Short videos (between 5 and 15 mins) are delivered to students approximately once a week during Semester 1 via the People & Plants audio and video podcast. Audio and video material supplements audio recordings of edited lectures each week on the podcast.
The aim of the videos is to:
The audio lectures enhance access to lecture material – this is particularly important for this module as the second hour clashes with a module that a number of students in the class take. A library of videos is being compiled and will grow each year as new material is developed, for re-use each year the module runs.
In addition to pre-prepared copyright free video material, the following material has been developed specially for the podcast:
A tour around a Sites of Special Scientific Interest with the Leeds City Council site manager, including an interview with the site manager about career opportunities in conservation and footage of the class managing the site during a field trip.
Plant species profiles covering identification features and uses, history and folklore surrounding each species
A documentary about the power of plant indicator species to uncover complex stories about environmental change over time. Mark pieces together the environmental history of a remote Scottish agricultural landscape from a handful of indicator species, and then investigates how accurate this picture is, interviewing old farmers and uncovering a hand-painted map from the 1830s.
A documentary about the Sustainable Uplands project with interviews from social and natural scientists about their work to understand how our uplands might change in future, and how those who live, work and play in uplands might be able to cope with the challenges this will entail. Includes footage from study sites, working with land managers and scientific equipment to understand the hidden complexities of this unique and important environment.
Podcasting is rapidly being adopted throughout HE to facilitate and enhance student learning (Swain, 2006). Although podcasting can potentially be a passive learning activity (SDDU, 2007), when integrated with other methods as part of a blended learning approach, podcasting can enhance student motivation, increasing flexibility of access to learning materials, adding depth and breadth to lecture material and catering for different learning preferences (Beldarrain, 2006; Campbell, 2005; Huann & Thong, 2006).
To date the vast majority of activity in this area has focussed on audio. Video podcasting has only started to be used in Higher Education in the last year or so, for example by students to make fieldwork reports (Kingston University), a video library of Geographical techniques & equipment use (University of Gloucestershire), providing instructions on how to use a GIS system (University of Nottingham) and to provide location-specific information to support fieldwork (Kingston University) (IMPALA, 2007).
A combination of audio and video podcasting has the potential to cater for auditory and visual learning preferences, cover material not possible in audio alone, and inspire and motivate students in ways not possible with audio. However, most of the video podcasts developed to date in HE have been experimental in nature, and designed to support class or field-based teaching, rather than to provide additional depth and/or breadth to the learning experience. Video material developed for the People & Plants audio and video podcast has sought to provide this type of learning experience for students on the module.
During the first year this podcast was launched in audio only, there was poor uptake from students (13%). Partly this was due to technical problems (lack of familiarity with the technology and inaccessible from cluster computers), and the perception that it was not necessary to subscribe to the podcast in order to pass the module (there is no exam).
To overcome this, video was developed specifically for this module, due to its perceived capacity to motivate and inspire students. These were then advertised regularly during lectures, feedback was sought about reasons for non-subscription, and technical problems were dealt with as they arose. This led to much higher uptake in the second year (over 70%).
Technical problems were the main reason for non-subscription in the second year. Student feedback about video podcasts to date has been unanimously positive (apart from problems with audibility in a couple of videos), with students suggesting that it enhanced their learning.
Students from the module will be encouraged to create their own podcasts to share with colleagues. Three students are currently working on two videos to be included in next year’s podcast, using their own recording equipment: one about plants with moving parts and one about the year in the life of two students’ allotment. To facilitate this, project funds will be sought to purchase a digital camcorder and MP3 recorders, to be based with a central service for free hire to students on this and other modules.
The potential for this podcast to be used for marketing environmental degree programmes will be explored with Stephen Scales, Faculty Marketing Manager, and Dr Ming Nie from the IMPALA project at the University of Leicester. There will be two strands to the trial:
The video podcast will be integrated with the new VLE as part of the Faculty of Environment trial (which will be among the first faculties to trial they system).