"Test pattern" bars and text covering an LCD screen.

Using Video Responsibly

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” If that saying is true and one second of video is 30 pictures, then it could be said that a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words! While it is not likely that students glean that much meaning as a video flashes onto their screen, there’s no denying the great power of the moving picture for conveying information and demonstrating technique. But, to repurpose another saying, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Harnessing the power of video in your courses comes with a cost. These days, it’s possible to quickly and cheaply produce video content on nearly any device, but video carries it’s high cost in the data, bandwidth, and hardware requirements necessary for students to access or produce their own. Because video is resource-hungry, it’s important to provide alternative paths for your students in addition to video options. This article aims to describe why it is important to keep this “cost” of video in mind and suggest some strategies you can implement to ensure that your course content is accessible to all students. 

The slings and arrows of outrageous file sizes 

Video files are huge! To help demonstrate how large videos files are in comparison to other types of web content, I ran an experiment. I returned to “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but considered it through the lens of file size instead of knowledge conveyance. I started with 1,000 words and generated a text document containing 1,000 words of Lorem Ipsum. Next, I took the old saying too literally and took a screenshot of those same 1,000 words on my screen and saved it as an image file. Next, I decided to make a video of myself reading 1,000 words using the Kaltura webcam recorder. In a move that will call into question both my scientific and humanities bona fides, I realized that I cannot read Latin, so, for my video dictation, I swapped the 1,000 words of Lorem Ipsum with four consecutive readings of the first 250 words of Hamlet’s soliloquy. The last step of my experiment was to use a free program called VLC to extract the audio from my video recording to create an MP3 audio file. After each step of the experiment I recorded the size of the resulting file. 

Here are my results: 

File Type  Size (Kilobytes)  times larger than text  N downloadable w/ 1GB data 
Text (TXT)  6.58  N/A  159,358 
Image (PNG)  209.07  32  5,015 
Audio (MP3)  4,693.88  713  223 
Video (MP4)  17,327.98  2,633  60 

As you can see, each file type is roughly an order of magnitude larger than the one that precedes it. The 5-minute video recording of me reading 1,000 words of Hamlet is a whopping 2,633 times larger than the 1,000-word text file, 83 times larger than the image file, and nearly 4 times larger than the audio file. Another way to frame this data is to think about how many of each file type could be downloaded with one gigabyte (GB) of cellular data, which is the limited amount of data I thriftily pay for each month with my cellphone plan. My monthly data would be exhausted after watching the video 60 times. I could listen to the audio recording over 200 times, view the picture over 5,000 times, and load the text file nearly 160,000 times in a month without exceeding my data plan! Hopefully, this comparison illustrates just how much larger video files are than pages made up of text and images. My experiment even used perhaps what is a best-case scenario for video files, as Kaltura was able to compress my video’s size to be about 5 times smaller than the raw video file during playback! The results obtained from using a higher-quality or less-efficiently compressed video in this experiment would have been even more evocative. 

Having your cake 🍰 and eating it too 🍴

So, is all this intended to scare you away from using video in your courses? No! Video is a great instructional tool! A September 2020 survey of students who completed the UWGB Impact MBA online bootcamp revealed that 69% of 13 respondents preferred course presentation types that included video. Instead of arguing against using video, I have chosen to demonstrate video’s demanding file sizes to argue that you should use it responsibly by taking steps to ensure that lessons and assessments are accessible for all students, and not just those with easy access to unmetered broadband internet. In a survey of UWGB students conducted in May 2020, when asked to describe the technology the they had to complete their coursework since UWGB shifted to remote instruction, 20% of respondents reported that they had regular access to a computer but not high-speed internet. That’s a significant segment of our student population who would struggle to keep up in a course that used video as the sole medium of instruction. Providing additional lower-bandwidth (i.e. text-based) means to access course lessons can help the students who have wound up on the wrong side of the digital divide achieve positive outcomes. 

A pie chart showing the results of the UWGB Impact MBA online bootcamp survey.
Results of the “Presentation Types” question on the UWGB Impact MBA online bootcamp survey.

