I actively keep up to date with developments in the wider elearning community by:
- Attendance at appropriate events e.g. BETT 2013 and Technology in Higher Education Summit, HEaTED Regional Network Events
- Attendance at virtual events and webinars such as HEA Changing the Learning Landscape, Adobe eSeminars, Learning and Skills Group
- Subscription to e-journals and newsletters such as JISC Digital Media, Learning and Skills Group, Higher Education Academy, Adobe Education, ALT,
- Following social media channels (facebook, twitter, linkedin groups) of relevant organisations e.g. JISC Digital Media, W3C, HEaTED, Creative Commons, HEFCE, Jorum Resources, Adobe Creative Juices
I see this combination of informal learning activities as an important part of my continuing professional development because it helps me to evaluate my work within the SHaW MMU in a wider context. For example, my visit to BETT 2013 provided me with an opportunity to see other elearning professionals present their projects, and compare the processes and finished products with my own. I was able to identify similarities with my own work, reinforcing existing good practice whilst aligning opportunities to improve working processes for future projects.
Understanding and engaging with legislation, policies and standards
My role involves the creation of multimedia learning resources that are generally accessed by learners via the VLE as an essential part of their studies. As a higher education institution in the UK, all online course materials are subject to the legal requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore must be accessible by all staff and students including those with a disability. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative provides a set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WAI WCAG), which offer a useful set of benchmarks by which to evaluate online materials and identify issues that may conflict with the legal requirements of the Equality Act.
Specific WAI WCAG recommendations relevant to the delivery of multimedia and online learning content include:
- providing text based alternatives to any non-text content such as images, video or audio
- ensuring interactive content can be navigated using a keyboard as well as a mouse
- keeping layout and navigation consistent so that working through content is predictable
- providing flexibility to change sizes, colours and layout of information where possible
Additional guidance is also available from sources such as JISC TechDIS.
Due to the nature of the courses available in the School of Health and Wellbeing, students with sever physical impairment are unlikely to enrol, however it is still important for me to take into consideration impairments of sight or hearing and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia when developing new materials. For me, building in accessibility as an anticipatory measure using the WAI WCAG recommendations should be seen as an integral part of a development project, not an additional requirement. Providing accessible materials not only benefits disabled students by allowing them to fully engage in the learning experience, but also provides added flexibility for all students in the way they choose to interact with learning content. For example, students with no impairments may read a transcript rather than watch a video or listen to a podcast depending on their learning preferences. What I have learned from studying accessibility as part of my MA and implementing these guidelines in my work is that accessibility should be planned into a project from the start rather than trying to retrofit it later on.
An example of where I build accessibility into learning materials is in the production of e-lectures. I produce e-lectures in collaboration with academic colleagues from PowerPoint slides, using Articulate Studio or Adobe Captivate to convert the slides to e-lecture format. As a minimum standard, the PowerPoint slides are enhanced with a recorded voiceover and will be complete with slide notes acting as a transcript. This means students can choose to access the information via the audio, the visuals or a combination of the two. E-lectures will also be kept relatively short (compared with traditional two-hour face to face lectures) as students with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia may find it difficult to concentrate for prolonged periods of time. E-lectures are packaged as a SCORM compliant reusable learning objects (RLOs) so that they can be shared in the VLE and student engagement with the individual RLOs can be monitored. As a measure of added flexibility, a copy of the original PowerPoint is also uploaded alongside the e-lecture for students to manipulate into the most suitable format for their needs, such as altering font styles or colours.
The use of online and blended learning approaches to module delivery within SHaW is increasing. As a result the use of high quality multimedia has become more in demand. In particular, videos demonstrating clinical skills, simulating acute scenarios or contextualising theory are seen as a valuable method of delivering information and engaging students. As part of my role I am required to carry out the planning, recording, post-production and delivery of these types of multimedia.
A major consideration when recording and producing multimedia is consent. While there is no legal requirement for the institution to gain consent from participants in video or audio recordings, there are ethical considerations. For example:
- Participants in any recordings should be give sufficient information about the project to allow them to decide whether or not they wish to take part
- They should understand the exact nature of how the recordings will be used, particularly if they will be publicly available via the internet such as on websites like YouTube or as Open Educational Resources (OERs).
- They should receive a verbal and written explanation of exactly what they are agreeing to by giving their consent such as signing a consent form following a thorough briefing
When inviting individuals to participate in a project involving multimedia recordings I ensure that they are sent information about the aims and objectives of the learning materials we are hoping to create and a filming schedule detailing what we plan to record. I will also send a copy of our OER consent form so they can read it in advance of the recording date and invite them to ask any questions they may have. Previously, the consent forms that were available within the institution were for marketing materials and weren’t appropriate for the way OERs are used and shared. The MMU now use a form adapted from those made available by JISC for Open Educational Resources and I ensure that these are completed for all recording projects. I also verbally explain to participants what they will be consenting to by signing the form and how we plan to use the materials before beginning any recordings.
Gaining informed consent is very important for me as a learning technology professional, because if a participant decides withdraw their consent at any time during the process that could have serious implications for the future of the project; for example it could cause the project to miss key milestones or run over budget which could in turn jeopardise future projects. This would be a particular risk for projects that are funded/commissioned by external stakeholders or are intended to be used as part of revenue generating activities.
One example of where gaining informed consent was crucial to the success of a project was when producing video materials as part of a learning package on dementia. As part of the project I filmed a woman telling the experiences of caring for her husband who had died from early onset dementia in his early forties. As she was involved in the planning of the project she had sufficient understanding of what would be involved before she agreed to the filming. I explained the open educational resources consent form, and while she was happy to be filmed as part of the production of the learning materials for this project she did not wish for the recordings to be made publicly available through an OER repository or website. As her story was extremely personal she agreed to give her consent for filming as long as she was able to have some editorial control of the finished product and that it was only used for the purposes agreed as part of the project. After negotiating the terms of consent, the consent form was amended according to the verbal agreement we had made and we were able to begin filming her story. The resulting recordings provide healthcare students with an invaluable resource on some of the issues of respect and dignity for patients, and communicating with patients and their families from a service user perspective as well as the signs and symptoms of the condition. The woman has subsequently consented to make further contributions to the project so that a more comprehensive learning package on dementia care can be produced to educate health professionals and also the families/carers of dementia patients.