Time to wave goodbye to old-fashioned lecture notes

Author: By Lucy Hodges

Instead of correcting their scripts in the traditional way, by making comments
in the right hand margin and giving them a mark, he created a video of
himself going through each one. This was a piece of cake for Stannard, who
is principal lecturer in multimedia/ICT at the University of Westminster. “It
allows you to record the screen of your computer as if you had a camera
pointing at it,” he explains. Each of the students, who were taking an
English language course, had their lecturer’s thought processes zapped over
on a video, which they could open and listen to ? as well as watch. It was
as though they had received an individual tutorial from him.

Stannard worked through their sentences, explaining where a tense was wrong,
or the grammar was incorrect, or the wrong word had been used, encouraging
them to think about what the right usage would be. When they next met him,
the students were ecstatic and gave him a round of applause.

The lecturer knew he was on to something. Since then Stannard’s reputation has
soared in the geeky world of educational technology. He won an award at his
own university followed by a national prize at the Times Higher awards in
2008. This recognition led to funding from JISC, the body that inspires
universities and colleges to make innovative use of digital technology, as
well as grant money from the Higher Education Academy. Last month Stannard’s
work was cited by the National Student Forum in their report on ways that
technology is being harnessed for teaching.

He has created two websites, one for teachers that shows them how to use
programs such as Photoshop, Twitter or Wikimail, and the second for students.

This means that teachers and students who are interested in getting to grips
with the range of new media on the internet can do so for free. They don’t
have to sign up for a course at Westminster University ? though they would
probably be well advised to do so, given Stannard’s communication skills. “These
websites are a way of promoting study at the university,” he says. “We
give people a lot of information, and hopefully they will choose to study

Two years ago there were 12 people on Stannard’s multimedia Masters degree;
now there are 19. One of the students who graduated last summer, Paul
Trotter, 29, says that he chose the Westminster course because it looked so

“There are many Masters degrees which are really open-ended and don’t
give you a lot of guidance,” he says. “They just let you get on
with it. But this course was about teaching the skills you need to know and
that was important in making up my mind.”

For Trotter, Stannard’s feedback was particularly valuable. Academics’
handwritten comments are often difficult to read and don’t go into the kind
of detail that you get in a Stannard video. “It’s more on a par with
having an interview with your teacher and discussing your work,” he
says. Plus, with a video, you can go over the material when and where you
want to.”

Stannard has made more general videos, giving students feedback that covers a
whole class. This saves him time while helping students too. If students
have been taking a class on presentations, say, he writes the key points on
a screen ? such as looking at their notes too much or not looking enough at
the audience ? and clicks the button. Everyone gets the video.

“It’s useful because I don’t have to go through that in the next lesson,”
he says. “I can provide it on the internet or on the virtual learning
environment. Students say they love it and look at it when they need it. It
saves me a lot of time. And I only have to make one.”

Stannard has created another video to explain to students what he expects in
their coursework. Again they can watch this on the day they plan to do their
coursework as a refresher.

Is he worried this is too much spoon-feeding? Stannard plans to carry out
research on this as part of his PhD but hopes he’s not spoonfeeding.

Last year he conducted a small video experiment to test this, setting an essay
on the use of interactive whiteboards for a class of English teachers. He
marked each one in the traditional way, writing comments but withholding the
marks and sent them videos containing the perfect answer.

The students were asked to figure out the mark they thought they deserved. The
result was interesting. Not one student overpredicted his or her grade; and
one got it right. This contrasted with Stannard’s usual experience where
students have an inflated idea of what they should get.

His websites are attracting attention: his receives 7,000 to 8,000 hits a
month and is in great demand on the conference circuit. He has visited
Spain, German, Italy, Japan and Malaysia to present his ideas and recently
did a tour of Chinese cities. If you want to book him, get in quick.



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