Beyond accommodating students with limited internet access, providing additional ways for students to access lessons beyond watching videos will help them learn on-the-go whenever they have a quick opportunity to study on their smartphone. Text-based lesson alternatives can help a student study while away from a solid Wi-Fi connection at home, traveling, or in a break room at work. Another reason to provided additional alternatives to video learning materials is that not all students share the same learning preferences. This practice of providing multiple paths for a learner to access and consume a lesson is one of the central recommendations of the universal design for learning (UDL) framework. UDL revolves around the idea that courses should be designed so that all learners can access and participate in learning opportunities. While universal design is often thought of solely as an accommodation for learners with disabilities, according to Thomas J. Tobin, a leading proponent of UDL, “Universal design goes beyond just assisting those with disabilities and offers benefits for everyone involved in the online learning environment.”

Tobin illustrates the benefits of using UDL in your course design by imagining a lesson where “students can start by watching a short video clip of their professor, print out the text-only version while they are working on an assignment, and then watch the video again with captions turned on while they are studying after the kids have gone to bed” (Source: “Universal Design in Courses: Beyond Disabilities” from the book Planning and Designing Your College Course).

Using video responsibly by incorporating these principles of UDL will not only lessen the effects of the digital divide in your course, it can keep your students engaged in course materials and help them make use of every opportunity they have to study and keep up in your course. 

+1 for captioning 

Retrofitting UDL principles into an existing course can seem like a daunting challenge, but there are some relatively easy and enriching techniques you can use to add additional paths to your video lessons. In his article, “Reaching all learners through their phones and universal design for learning,” Tobin writes that, instead of being overwhelmed by the consideration of every possible alternative format that could be added to each element and interaction in a course, instructors can adopt a “plus one” mindset to identify a single alternate format for multimedia that can be consistently provided throughout a course. The “plus one” mentality can help divide the work of adding UDL design principles to your courses into manageable chunks. 

One potential “plus one” to focus on in your courses using video would be to add closed captions to your videos. Within the Canvas course at UWGB, machine-generated captions can be quickly added to videos created with or uploaded to the Kaltura My Media service at no additional cost to you or the University. The procedure to add these captions to a video can be completed in under a minute and requires only a handful of clicks within Canvas. While the machine generated captions won’t be 100% accurate, even imperfect captions can help your students with their note-taking and comprehension. Whenever you have the time to work on it, the captioning files can be edited via the intuitive captioning editor that is built-in to the Kaltura service to make them 100% accurate and suitable to fill a potential future need for disability accommodations. 

Captioning your Kaltura My Media videos has become even more powerful with a recent addition to the My Media service in Canvas. UW-System has released a new “Transcript” video player that can be used to easily insert a searchable, printable, and downloadable text transcript underneath your videos when they are embedded in Canvas. The transcript video player automatically generates its transcript from your video’s captioning file, so, if your My Media video is captioned, embedding it with the transcript player is easily done through the advanced video embed options. The transcript player makes it simple for your students to download a text version of your video lesson and take it with them on-the-go to study offline. 

Beyond captioning 

Providing captions and transcriptions are far from the only ways to “plus one” your video content and provide additional paths for your students to access and be engaged by course content; podcast-like audio-only versions of course lectures cut down on screen time. You can provide them for students to learn during a commute. A collection of available articles on a lecture topic could provide yet another means for students to engage with a topic. There is also more to using video responsibly than providing alternatives to video content.

Based off of our knowledge of supportingstudies, CATL has long recommended creating videos that are not… long. Another video “responsibility” is to produce multiple short (under 10-minute) videos instead of one long lecture-length video. That strategy helps with the internet bandwidth concern by keeping individual video file sizes down, but it also helps combat the attention and retention problems seen with long videos. Using multiple short videos also provides the opportunity to sprinkle interactions between videos. Imagine creating a Canvas module for a lesson that contains five short videos (with transcriptions) and placing formative quizzes and/or discussion opportunities between them. You can even add interactions right to the video playback experience by using the Kaltura Quiz tool (or, for Fall 2020, by taking part in our pilot of PlayPosit, a new interactive video platform—just ask CATL to join!). Whether added to the videos themselves or included in the structure of a module, those interactive breaks can help your students stay interested in a lesson and help prevent an “ugh, another video!?” feeling. 

