The paradigm change in education after the COVID-19 pandemic is evident. Even long before the pandemic, efforts were made to change the way we relay information to students, but most lecturers were caught unprepared when “distance education” made an unexpected appearance in the system. Our vocabulary has expanded with the addition of new terms, a few of many being “e-learning”, “learning management system (LMS)”, “synchronous/asynchronous learning”, “self-paced learning”, “virtual classroom” or “distance education” itself.
Moving the classroom in front of a computer screen required different lecture designs and one of the suggestions was shortening of lecture times. This requirement created a need for preparation of asynchronous lecture materials – i.e. materials that can be accessed independently at any time and worked through at the student’s own pace. Clearly, it is possible to suggest articles or videos to the students for further reading/watching. However, wouldn’t it be nice to create a video, an image, a 360° image, or a virtual reality (VR) environment where you can insert your notes, voice, or even some questions to get feedback from the students?
Even though your answer is yes to the question above, there are some obstacles to doing so. It is possible to embed a video from a common source (e.g YouTube). However, if you want to edit the video, you need to download it which is not allowed for copyright reasons. Even though you can create videos from lecture slides with Zoom or PowerPoint, there are lots of nice and ready animations out there. Second, technical skills are needed for editing pictures and videos. If you are already competent with a software, then time would be your only investment. However, most of us have not mastered such tools, so the barrier is higher. Searching for the right program, buying if necessary, and sparing the time to learn is a big commitment. Finally, we need a platform to bring our videos together with the students. Using an LMS helps but not always solves the problem.
Feeling down and want to give up? Wait! There are some e-tools to help you.
I am going to introduce two websites that might be useful to overcome these barriers: Edpuzzle and ThingLink. I discuss these not because they are the only options or necessarily the best ones, but these are the ones I have used and know. Both are free to use with additional features becoming available with paid versions.
Edpuzzle: “Make any video your lesson”
As their motto suggests, you can use any video to create a learning material. One of the main advantages of using Edpuzzle is making all video manipulations within the website. Thus, you don’t have to download any material to your computer. Besides, their collaboration with YouTube gives the opportunity to use YouTube videos without any copyright infringement. You can also upload your own videos.
Edpuzzle offers various tools to edit a video. First, there is the “Cut” tab where you can trim the videos to get rid of the unwanted parts. Let’s say you have a 40-minute-long lecture recorded previously, but you want to use some 5-minute-long part from the middle and 10-minute-long part from the end. Just cut the parts you want, and you have your 15 minutes video ready in a short time. This feature is also handy when using YouTube videos considering most of them start with a “Welcome to my channel!” announcement.
Another option provided by Edpuzzle is “Voiceover”. It allows you to speak over a video if it is uploaded by you. For example, I have used this feature to create a video previously recorded in my lab microscope where I could explain the events for relevant scenes. However, it is not possible to use this feature in YouTube videos because of the copyright arrangement between parties.
The “Questions” tab offers addition of notes and questions inside the video. In this scenario, the video is automatically paused, and your note or question appears. There are two types of notes: readable and audible. Notes are very useful to point out specific moments and give further explanations in an ongoing video.
Until this moment, asynchronous interaction with our students was one-way, from us to them, but a final editing option, adding questions, changes this and now we can start to collect feedback. Multiple-choice and open-ended question types are available. The answers are collected in a gradebook of the classroom and can be exported as an Excel file if needed.
To sum up, you can find, edit and share a video with an option to grade the answers to questions embedded in one platform. Splendid technological skills are not needed to do so. There are several other advantages, like using it synchronously in the classroom with a “Go Live” option or integration with commonly used LMSs. Further information and “how to videos” can be found in their YouTube channel.
ThingLink: “Create visual experiences for student-centered learning”
ThingLink offers tools for creation of interactive videos, images, virtual tours and more. There is also a VR glasses option for prepared materials. You can directly upload your images or videos, use free images from Unsplash, transfer from Google Drive or OneDrive, or start designing something new with Canva – these are integrated within the system. Whatever visual material you select, there are many modification options such as pop-up notes, YouTube videos, music, buttons for links to other websites, image gallery (embed in your image or video), and even other interactive content created by ThingLink (“ThingLinkception”?). Adding all these modifications can be easily made by several clicks. Therefore, it is appropriate to say your creativity is the only limit!
When you start to create a content item, a short introductory video appears. Also, ready-made samples are available, shown as “Best examples”, and understanding how modifications work is easy by investigating these. For example, I have created a 360° image for laboratory introduction and safety rules to help newcomers, with red exclamation icons to teach important rules, pink book icons to explain the working principle of the instruments with troubleshooting guides linked, and green information icons telling where the sterile pipette tips are. Students can hover the mouse over the icons to reveal information hidden so you can put all related knowledge inside one picture.
There are various e-tools that we can use to help us in our pursuit to be good educators. Such tools can be used to overcome the issues that arose in distance learning, make educational activities more interesting in the classroom, and give options to create blended learning courses.
Top image of post: by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay