Why I love BoB (Box of Broadcasts)

This post has been written by Dr Karla Benske, a lecturer in GCU LEAD.

Since I will be missing this month’s Blended Learning Coffee Club, I thought that least I can do is let you all know why I love BoB (Box of Broadcasts). It is a subscription service and GCU is one of the many institutions in the UK who have subscribed to its service. I was introduced to BoB in early 2014 through a GCU Library presentation on BoB and what can I say? It was love at first sight. An archive that covers well over 60 different TV and Radio channels, including foreign language ones (mainly French and German), that allows subscribers to request and record programmes within 30 days of broadcast (up to 5 requests per day!) and that offers additional access to the BBC archive of programmes broadcast before BoB was born. On top of that, users can create clips from programmes to focus on one specific item or theme, rather than watching the whole programme. I find this particularly useful for the classroom, when there is not enough time to watch or listen to a lengthy broadcast. Please note: I am not terribly good at dealing with technical things, like using software to make a clip, but within BoB and, with a little bit of practice, it is actually very easy to do it. What is not to love about that?

BoB enables us as academics to embed programmes or clips into our teaching delivery, be it in the classroom or online. It therefore allows for a varied learning experience for students, complementing a lecture, seminar, or the preparation for class and/or an assessment. It captures or re-captures students’ attention and supports those with learning styles that prefer audio-visual to text-based information. Moreover, from an accessibility point of view, most television programmes have a transcript that runs parallel to the streaming, which is great, although this is not yet available for radio programmes.

Some may say, ‘Well, that sounds great, but how does that work?’ Firstly, to log on, all you need is to click on the login button, choose your institution and follow the instructions (for GCU staff/students it’s your GCU domain name and password). If your institution has not subscribed to the service, you won’t be able to access BoB, unfortunately. However, I would hope that it encourages you to suggest to the appropriate persons that a BoB subscription may be worthwhile for your institution. Secondly, an example: for the FAIR Curriculum workshop I use four clips from the film ‘Freedom Writers’ to frame the workshop and to:

  • showcase how students might feel excluded;
  • show a ‘hot moment’ in the classroom to encourage discussion;
  • identify ways to engage disaffected students;
  • to teach them to relate their personal experiences of discrimination to historical events and learn about the theories derived from researching specific historical events.

Screen shot of BOB playlist page

For me personally, the beauty of using these clips is that they demonstrate in different stages how we can use L&T approaches to make our teaching more inclusive and accessible. The fact that these are film clips also makes it more engaging and it triggers discussions, which I find, is any teacher’s dream come true.

Yes, some may argue that using a US film about a teacher and her students in a State High School in one of the most deprived areas of Los Angeles does not relate to anything we do here at GCU. That is a fair point. But what I am trying to showcase is not the context, but to encourage participants to discuss the teacher’s responses to the challenges she encounters and how her approaches enables all the students, regardless of their backgrounds and/or learning abilities to participate, aspire and achieve a High School education. In my view, such discussions open up space for ideas and for identifying solutions to the challenges that we face and it encourages us to reflect upon our teaching practice.

Another hobbyhorse of mine is listening to the radio and BoB gives me the opportunity to hold on to those snippets that grab one’s attention, but are gone within minutes. Here, like with the television programmes, it is the fact that now I can share these snippets that caught my attention and made me think about something for a little while after listening to the radio.

However, being in love also comes with some downsides, things one has to learn to accept and tolerate and BoB is no different. There are occasional hiccups, like the ‘programme unavailable to stream’ message, when you want to play something or a recording that has become stuck in recording mode. The former normally sorts itself out after a while or after a few retries, the latter can be resolved by contacting BoB by email. BoB’s FAQ section is very good and comprehensive and when I contact BoB by email, there is always a response within a short period of time. Another bugbear is the fact that, unfortunately, BoB is only available within the UK and will not allow the streaming of programmes outwith the country. So, we can’t use BoB for conference presentations, which I had hoped I could. And I don’t know how this affects internationally available online courses, although I would hope that a solution for the latter could be found. Why? Well, after participating in a number of MOOCs out of curiosity and to learn how others run online courses, I have to say that watching talking heads for weeks is not the most engaging way of learning and teaching and being able to incorporate clips of radio and television programmes is a way of breaking up this particular pattern of delivery without having to rely too much on YouTube and other means of embedding audio-visual material.

