Videos: Dos and Don’ts and some thoughts

I attended two recent EDC sessions on videos  – PowerPoints can be downloaded here.

Quite a nice room – high in R Core. Great sandwiches and good coffee. And thought provoking.

What can we learn from others?

Khan Academy “Basic addition”- most viewed video (over 2 million). On a black background; writing ( pretty ugly) as the person speaks (that’s good). Very clear voice, and good intonation. Speaking to the person. Conversational style. It’s not emotionless. It is short (7 minutes)

A bad example?

“Lecture – 1 Introduction to Basic Electronics”. Long (56 minutes). Uncomfortable presenter, who is reading from a slide. It has got a lot of views though (over a million).

Use TED Ed?

I created a few activities a year or so ago. I remember it was ok, but functionality needed work. Coming back a year later, it seems much better. Here is one activity.

Some tools:

Microsoft expressions – for video editing?

Smoothdraw – a bit like Paint?

edge EdX – not quite sure what can do?

Other points to remember:

Two stream capture – for example your webcam and the computer screen

MOOC – everything is built around a video

Modular courses – stand alone videos

Male and female voices – not just have one voice.

Have some emotion in the video.


Reflective journals on Blackboard (or other LMS, or other eportfolios)

(Also posted as Refection 1 in Module 3 of the BOT course: post date 16 March, 2014)

The PolyU EDC BOT course encourages the participants to post reflections in their journal. I think it is a great idea.

But, there are three modules in the BOT course, and each module has a different site. That means three different reflective journals. If one of the ideas of reflective journals is that you can go back to look at old entries to see how you have changed, BB is making this difficult.

If it is bad for us, it is even worse for students. PolyU students have nine hours of credit bearing English (6 credits of LCR and 3 credits of DSR) spread over their 4 years. They might also do some non-credit bearing English courses (currently known as Excel@English), as well as CAR subjects (English Write and Read). All of these might have reflective components, and all would be on different sites. Then they have all the other subjects with reflective components as well. if you were a student, would you take it seriously?


One site for students to reflect which is for all subjects and lasts for the whole of the students’ university life. It is not connected to a particular subject (i.e. there is no ELC reflective journal or SN reflective journal), but it is connected to all subjects through BB site of each course the student takes.

Technically is it possible?

Video Animation sites

I’ve been interested in video animation sites for a couple of years now. They allow quite good videos to be made without expensive software – everything is done online. Sites generally allow the ‘videos’ to be exported to YouTube, which allows for easy viewing and further editing using the YouTube editor.

Early usage

I think I must have started using video animation around 2011-2012. I was teaching an ELEP News course (a course I liked because I could use the students for experimentation).

Here is an example that I made using Go Animate for ELEP News: Anger at online essay service

Here is another example using Xtranormal for another course: Staff Survey about Working Conditions: Recommendations

As part of the ‘Assessment’ for ELEP News, students had to create their own video animation on a news story. Six videos were made. See them all in this playlist.

It was quite a lot of work, but overall it was successful as the videos were made.

Later on

I became very busy with other things, and but Goanimate and Xtranormal had changes.

Goanimate is still around, and there is a education site, but I don’t think it is free anymore.

Xtranormal has stopped.

This is not the first time that innovate tech companies that I have used in classes, have ceased trading or stopped their free service.


I am using Powtoon a lot. It is also easy to use, and a great advantage is that videos can be edited and copied once made.

Some examples:

Understanding Turnitin

EUS Assessment 2


I am planning to use Powtoon in my BOT course. I plan to get students to create a powtoon which gives advise as to what they should do / should not do during a presentation.

But – what happens if / when powtoon goes the way of Goanimate and Xtranormal? Youtube used to have a ‘creator channel’ where you could find companies such as GoAnimate and Xtranormal. It has changed and now looks like this:

There are alternatives: (summary here)

1. Wideo ( I have made one here; I think at the time it could not be exported to YouTube)

2. Moovly (never used but have free version and exports to YouTube)

3. Video Rascal ( “we will refund your money” – so it is not free?)

4. Plotagon (needs to be downloaded? But still free and can export to YouTube)

Make an Assessment?