We’d like to hear from you

So, do you think you are using video responsibly in your courses? If so, what strategies are you using? If you suspect your video use is an area for growth, what ideas do you have make your use of video more responsible? Do you use tools other than Kaltura for video? What features can you use to help make your courses accessible for all students? What resources would you like CATL to provide? What other ideas do you have for implementing UDL principles in the design of your course content and assessments? Please sound off in the comments or share your questions and ideas in our Solidarity Café.

Until then, as you harness the great power of video in your courses, please remember to wield it with great responsibility! 

A sign pointing one way to "awesome" and the other to "less awesome"

Collecting Mid-Semester Feedback from Your Students

We want to hear from you…

How have you collected feedback from students at mid-semester? Do you have some advice to share about how to increase student engagement with the process? What has been effective when you do make changes? Have you found students are responsive to those changes you are able to implement? 

For those of you who’ve done self-reflective work with students—have you found certain techniques (like those below) particularly effective? Are there others we’re missing? We’re sure of it—please share!

Feel free to drop a public comment below, or, if you’d prefer a closed conversation with colleagues (on this topic or any other), UW-Green Bay instructors and staff can join us in the Solidarity Café.

… and we’re here to help!

Have you been wondering if the ways you’re engaging your students in the first half of the semester have been effective from the student perspective? Collecting feedback from your students is a great way to find out! To do this we have a few models that may provide useful insight into how you can help students meet the course learning outcomes.  

Why might you wish to collect feedback now? 

This semester is unique, so you may find that what you’ve done in the past isn’t hitting its mark—gathering feedback at mid-semester allows instructors to: 

  • make sure that course lessons connected with students 
  • find out where students need support 
  • discover the impact of instructional changes you’ve made this semester before summative course evaluations 
  • uncover changes that you may yet want to make for this semester 
  • avoid surprises in end-of-semester evaluations 

What are some of the best practices for collecting feedback from students, mid-semester? 

CATL interviewed Kris Vespia, Associate Professor in the Psychology department to answer this questionAdditionally, Todd Dresser reviews how to create a survey within Canvas. 

How should I ask students for this kind of feedback? 

We have a few models and sample surveys you can download and import into your Canvas courses. Surveys in Canvas are a special kind of “quiz” that has unique options available. If you’re unsure how to import Canvas resources into your class, see these instructions. For information on how to retrieve survey results in Canvas, see this resource. 

Feedback focus groups 

CATL is currently refining a process that allows for instructors to benefit from feedback generated through a small group discussionThis process involves a neutral third party, a CATL staff member, conducting a form of a focus group with students. This would likely take 15-20 minutes. The feedback from the students is then synthesized and communicated to the instructor. 

Process adapted from Northeastern University’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research 

The steps in this process are: 

  1. The instructor and CATL staff member meet virtually to discuss goals and agree on questions for the session. 
  2. The consultant visits the class or a group of students from the class virtually. The instructor introduces the CATL staff member and explains that they have asked them to gather feedback, then leaves the virtual meeting. 
  3. Students are asked to compile responses to one question. For large classes, students are divided into small groups. The groups then report out while the CATL staff member records responses. This process is repeated for each question. 
  4. The CATL staff member synthesizes the feedback and reports back to the instructor. Themay discuss how the data can inform teaching practices at this point. 

The benefits of this process include: 

  • The feedback is being gathered by a neutral third party, which may encourage honesty among students. 
  • The consultant can help you shape the questions asked of students and interpret results. 

If you’re interested in piloting feedback focus groups, or would like more information about designing or implementing mid-semester evaluations, please email CATL@UWGB.EDU. 

Helping students self-reflect 

Mid-semester is also a time in which you can help your students critically self-reflect on their own actions for their performance at this point in the course. Here are some questions to help frame the ways you’d like students to think metacognitively about their choices throughout the semester: 

  • What do students have the ability to change going forward in the course?  
  • Where might students improve their time management? 
  • Might there be a place for peer-to-peer feedback that could help build community and increase personal responsibility? 
  • What types of assessments might students need to better prepare in order to be successful in the course?  

