Archive for the ‘videoconferencing’ Category

Virtual meetings

December 14, 2008

Virtual meetings

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Stone industry personnel have suggested regular meetings to discuss their training needs, as well as delivering training and carrying out skill assessments. However, the state-wide geographic spread of employers and apprentices means that it is impossible to get everyone in the same place at one time, and it is difficult for trainers to see every client face-to-face.

SkillsTech Australia has a commitment to sustainability, providing training in sustainable practices, as well as “…innovative, technology-driven, efficient and flexible training.” Travelling many miles to deliver training is no longer justifiable, given the institute’s position on climate change.

AQTF Standards.
The Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards insist that:
2.1 The RTO continuously improves client services by collecting, analysing and acting on relevant data
2.3 Employers and other parties who contribute to each learner’s training and assessment are engaged in the development, delivery and monitoring of training and assessment.
2.4 Learners receive training, assessment and support services that meet their individual needs.
Hence, there exists a need for additional ways to communicate with employer, students and RPL applicants, supplementing workplace visits.

Employers’ contributions.
Employer feedback will be necessary during the future upgrade of our current training package from BCF00 Off-Site Construction to CPC08 Construction, Plumbing and Services Integrated Framework.

Training delivery.
Stonemasonry apprentice numbers have outpaced staffing and infrastructure resources available at SkillsTech Australia. A continued increase in student numbers means that some of the stonemasonry teaching delivery load must be undertaken in a flexible mode.

Virtual conferencing.
I believe that some of the communications issues could be addressed by using virtual conferencing tools (together with phone, fax, email, Web, etc.) to supplement face-to-face meetings with clients. In choosing a conferencing platform, there are several issues to be considered:
o Most employers have computers and Internet access
o Not every student has a computer, let alone Internet access
o Most employers and apprentices are busy working during the day
o It is important to track both employer and student interaction for audit purposes
o Recorded sessions should be available for replay by participants
o Conversations should be conducted using a service that is proven to be reliable
o Internet access is limited by bandwidth in regional areas
o Information gathered should be secure
o The conferencing platform (including meeting replays) must be accessible via the SkillsTech Australia student network

Researching virtual-meeting communications tools, two in particular look promising: Videolinq videoconferencing and Flashmeeting webconferencing.

Videolinq videoconferencing.
Videolinq is a TAFE Queensland service “…providing video conferencing, video streaming and learning technology services to support enhanced educational opportunities for off campus, distance and integrated educational delivery models.” I have been a videoconference teacher since 2004, actively participating in and contributing material to Videolinq videoconferences and media streams, archived under VeMentoring and Stonemasonry headings. Videolinq videoconferences are currently only accessible at TAFE institutes around Queensland, and as many stonemasonry apprentices do not have computers and Internet access, I believe that Videolinq will be a suitable platform for delivering training to stonemasonry students at their local TAFE institute.

I’ve been regularly using Flashmeeting as a virtual meeting tool since April 2008, connecting educators from Australia and New Zealand (as well as the UK and the US) via their computers. A link to each meeting is displayed on a wiki, and immediately after the meeting, the link automatically accesses the recorded video and text files. Flashmeeting uses webcam, voice and text chat communications, although participants may choose just text, or text and audio, or a combination of text, audio and webcam. Flashmeeting will be a useful tool to connect stone industry people in between face-to-face meetings.

Meeting times and dates.
I plan to facilitate two virtual sessions a month using Flashmeeting webconferencing with employers and Videolinq videoconferencing with students. This schedule can later be expanded to four sessions a month, if required. Alternating Flashmeeting webconferences with Videolinq videoconferences gives a choice of first and third, and second and fourth Monday evenings.

My experience with meetings informs me that 6pm is a good time for a one-hour session. Participants in a Videolinq videoconference require time to get from their workplace to their local TAFE institute, perhaps eating a small meal on the way. Flashmeeting participants can access the meeting from either their home computer or the workplace. Using either videoconferencing or webconferencing, 7pm is not too late a time to finish. Additionally, a 6-7pm time slot allows me time to prepare for a session after students leave TAFE classes at 3:30pm.

Monday evenings are a popular time for industry meetings, however there is a potential conflict with public holidays, when participants should not be expected to attend. Considering the ten Queensland public holidays in 2009, five occur on a Monday. Of these, one is on the first Monday of the month, two are on the second, and two are on the fourth. I believe that students should be given more opportunities than employers to access virtual meetings, hence, choosing every 2nd Monday of the month for Flashmeetings, and every 3rd Monday of the month for Videolinq videoconferences will give 10 student meetings and 9 employer meetings, with options to expand to a further 10 student meetings (totaling 22) and 9 employer meetings (totaling 19) during 2009.

