Providing videos and optional labs to support students acquire eLiteracy and ESL skills

Dr Sybil Nolan’s subject “Writing and Editing for Digital Media” has a diverse cohort who have differing levels of digital technology skills. She found in 2013 that tutorials were straying from the essential content, in order to support students in familiarisation with WordPress (blogging software), social media channels and the Mac platform. Some students were also struggling with English as a second language (ESL). Based on the research of Winter, Cotton, Gavin and Yorke (2010) and Briguglio and Watson (2014), and on principles outlined in the University of Melbourne’s Growing Esteem green paper, Dr Nolan wanted to provide all student self-access strategies and extra labs to bridge their skill gaps. Strategies that allowed students to direct their own learning and to access voluntary lab sessions outside formal class times were identified as key requirements. She applied for a small Learning and Teaching Initiative (LTI) grant to offer the extra labs and create online resources in the form of videos, screen captures and documents.

With the help of the Faculty of Arts eLearning Unit, a subject library was created. The library contains resources for students including presentations (Prezi), videos and cheatsheets that teach skills such as creating iMovies, KompoZer, working with images and using WordPress. Some of the videos were created with screen capture software, to capture images from a person’s computer screen along with their voice discussing what is being shown. Both QuickTime and Screencast O-Matic were used for this. Dr Nolan and Meredith Hinze and the other staff in the Arts eLearning unit also created videos, interviewing copyright experts and prominent bloggers. These videos were uploaded to Vimeo, a video streaming site that allows for control over who can view videos, embeds them in the LMS and tracks statistics on usage.

Image of live tweeting class

The aim of the 11 optional lab sessions was to further support all students’ development of their eLiteracy and, for the significant international component of the cohort, the development of their English language skills. The labs were designed to allow students to work independently at their own pace, using the online resources in the Subject Library and the assistance of the tutor as needed. Some labs had a loose focus and were facilitated by different tutors, including ESL specialists, depending on the topic. Focus topics included: familiarisation with the Mac platform, tips for ESL, academic skills, WordPress design tips, using iMovie, and preparing the two assignments in the subject.

Early evaluation data

Reviewing the LMS reports, the data indicates that subject library and cheatsheets were heavily accessed by students. Students indicated they found the cheatsheets the most useful, followed by the videos. These results were compared and confirmed against data from an online survey for lab users that ran at the end of semester. That survey also found that students valued the curated list of links to external resources that was part of the subject.

The optional labs were well attended with a total 185 student attendances across 11 labs. The survey found that they valued the optional labs as they allowed for time to practise and learn relevant skills and to access helpful advice to help prepare for assessment.The extra resources and optional labs achieved Sybil’s aim to support students with these skills outside the seminars. In seminars Sybil was able to engage more deeply with the core content.

The extra resources and optional labs achieved Sybil’s aim to support students with these skills. In tutorials, Sybil and the four tutors who taught the subject were able to engage more deeply with the core content.

Resources

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