Borrowed Strategies 

What are some strategies you can provide to students to help them get back on track? Self-reflection, metacognitive exercises, and exam debriefings are a few of the strategies that other teaching and learning centers have created resources around: 

For any of these methods, you could create an assignment that doesn’t count towards the final grade or could be an opportunity for extra credit. Here’s how to set up extra credit in a Canvas course. 

Teaching Resources Around COVID-19

CATL has collected a number of resources to help instructors and academic staff foster a safe and inclusive environment for all students on our campus. In light of the discussion surrounding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the xenophobia, discrimination, fear, and bias that pervades its portrayal in the media, we hope to support and encourage instructors to consider these pedagogical strategies and responses should they happen in your classes or in interactions with students.

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Course Continuity Resources

Inclement weather, natural disasters, or other emergencies may lead to an extended loss of class time. CATL has put together some resources that may help you in planning for the inability to meet in person, and how you may continue to speak with students, guide their learning, and collect assignments and assessments.

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First Week of Class

As the first week of class draws nigh, instructors naturally turn their thoughts to those first moments that form a new community. These initial interactions offer instructors and learners an opportunity to set the tone for learning for the semester. We searched our library and reached out to UW-Green Bay faculty who have presented on their methods for building community and transparency in the first week to share their insights once again. Many thanks to Dr. Jenell Holstead for inspiring our objectives for the first day, and to Drs. Katia Levintova and Carly Kibbe for example icebreakers for building community in large lecture courses.

What are the objectives for the first day:

  • Clarify all reasonable questions students might have about the course (course objectives, assignments, pre-requisites, when you’ll provide feedback, and how and when students should seek help); spotlight important parts of your syllabus and consider asking students to annotate the syllabus either before class or while you’re all meeting for the first time. Suggestions for how to do this are below.
  • Build community and set the tone for the course environment with an introductory activity. Whether you’re teaching online or face-to-face, students are more likely to succeed when they have a greater sense of belonging not only to each other but also to the course design.
  • Convince students of your competence to teach the course, predict the nature of your instruction, and know what is required of them (your expectations about performance in class). When appropriate, consider asking students to generate a class charter for participation so that they have a stake in shaping how and when they will be prepared to come to class. Giving your students some agency encourages them to hold themselves and their peers accountable for their preparedness.
  • Give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are and whatever you plan to do during the semester, do it on the first day. Some instructors ask students to do some “predicting” on the first day of class in order to gauge their expectations and learning goals. Suggestions for how to accomplish this are here.