Hence, the proposed dates for virtual meetings 6-9 pm on Mondays in 2009 are:

Videolinq (subject to room availability).
January 19th
February 16th
March 16th
April 20th
May 18th
June 15th
July 20th
August 17th
September 21st
October 19th
November 16th
December 21st

January 12th
February 9th
March 9th
May 11th
July 13th
August 10th
September 14th
October 12th
November 9th
December 14th

Agenda items.
When confirmed, meeting dates will be published at the stonemasonry wiki using an embedded Google calendar. The booking will also include meeting details such as meeting chair, agenda, access to previous meeting minutes, etc. This method will suffice until a dedicated my.TAFE course structure is developed.

Expected outcomes.
Gathering employer feedback about skills training, and providing training delivery to regional students are quality assurance requirements of the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards for every Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Using virtual meeting platforms such as Videolinq and Flashmeeting provide sustainable ways to manage unnecessary travel. Regular meetings will also strengthen the established master-novice network, as well as managing the increasing training delivery workload.


Flashmeeting as a training delivery tool

December 2, 2008
The Flashmeeting booking form

The Flashmeeting booking form

Flashmeeting is a free, online video conferencing tool useful for distant training delivery. This view is a screen capture of the meeting booking form.

email triggered by booking request

email triggered by booking request

The meeting booking request immediately triggers an email with URL and other details

publishing meeting times and agenda items

publishing meeting times and agenda items

The meeting details are published in the stonemasonry wiki to alert students about the time and agenda items.

Using webcam video with audio and text chat

Using webcam video with audio and text chat

The meeting is conducted using text chat, audio and webcam. Audio and webcam are optional.

storing and accessing meeting recordings

storing and accessing meeting recordings

Immediately after the meeting, an archived version is available at the same link that was originally used to access it.

replaying the meeting

replaying the meeting

The “meeting replay” is a downloadable video clip, useful for recording interaction during the session.

recording the chat session

recording the chat session

The “meeting minutes” link archives the chat line, recording participants’ engagement during the session.

analysing participation

analysing participation

The “meeting analysis” link analyses participants’ activities as a time line. Votes on issues during the session are also recorded here.

graphically representing partipants' broadcasts

graphically representing partipants

The “meeting analysis” link provides graphic representation of participants’ webcam/audio broadcast activity.

analysing text interation during the session

analysing text interation during the session

The “meeting analysis” link also provides graphic representation of participants’ text interaction.

In addition to this blog update, the topic has also been Plurk’d, Flickr’d, Slideshare’d and Ning’d

Saucing the stew: Streaming video chunks.

August 7, 2008

integrating videostreaming in trade skills training
Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry
This topic was discussed at a VeMentoring videoconference on 8th July 2008. Stream the archived recording (1 hour) in the Videolinq Mediasite presentation catalogue.

Adding ingredients.
Recently, I had the opportunity to present trade skill processes in streaming video. I helped to produce eight video streams – each video stream accompanied with an annotated PowerPoint presentation, and voice-over added – with little video recording and production experience.

The video streams address the geographically-spread Queensland stone industry. Additionally, the products are as accessible in the TAFE classroom as they are at home or in the workplace.

Guided by Stonemasonry industry training package specifications, each video stream is a discrete learning object addressing a separate learning need. Lessons are created by linking streams with other relevant materials.

The project provided exposure to skills necessary for creating further video streams. Feedback from students suggests that video streaming is a powerful way to access information – adding flavour to traditional TAFE learning.

I have not yet sought industry feedback, but the bite-sized chunks are aimed at their immediate business needs. The content can easily be adapted to suit any trade skill situation – although our video clips were produced in the TAFE stonemasonry workshop, they could just as easily have been made in any industry location.

The taste test.
Video streaming addresses the senses: Sight, Hearing, Touch… if only we had Smelevision. TAFE Queensland’s Videolinq video streaming hosted at Mediasite is just right for visual learning – clear, sharp slide images, and a video viewing window that fills the whole screen at a touch. Clickable buttons allow learner interaction. Just for fun, I suggest that the fast & slow video selectors could be re-labelled: give the teacher HELIUM and give the teacher VALIUM.
When TAFE Queensland Videolinq manager Paul Crosisca generously offered the stonemasonry team some time with videographer Daniel Hausin, my colleagues Michael & Daniel and I arranged to video record hands-on activities. Paul stressed the need for high-resolution video files which, when compressed for streaming, would pass the taste test.

The streaming media give learners a chance to respond to review questions, answer opinion polls and go to related websites. Using a mouse during a presentation, learners choose to jump forward or back by slide, even leaping to other streams. Narrating each slide adds a professional touch to the presentation. The narrative replaces blocks of text which can be so off-putting for trade skill students. Here then is a chance to present detailed statistical information about the topic while learners’ eyes and hands are occupied.

