio file and put it on the VLE, your students can listen at a time that suits them.  This should free up about 5 minutes to do something a bit creative with your students.

This audio file I recorded talks about some of the things you should consider when making  your audio file.

Some of you at this point might be wondering about the technical “how” of recording some audio – if you have a smart phone or a pc headset then you have all the kit you need.  The internet can tell you how

  • “how can I record my voice” returned over 300million hits on google
  • Audacity is an open source free software allowing you to record and edit sound
  • In this case I used Audio Boo (because they have an android app as well as a webpage – so I can use either my phone or my desktop)

As with all advice I try to link it to educational research showing a benefit to students/results/learning outcomes.  You can see some research into short podcasts here and here  and the affects of pre-lecture podcasts here, you can easily find more materials yourself using google scholar.

And remember – try to make your new spare 5 minutes fun and interactive!  If it goes well (or horribly badly) why not share it with others in the comments below.

Teaching using a VLE #4 Multiple choice tests (no seriously!)

One of my pet hates is the boring shiny store bought compliance e-learning, you know the kind – A page with a picture and 2 chunks of text and a next button, every few pages a handful of multiple choice questions that a monkey could answer to “check the learning”

Because of things like this I am not a big fan of the computer marked test (sometimes disparagingly called a “multiple guess test”) because it is something that is so easy to do badly.

I was going to cover computer tests later in the series but someone emailed me some fantastic research (Susanne Voelkel. Combining the formative with the summative: the development of a two-stage online test to encourage engagement and provide personal feedback in large classes. (2013) Research in Learning Technology 21: 19153) on the effect of tests so I am going to cover it now.

Feedback – The 2 key things about VLE/computer tests is that they A) mark themselves and B) Give instant feedback.  The thing is that while A) will save you time you really really need to spend a lot of time on B) because when students have just got something wrong (or right) they are receptive to immediate feedback and you need to make sure that it is good and it deals with the mistake that they made – sadly yes this does mean you need to provide individual feedback for each wrong answer.

Motivation –  as you can see from the research above, motivating students to take the test is key 

  1. If you give them good tests with decent feedback students grades will improve, but not all students will take the tests (and thus we assume miss out on the benefits)
  2. If you make the test compulsory (ie counts towards the final mark) all students will take the test but you cant make the results available instantly, students don’t seem to get the same benefit from feedback if it is delayed.
  3. If you set a pre-test with feedback and students need to get a certain score before they can take the test that counts towards the final mark, then grades will improve and all students will take the tests. (most VLE’s will allow you to set this up – ask your friendly Learning Technologist how to do it)

Sadly again number 3 will take the most effort on the part of academics – but if you are going to do it, then you should do it properly.

Don’t over test your students – If there are lots of questions then students will not pay as much attention to individual question feedback, similarly if there is a big test every week students will lose interest.

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Use the diagram to find X

Either have a couple of big tests and use something else to know how your students are doing on the rest of the course OR have weekly tests of 3 or 4 questions and a couple of big tests on top.

If I was doing it I would have 1 or 2 big tests and the weekly questions I would ask in class using the flipped classroom method of Eric Mazur (watch this you tube for an idea of the kind of effect it can have in class)

Finally dont add questions that require a human to mark them in your VLE/Computer tests, because A) this will mean you spend time marking them and B) the feedback will not be instant and so will not be as effective.