Overall, I am in love with BoB, despite the few setbacks I mentioned above. Only this morning, when logging on to BoB, I saw a recommended listing on the homepage that made me curious and after watching the programme for short while, I decided to make use of it. I would have never recorded it, but thanks to someone else who did, I had the fortune of finding yet another gem in BoB’s treasure trove for my learning and teaching practice. Another plus side of BoB is that you can search for other users’ playlists. Although the search for playlists is a bit clunky (you need to put in the exact name of the playlist), it allows for colleagues to share their lists and to see what other people have put together in relation to a specific topic. Feel free to search for and have a look at my (ever expanding) GCU_KHB_FAIR_Curriculum Playlist. BoB can be followed on Twitter @bufvc_bob, which is another way of keeping up with the latest, and how I came across a ‘World Autism Day Playlist’ that was shared by using the BoB Twitter feed. It also includes information on some of the hiccups as they happen.

Please do logon to BoB (for GCU staff/students: user domain and password) and explore it for yourself. It’s definitely worth it!

4th Online development meeting: Dr Christine Sinclair: silence, not-yetness, manifestos, and much more

We were delighted that Dr Christine Sinclair (University of Edinburgh) was able to join us this early today for our 4th online development meeting.

Christine has a wealth of experience in online learning and teaching.  Hearing about her journey from student on the MSc in Digital Education  to her current position where she is about to take over as the Programme Director was fascinating.

some things I've learned

Christine’s recent experiences as a student have really shaped her thinking, design and teaching of her current online programmes. Christine has also been part of the pioneering MOOC developments at Edinburgh  and is part of a team that regularly teaches cohorts of nearly 50,000 students.

Christine’s presentation highlighted some key areas around the student experience that we are already thinking about, particularly around student engagement.

We talked quite a bit around the dreadful “lurking” issue. As Christine pointed out, in online situations, silence has many meanings, and many of them are positive. Dialogue is important but can be scary for learners and academics alike. We need to think about our own preferences for synchronous and asynchronous activities, our own conventions and in partnership with students develop effective learning environments.

This relates to learner confidence. Whilst many online learning scenarios seem to naturally create supportive peer networks, we can’t assume that they always will – particularly in masters level courses where students have many other pressures on their time.

Christine shared some lovely examples of how group working and had fostered peer reassurance and support in her students.   Expectations need to be explicit.   Learners need to know the amount of time, the types of technology and activities they will be expected to use.

Similarly staff need to be realistic about their time and not succumb to the temptation of checking things just before going to bed, or if they wake up in the middle of the night 🙂 Staff time is often underestimated and we are keen to ensure that we start to get a realistic view of the actual time involved in developing and running fully online courses from our teams.

Team course design, development  and regular meetings to catch up on what is working well/not so well have become  integral to Christine’s team.  So although Christine warned about the danger of “fiddling in the middle” (of a course that is running) she also  advocated the need for experimentation and the mind set of “let’s try and see”. We were pointed to work her colleagues Jen Ross and Amy Collier have just published around what they are calling “not-yetness”. Jen and Amy use this term to describe the messiness and not fully understood “stuff” that is often experienced when developing online learning and teaching.

We were also reminded of the online teaching manifesto that Christine and her colleagues developed and are currently revising. There seemed to be some appetite to create a GCU version of this. So the Blended Learning Team will do just that and share for comment/suggestions in a future post.

All in all a really useful session and once again we’d like to thank Christine for taking the time to share her experiences with us here at GCU.