Possible if – a small group of students and instructors. In my subjects (ELC1012 / ELC1013) – there are hundreds or even over a thousand students, plus multiple instructors, then logistically we probably want to keep assessments as simple (and boring) as possible. ELC1011 does a ‘digital story’ – so we need to be careful that we are not repeating that.

If an assessment, we need the flexibility so that if a site which is available in Week 1 has gone down or changed its pricing structure by the time of the assessment, changes can be made.

An alternative is to have a self made animation site – but this is probably not realistic.


I’ll continue to use the animation sites for my own purposes, and will try them with students. Maybe other teachers are brave enough to try one as an assessment.

BOT Reflection 3 (Module 2)

Peer review with students (originally posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014) (see opening post for Module 2)

Peer review with students is not something I have done much yet. I can understand the reasoning behind it, and I enjoyed doing it in part 2 of this course.

Reason I don’t do much peer review in my courses:

  • students expectation of the teacher to give feedback
  • for language errors, quite often peer marking can make it worse!
  • it can take a lot of time – students need to be ‘trained’, and then the ‘reviews’ need to be checked
  • there are large number of students and teachers in the course – so it is difficult to maintain parity if peer review is part of the final grade

That said I do use peer review for specific aspects that are easier to check. For example:

  • Is the reference list in the correct order
  • Are in-text citations correct
  • Is there a main point to each paragraph

I would like peer review to be a bigger part of the courses I teach, but I’m not sure how to get around the parity issue if we make peer review an assessment.

BOT Reflection 2 (Module 2)

Course and a half syndrome (Originally posted Thursday, February 13, 2014) (see opening post for Module 2)

Course and a half syndrome – from

It’s the first time I have heard the phrase ‘Course and a half syndrome’, but I know exactly what it means.

I think I am partly guilty of doing this  (1.5 courses in one course) in the subjects I have helped write in the ELC. But at the same time there are other issues.

1. I think we have some good blended learning going on in the ELC courses. Teachers are using forums to interact with students online, and they do extend the class work to online work in different ways.

2. At the same time, because many teachers are suspicious of the extra workload that blended learning can bring, most of the online activities we create are computer graded. So students have a greater workload even if teachers do not.

3. Management (both from ELC and PolyU) is an issue. There appears to be an unspoken rule that 3 credit subjects need 42 hours of contact time (39 hours from next year), but at the same time there needs to be a blended element. In a sense this rule has created the ‘course and a half syndrome’. As we cannot (meaning course leaders are not allowed to) say to teachers that the f2f contact time is say 36 hours, with 6 hours devoted to online activities, then we end up having to add on things to create the online material, while keeping enough material for 42 hours of class time. Maybe there needs to be a change in understanding of what blended learning actually means – and that working online does not mean having time off which is perhaps what some in senior management believe.

Continue reading

BOT Reflection 1 (Module 2)

Sign up Wiki (Orginally posted Thursday, February 13, 2014) (see opening post for Module 2)

The sign up wiki is a good idea, and it is something that can be easily used in my own classes. But, there are a couple of issues.

1. I’m beginning to know some of the people in the BOT course, but most I still do not know. I also did not really want to be a peer reviewer of someone from my own Centre – I think it is better to see something from a different perspective. This meant that I was choosing ‘blind’. I half made my choice on what the person had suggested as a learning resource on the blog, but then the person who I chose that way asked me to change so that someone else could be her reviewer! In this course it is not really a problem for me, but I could see it would be a problem if trying to get students to do something similar in the first 2 or so weeks of the semester – expecially if they do not know each other. Better to wait until later in the semester.

2. Doing the wiki later in the semester can lead to a second challenge – how do you prevent ‘friends’ grouping together – especially if it is for peer review. Creating too many ‘rules’ would complicate things though, and is it such a problem if friends do group together?  Something I can think about. Peer review is something I’ve known about for years, but never really done (mainly for time and lack of energy reasons).