Man with ice pick chipping away at frozen lakeExamples of Ice Breaker Activities

  1. Sharing Course Trepidations.* Some students have high anxiety about beginning a new course, especially in some courses, such as math or writing, which may be associated with high student anxiety and expectations. Have your students pair up or work in groups to share some of their fears and concerns about starting your course. Groups can share with the larger class if they feel comfortable; this provides validation for the students and an opportunity for the instructor to address student concerns.
  2. Simple Self-Introductions.* Have students introduce themselves to the rest of the class, including their names, majors, and year in school. You can even have them include a “fun fact” about themselves. This also may help you remember them a little bit better. This is a particularly useful exercise in a course where student speaking, in the form of speeches, oral presentations, or regular discussions, are expected.
  3. Getting to Know Each Other through Writing.* Instead of asking students to interview one another verbally, have your students write down the information that is traditionally shared in an introduction. Students can write their names, majors, reasons for enrolling in your course, “fun facts” about themselves, etc. Have your students swap papers with one another and learn about their partners without speaking. This is especially useful in a writing-intensive course.
  4. The M&M Icebreaker. Each student should be given an M&M (or a Lifesaver, or other multicolored candy). They can be given this piece of candy either as they walk in to the room or while they are already sitting in their seats. Develop a few questions or ideas about what students can share with the rest of the class.  Then ask the students to introduce themselves to either a small group of other students or to the whole class, depending on the size of your course.  When they introduce themselves, what they share or say is dependent on the color of their piece of candy.  For example, a red one might mean they share why they decided to take the course or what they did over the school break.
  5. Syllabus Icebreaker.* Before distributing syllabi, have students get into small groups (3-5 students depending on the size of your course) and introduce themselves to one another. In their groups, students write a list of questions they have about the class. After their questions are written down, hand out the syllabus and have the students find answers to their questions using the syllabus. This is not only an icebreaker, but can also show students that many of their questions can be answered by reading the syllabus. Afterward, the class “debriefs” as a large group and discusses any questions that were not answered in the syllabus. 
  6. Syllabus Jigsaw.* Divide your syllabus into a few major sections. Have your students get into groups and distribute one major section to each group (for example, Group A gets “homework assignments”). Each group studies the section of the syllabus until they are confident about the information in it; groups then present that section of the syllabus to the rest of the class.
  7. Common Sense Inventory.* Make a list of true or false statements pertaining to content in your course (for example, in a Biology course, one might read, “Evolution is simply change over time”). Have students get into groups and decide whether each statement is true or false. As a large group, “debrief” by going over the answers and clarifying misconceptions.
  8. Anonymous Classroom Survey.* Write 2 or 3 open-ended questions pertaining to course content. Consider including at least one question that most students will be able to answer and at least one question that students will find challenging. Have your students respond anonymously on note cards; collect the answers to get a general sense of your students’ starting point.
  9. Choose your Thread:* ask students to read the poem “The Way It Is” by William Stafford, and reflect on what their “thread” is and how it sustains them.
  10. Draw* a picture or create a PowerPoint Slide where students can express why they are taking the class.
  11. Bingo: Make a 5×5 grid to use as a Bingo sheet. In each box, write a “fun fact,” or something that at least one of your students will probably relate to. Some examples might be: has traveled to Europe; plays a sport; is left-handed, but they can also be related to your discipline. Have your students walk around and talk to others until they find matches; the first to find all of them “wins.”
  12. Shoes Activity: This activity comes from Dr. Katia Levintova, which she uses in a large lecture class to develop community on the first day. Take a look to see how students’ shoes, a few minutes of silence, and shuffling groups helps her to do this.

(* = suitable for Online or Face-to-Face environments)

Why do an Ice Breaker?

Research around the first weeks of a course indicates that it is not just content expertise that matters to student experience and learning: it is also the environment that the instructor creates–ideally engaging students as active participants (Deluse, 310-312). First impressions are important—from the first time you greet your students to the built or virtual environments in which you teach. Sara Rose Cavanagh shows how students’ first impressions heavily influence their evaluation of courses at the end of the semester. (Cavanagh, 63) 

Email CATL@uwgb.edu if you have an activity for the first week that you would like to share!

Resources

“!2 Icebreakers for the College Classroom” Center for Advancement of Teaching, Ohio State University

Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Cavanagh, Sarah Rose. The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion. First edition. Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 1. Morgantown, West Virginia: West Virginia University Press, 2016. [E-book requires UWGB login]

Deluse, Stephanie. “First Impressions: Using a Flexible First Day Activity to Enhance Student Learning and Classroom Management.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 30, no. 2 (2018): 308–21.

“First Day of Class – Design & Teach a Course.” Carnegie Mellon University. Teaching Excellence & Education Innovation – Eberly Center, 2019. https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/firstday.html.

“First Day of Class Guide.” Vanderbilt University. Center for Teaching, 2010. https://wp0.vanderbilt.edu/cft/guides-sub-pages/first-day-of-class/.

Holstead, Jenell. “Do’s and Don’ts for the First Day of Class.” Presentation Session presented at the Instructional Development Institute, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, January 17, 2018. https://blog.uwgb.edu/catl/files/2018/01/DosDonts.pdf.

Jaggars, Shanna Smith, and Di Xu. “How Do Online Course Design Features Influence Student Performance?” Computers & Education 95 (April 2016): 270–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2016.01.014.

Kibbe, Carly, and Katia Levintova. “Building Community in Large Lecture Classes.” University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, January 28, 2018.

Samudra, Preeti G., Inah Min, Kai S. Cortina, and Kevin F. Miller. “No Second Chance to Make a First Impression: The ‘Thin‐Slice’ Effect on Instructor Ratings and Learning Outcomes in Higher Education.” Journal of Educational Measurement 53, no. 3 (2016): 313–331. https://doi.org/10.1111/jedm.12116.