An understanding of the constraints and benefits of different technology
While I am employed primarily as a technical specialist, it is important to remember that learning is the first and foremost priority of everything we produce in the Multimedia Unit (MMU) at the School of Health and Wellbeing (SHaW), University of Wolverhampton. The MMU has invested in a wide range of audio/visual equipment such as SLR cameras, video cameras, digital audio recorders, a green screen and studio lighting; and a variety of different software such as the Adobe Creative Suite of multimedia development tools, Articulate ELearning Studio for creation of interactive presentations, quizzes and interactive learning content and Adobe Captivate for screen capture and software simulation. It is vital that I think carefully about the application of the tools and techniques at my disposal. The MMU is not in the business of creating “bells and whistles” purely for entertainment. Our primary goal at the end of the development process is to have created a resource that will engage the learner with the subject matter and provide effective learning experiences.
We have been able to add value to the student experience in a variety of ways.
- Make better use of tutor time. By moving theory content online to be accessed by students in preparation for sessions, tutors are able to make better use of the face to face time they have with students to engage in more active learning such as practicing clinical skills, discussions and group activities.
- Contextualise Theory. We have successfully used video materials to put theoretical content in a real world context for students. This was particularly effective in a first year undergraduate module in Research Awareness for Healthcare Professionals, where videos of working researchers were used to emphasise the key themes in the learning materials.
- Demonstration and Scenario. We are able to use video, animation and simulation to provide learning experiences where students need to learn about things which they would be unable to see in reality (such as internal anatomy and physiology) or which may pose a danger to the student or patient (for example, using of a defibrillator or treating respiratory arrest).
Multimedia development can be expensive. As a Unit we have already made a significant investment in the tools, equipment and software so we have the necessary resources for developing most types of multimedia learning materials. However, it is important to consider the hidden costs of multimedia development such as the investment of staff time. For example, post-production of video can be time intensive, with one day of filming taking several days or even longer to edit, depending on the complexity of the project. We also work collaboratively with academic colleagues and subject matter experts from partner organisations when creating learning materials so their time and expenses need to be taken into consideration. Just because we have the resources and skills that mean we can produce something does not mean that we always should. The costs of development must be balanced against the following:
- What are the expected benefits for students? Will they outweigh the costs of development?
- What is the re-usability of the finished materials – are they relevant for more than one program of study, or across professional groups?
- What is the life expectancy of the materials? Are they time sensitive or will they be suitable for future cohorts of students?
- Do similar materials already exist as open educational resources? Have we produced something in-house for another course that would be fit for purpose? Could we utilise materials that have been produced by other HEIs or organisations to achieve the same learning outcomes?
Technical knowledge and ability in the use of learning technology
As described above, I use a wide range of learning technologies in my role as Multimedia Learning Development Officer at the University of Wolverhampton. My professional background is in web development so my specialist activities are the creation of web pages and interactive multimedia, as well as aspects of usability and the accessibility of all types of online materials. A large part of my role involves the creation of interactive multimedia to enhance classroom based sessions or facilitate learning at a distance. My role also involves supporting staff to create their own multimedia learning materials. In addition, I engage with learning technologies such as social media and blogs to assist with my own continuing professional development.
Some examples of my work are shown below:
These screenshots show some of the multimedia learning materials I produced as part of a module in mentorship that is delivered wholly online as continuing professional development for qualified Nurses. I produced learning objects using Adobe Flash, such as interactive animations for information delivery and self assessment activities. The variety of different types of learning object developed for this project enabled me to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of learning activity for online learners and inform the recommendations I make as part of other projects. Caroline Lowe, Senior Lecturer and Admissions Tutor with whom I worked on this project has kindly provided a testimonial of her experiences working with me on development projects. Click here to read a copy of her testimonial.
These screenshots show the NasoGastric Intubation web resource. This resource was written by Karen Green, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing as part of a project for her Masters Degree. I worked in collaboration with Karen to build the architecture of a website which would deliver learning materials to students which they would access during their personal study time in preparation for skills practice using the simulated patient mannequin in the skills laboratory areas at the university. The learning materials consisted of text written by Karen, videos directed by Karen and edited by the Multimedia Technician (a student on a placement year in the MMU) under my supervision and interactive quizzes which I built using Adobe Flash. One of the lessons learned from this project was the importance of setting realistic objectives and timescales, as the project brief needed to be modified several times during the project lifecycle. Karen has kindly written a testimonial about working with me on this project. Click here to read her testimonial.
Supporting the deployment of learning technologies
Supporting Groups of Academics through Workshops and Away Days
During a school wide staff development day in January 2012 I assisted the MMU Academic Translators by supporting a workshop. The aim of the workshop was to prepare staff for marking assignments which would be submitted electronically via the PebblePad eportfolio system. The need for a workshop was identified when PebblePad was chosen as the submission method for an interprofessional module involving all students on undergraduate degree program in nursing and midwifery, and facilitated by an interprofessional team of academic staff from all fields. While some academic teams had been using PebblePad successfully for some time, other departments had little or no experience of the eportfolio system and many believed marking “on screen” would be difficult. I helped the MMU Academic Translators to plan the workshop which included a demonstration of the marking process and highlighted some of the helpful time saving options e.g. comment bank linked to the marking descriptors to aid student feedback. It was a practical workshop where tutors experienced both sides of the process, first uploading a mock assignment as if they were a student, then marking each others assignments as if they were a tutor. My role during the workshop was to provide technical support and encouragement to participants. Following the workshop I worked with colleagues who became interested in implementing PebblePad submission on their own modules as a result of their participation. Participating in the support and delivery of this workshop helped me to gain a better understanding of the concerns of academic colleagues around e-submission of assignments and digital marking. It was also useful for me to view in real time, the issues that our members of staff encounter when working with the PebblePad system as it has improved the quality of support and advice that I can offer. Click here to view a screenshot of comments from Marking in PebblePad Workshop – January 2012
Supporting Individuals through 1-to-1 Support
In addition to the development of bespoke multimedia learning materials, I also support staff to create their own. This includes the loan of equipment such as digital audio recorders and the turning point audience response system, providing technical support in the use of equipment, and elearning development software such as Articulate Studio, and providing pedagogic advice on the planning and development of materials using the tools provided.
For example, I recently worked with a member of the midwifery academic team to produce a reusable learning object on maternity care for nursing students. Initially I met with the whole midwifery academic team to discuss the learning objectives of the RLO, brainstorm some ideas and suggest some solutions that met the needs of the learner. I then worked closely with the Senior Lecturer who was leading the delivery of the project. I provided technical guidance to her on the use of the Articulate Studio development software, and advised on best practices for usability such as using appropriate signposting to guide learners through the RLO. I supported the Multimedia Development Assistant during her involvement in the project, as she sourced royalty free imagery to ensure the RLO adhered to copyright restrictions and translated some of the content from its original format into the RLO. While the end result of this project was successful in achieving the required learning objectives for students, there were some difficulties that we encountered with the development software used. These experiences were the protagonist for the development of a structured quality evaluation process which is discussed in the Communication section of this portfolio.
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the screen shots and read more details. Emma Whapples, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery has kindly provided a testimonial of her experience of working with me on this project and supporting her in general with her use of learning technologies. Click here to read the testimonial.