Media and Learning Conference 2018 – Leuven, Belgium

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As a grateful recipient of a UCISA DEC Bursary I was fortunate enough to travel to Leuven in Belgium for the Media and Learning Conference. This blog post is a reflection on the presentations and discussions.

There was a lot of topics, formats, points of view and discussions that it is difficult to provide a coherent linear narrative, so instead I will discuss a few different topics.

Copyright

Anna Mazgal from Wikimedia and Bartolomeo Meletti from Learning on Screen shared their thoughts and advice on dealing with copyright and intellectual property. It’s an intimidating and often ignored topic. Lectures often want black and white answers, but with copyright law the answer is usually ‘it depends’. This means that there is a perception that it’s too complicated and people often avoid the topic entirely, either by refraining from including any copyright material or including it regardless of the law. In reality the law is generally more permissive than we may think, and the many exceptions provide means of including copyrighted material into our lectures, videos, presentations, etc. One useful resource that tried to explain the differences between countries is copyrightexceptions.eu. It’s worth exploring to get a good overview of what we might be able to use.

Personally I also wanted to find out if Brexit will have a big impact on this, but Bartolomeo did not think so, which was reassuring. There may be small challenges but overall it’s not likely to change, as many regulations are embedded in UK law already.

Virtual Reality and 360 Video

There was quite a lot of discussion about Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and 360 video. I highlight two projects below.

Kristof Cleymans and Annelies Huysentruyt from Artevelde University College talked about how they used 360 video and multi-camera recordings in nursing courses.

To better prepare nurse students for an upcoming practical exam, they gave them an opportunity to view the simulation room where the assessment will take place ahead of time. They took 360 videos and pictures, and annotated them with Vizor to show things like content of cupboards and available equipment. The feedback was very positive. The examiners really appreciated that students arrived at the examination much better briefed, and they were able to spend time discussing the assessment rather than familiarising students with the rooms.

Kristof and Annelies also worked on recording clinical assessments from multiple angles, specifically for feedback purposes. They were asked for help as that particular year there about three times more students in the cohort to give feedback for. Teachers were worried about the quality of the feedback. The recordings meant they were able to provide feedback to whole groups of students at the same time, and the feedback was much more accurate as they did not have to rely on memory. Additional benefit was that the feedback included a lot more positive observations and praise, rather than just focusing on the mistakes. The setup consisted of a few webcams positioned out of the way around the assessment room.

The second project involved Rob Higson and Matt Howcroft from University of Derby working with a literature lecturer. The lecturer said that first year students are really unprepared for studying poetry and wanted to create a resource that would help her address that. The team produced a 360 video that walks the students through a poem, comprised of many creative pieces of footage. The 360 let the students watch and create their own journey through it, whilst listening to a performance of the poem. Some students were given the opportunity to view it using VR which was received very positively. One important piece of advice said to slow everything down and make the cuts a lot gentler than usual, as it is not clear where the students might be looking at any given moment and sharp changes could disorient them, ruining the experience. To ensure students get the most out of it, the video was preceded with explanations on what to consider whilst watching and how it ties to the theory explored in the module.

You can watch the video below.

Video Assessment, Video Quality and Lecturer Performance

There were several discussions and presentations which explored the nature and purpose of video in education and assessment.

A long discussion ensued on why we might use video assessment, why ask students to make videos. There was a general consensus that the main reason is that digital literacy is becoming more important all the time. Tools to produce video are widely available and just as essay writing asks students to think critically, engage with existing literature, etc., in addition to the actual content, video format asks them to learn new software, think about data and formats, consider storage and sharing, etc. The speciality of video is providing an opportunity to learn the many digital skills in an authentic context.

Due to variety of formats and styles using rubrics to mark is very important to achieve consistency. Getting students to submit a storyboard or script beforehand that’s graded is also very useful, to help them with planning as the temptation is just to start shooting, and we all know how important pre-production is.

Jeanine Reutemann from Leiden University talked about quality of video. She mentioned it’s quite a hard thing to talk about that we like watching some people and not others. Performance in front of camera really matters and is a bit unpredictable. It’s a skill. Also clearly there is a close relationship between someone’s performance and the way we shoot, communicate, and direct them. We should be mindful that the speaker will be influenced and potentially thrown by the setup. Bright lights, microphones, potentially many people hanging around. There is an intensity that doesn’t suit everyone. We should be mindful and consider how we can get the most out of someone’s style.

Also, let’s not put PowerPoint slides into VR.

Format

A few words on the organisation of the conference as I found it interesting. There were several formats running in parallel. First, is the familiar presentation with questions at the end. Those were limited to about 20 minutes each which was great for concentration. Secondly, there was a cinema which screened educational movies and projects at several points. Next, were the small workshops which focused on specific pieces of software that let you try them out with an expert. Finally, there was the discussion groups. Those were great in theory as the room was setup in a big circle, and the facilitators encouraged discussions between participants. However there were a few people introduced as “experts” who framed the discussion by talking about a few projects of their own. This changed the focus of the room from an open discussion between peers, to a panel session with unusual sitting. It was a wasted opportunity in my opinion, especially as only one facilitator had an activity planned and the rest of the sessions were unstructured. I see a lot of educational conferences falling back on lectures, and ignoring our own advice and not taking enough risks with formats, activities and approaches.

Overall, I think the conference was great. It allowed many new ideas and successes to be shared, but also allowed us to see that we are struggling with very similar issues (such as lecture capture adoption, see this paper by Emily Nordman et al. https://psyarxiv.com/fd3yj/).

What next?

Please feel free to leave a comment, or email me (matt.goral@city.ac.uk), about anything that resonated with you.

I would also like to ask if you’d be interested in a webinar where you are able to ask me about the conference in more detail. If so, please leave a short comment, or email me saying you would be interested, and what you would like to talk about.

 

P.S. The featured picture is a photo of an untitled sculpture by Gregg Louis shown as part of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour which happened to coincide with the conference.

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