 GCU_Sinclair (slides .ppt)

Blended Learning Team at Blackboard, #oer15 and Talis Insight Conferences

The Blended Learning Team were out and about last week presenting and participating at a number of national and international conferences.

Jim Emery attended the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference at the University of Liverpool. Jim presented a paper titled “ Rubrics – Turnitin, Blackboard and Excel”.  Jim was also part of a panel session on delivering MOOCs using the Blackboard Open Education Platform where he shared experiences of last year’s GCU Games On event.

Sheila MacNeill was a keynote speaker at the international OER 15 conference at the Royal College of Music and Drama in Cardiff last week.  Her keynote “Airing my Open Washing” dealt with some of the challenges of mainstreaming open educational practice.  A recording of the presentation is available here.

Sheila was also an invited speaker at the learning analytics session at the Talis Insight Conference in Birmingham. As well as presenting on developments at GCU, Sheila was also part of an expert panel.

Don’t make Assumptions about Learning Technology Awareness

There are so many available tools to assist learning and technology that it is important to remember that not everybody knows them all. This post features a brief report by a colleague who attended a workshop in the USA. She admits to being not the most technologically aware of lecturers but you can read her surprise and delight that her contribution had a beneficial impact on a particular session.

Some background: Sabine McKinnon is Senior Lecturer in GCULead with a special interest in internationalisation. She is an active participant in the COIL initiative and this contribution comes from her recent visit to their annual conference in New York

COIL logo 1Introducing Padlet to the COIL community

I recently attended a workshop called Pedagogies, Technologies and Digital Worlds at the 7th annual conference of the COIL (Collaborative On-line International Learning) Center at the State University New York (SUNY). The COIL approach connects students and staff in universities in different countries through using technology in the subject specific teaching.
Academic colleagues collaborate on module design and delivery to enable their students to work together with their peers on a project/ topic in their field. Students communicate entirely on-line throughout the collaboration.

The workshop presented 3 activities that can assist academics in delivering the COIL experience and introduced us to tools we can use for delivering joint workshops on-line. The themes were: driving initial student interaction, forming a functioning team, and collaborating internationally.

As an icebreaker for the second activity we were asked to find an image on-line which would represent a learning tool we used in our childhood but is considered ‘old fashioned’ nowadays. I chose an old fashioned radio. We were then asked to post that image to the participants of the workshop and invite comments. The instructor asked us to post it to a reconfigured Doodle poll which seemed very clunky to me and everybody else.

It was then that I realised that ‘padlet’ would be the ideal tool for this exercise. I had only recently been introduced to it myself but have found it particularly useful and easy to use. When I asked “why don’t we use padlet?” there was silence in the room. Nobody had ever heard of it. Given that the audience consisted of international specialists in using technology for learning I was surprised. Within minutes everybody started using padlet and it worked beautifully. We could see each others’ images and comment on them. We got comments like ‘padlet is neat’ and ‘why didn’t I know about this before?’ After the workshop people approached me to thank me for the tip and said that discovering padlet had been the best thing about the conference.

Padlet has been around for some time now and may be better known as Wallwisher. There are many uses for it but one we are looking at in GCU is for preparing students for using social media in their learning activities. The traditional padlet( wall) is called free form and is really an electronic version of putting the dreaded post-it notes on to a board to record ideas and questions at workshops. (How many times have you photographed or ‘written-up’ such activity boards at the end of an event?). Using padlet makes this kind of activity readily available and can be embedded within your VLE (Blackboard in our case). It was successfully used in last year’s GCUGameson running on Blackboard’s open education platform.

The ability to change layouts however to either a grid (similar to Pinterest) or in this case, the stream version has further benefits. Staff and students who are reluctant or unwilling to use twitter can use and participate the stream layout to replicate a twitter stream. padlet3In padlet you can add comments, images and files so it is not only text just like….Twitter!

So if you have reluctant users of social media, it is possible to see  padlet as a stage in the move towards using  Twitter in learning and teaching. Now there’s another topic to be considered.