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Created by Open Clip Art Vectors, shared on Pixaby with CC0 licence.

Today, we’ll focus on communication, both between students, and from staff to students. To start, though, lets think about the welcome message. Earlier in the week, Natalie looked at a welcoming message. We’ll start by looking at some ideas for getting video communication going.


Welcome video

A welcoming video can be very powerful, not only for distance learning students, but also for campus based students, who may be looking at the module before the first class. Blackboard has a list of the type of things that work well in an introductory video – and have a look at the first link in that which is a Prezi going into a little more detail, including some practical suggestions for when you are creating them.

Student videos

One way to get students to interact could be to get them to create their own videos – we are currently investigating video platforms that would allow students to create and upload videos to a server (more on that when we have it fully up and running). For the time being, however, we have Kaltura. Students can create a video on their phones, and then upload using Kaltura to a discussion post in My Dundee. Simply click the “Mashup” link, select Kaltura, and then Add New on the next screen.

Alternatively, students may prefer to upload to YouTube, but they need to think about privacy issues; a video uploaded to Kaltura is only visible to those within the University who have the link.

Lecture preparation videos

Witton (2017), looking at pilot of video capture at Wolverhampton, found that the most useful type of pre-recorded videos, according to the students, were lab demonstrations of what they would be doing in practical classes.

Here at Dundee, we’ll be running a similar pilot this academic year – as already noted, we’re in the process of setting this up – more when we have got it all in place. However if you are interested in finding out more, comment below or contact eLearning. We also have a (very wee!) video production team, who may be able to help you – contact eLearning if you want to find out more.

Synchronous video

For a number of years now, we have had Blackboard’s Collaborate video conferencing system. This has been difficult for some users, as it involved the installation of a Java based client. For the past year or so, we have had access to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra – which has a much newer technology base. If you have new versions of browsers it will work without any need to install anything. (If you have an older browser, you’ll have to have Flash installed). It also works on Android and iOS phones/tablets.

Collaborate Ultra is updated frequently, so, even if you looked at it 6 months ago, you may well find it has newer features; below is the latest video Blackboard have produced to outline its key features (August 2017)

We have looked at video – though by no means all possible uses of video. Are there others that you have used or are considering using with students?

How else do you get students to engage with each other? How much do you find they engage with it? Do you feel it matters if they don’t?

We also have a range of tools available via Office 365, many of which can be used by groups of students. One tool that you may like to have a look at is Class Notebook. You may also have spotted that once you have signed into My Dundee – you’re automatically signed in to Office 365 (and vice versa), now that UoDIT have started to implement Single Sign On.

There are many other ways that you could get students to collaborate – we used Jane Hart’s top 200 tools as the link of the day in an earlier post; she links to many collaborative tools.

Students, if you are reading this – how to do you engage with other students? Online? Offline? Do you use different methods for communicating with classmates to those you use for communicating with your friends and family? How would you like staff to communicate with you?

Collaborate Ultra

Related research

Byrne, A. (2016). Podcasting for Learning and Assessment in Undergraduate History. Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, 8(12). doi: Also applies to other disciplines!

Manathunga, K., & Hernández-Leo, D. (2016). PyramidApp: Scalable Method Enabling Collaboration in the Classroom. In K. Verbert, M. Sharples, & T. Klobučar (Eds.), Adaptive and Adaptable Learning: 11th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2016, Lyon, France, September 13-16, 2016, Proceedings (pp. 422–427). Cham: Springer International Publishing. This article looks at how collaborative tools can be used with very large groups, to get discussions going, without overwhelming individuals.

Other materials

The NMC / Educause have published their horizons report for over 10 years, this summarises the 2017 Higher Education report. Communication and Collaboration are seen as being key. The full report is available to download online. 


While Sugata Mitra focuses on children’s learning, the points he make apply to everyone; regardless of age. This is a TED speech he gave in 2013.



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