Integrating video streaming in the trade skills classroom.
The trade skills training workshop is a safe place for students to explore new techniques. Trained instructors lead apprentices to discover a broad range of techniques that underpin all of their workplace activities.

In the trade skills classroom, video is a useful way to present trade skills because it effectively engages students, particularly when it is accompanied with close-up images and a narrative. Linking video streams to the SkillsTech Australia Learning Management System provides re-usable classroom resources that can also be accessed remotely. Logged in to the LMS, students will be able to choose from a menu to review information presented via classroom computers. Likewise, students with Internet access in the workplace or at home can pre-view activities in upcoming classes.

Stirring the pot.
Videostreaming offers a way to link with employers in the stone industry. Through Videolinq, supervising tradesmen have a window into the TAFE training workshop, and skill assessment candidates can be informed about skills in which they will be examined.

In front of the video camera in the stonemasonry workshop, we hoisted, split, cut and then dressed a sandstone block, demonstrating a series of process skills while Daniel Hausin recorded our actions. We carried on as if we were training students in our normal way. This approach made editing difficult later on; however, it was a necessary start point for our learning.

video streaming by you.

Video streaming trade skills: link to the st0nemas0nry Flickr image

Editing video data.
After we had finished, Daniel Hausin sent the ‘raw footage’ to Videolinq in Mackay for uploading. From Mackay, Paul arranged a videoconference and I took part in the editing process from Brisbane. When the video editing was completed, I received a link to each video stream web location so that I could then prepare appropriate PowerPoint slides.

Preparing slides.
This blog update journals the process I used to create PowerPoint slides from original video footage. The slides display screen-captures of the streaming video. The large, sharp close-ups emphasise every point being made in the smaller video screen. To create slides, I screen-captured the scene each time the activity changed, noted the time on the streaming video clock and then added a heading. Doing this gave me a clue for planning storyboards – more about that later.

Slide headings and timings.
The slide heading laconically describes the activity happening in the video screen, and a voice recording – narrated to fit the length of the slide – provides a detailed explanation. After the slide headings are created, they are copied to a separate document which lists the timings for each slide. This arrangement mimics the slide layout used by the Videolinq team to arrange the slides, in that a space near each heading provides room for text which is voice-recorded and added to each slide.

Slide narration.
Narrating each slide further engages learners’ attention, combining visual and auditory stimulation. As suggested by my Ve-Mentor Karen Fainges, I use a USB headset with my Windows voice recorder.

Feedback from students about my first voice-recording efforts included: “professional… fills the gap… robot-voice.” I made a note to include more expression while enunciating my words. Videolinq staff suggested that I speak more naturally and use less emphasis on small words such as “the” and “in.” With an ear for improvement, I now listen to professional presenters more closely.

Videolinq’s streaming video presentations offer a degree of learner interactivity. Students choose to either play the video from beginning to end without interruption, or they can increase or reduce the playing speed to focus on bits of information most important to them. The slides offer a way to “chunk” information according to the slide timings – the student can quickly reach relevant information by “clicking through” the slides. Both the slide screen window and the video window zoom to fill the screen at a click.
The Poll tool gives feedback from learners about the presentation to the presenter. There is an “ask” button which opens a blank email addressed to the presenter, and links can also be added at the bottom of the page.

The next phase.
Future video presentations won’t be undertaken in the same manner as described above. Simply recording workshop activities does not provide a quality product because there are processes happening during a physical demonstration that are communicated differently in a video presentation. As an example, the fact that eye protection is worn during a demonstration would need to be heavily emphasised in the video version with specific references and clear images of the type of goggles required. Additionally, it was unclear how much time should be given to editing the raw footage – this task was made difficult because of the ‘streaming’ nature of the physical activity. Planning each ‘chunk’ more carefully will dramatically lessen editing time.

Planning streaming presentations.
Producing the eight video streams ‘opened a door’ for me. After spending a considerable amount of time ‘chunking’ a flowing stream of information into discrete headings, I was then able to scan the list of competencies in the stonemasonry qualification and briefly describe an activity for each one that would be suitable for video presentation. I found that the key to planning a trade skills video presentation is storyboarding – something with which I had previously struggled.

Separating bulk video footage into discrete elements is very time consuming. It is important that ‘chunking’ is considered before recording so that activities can be separated. I aim to produce the next set of storyboards simply by getting one of my teaching colleagues to demonstrate a process (topic) while I photograph the steps. Each image will provide the basis for a PowerPoint slide, with a header briefly describing the activity (subtopic). After this, the list of headings will be copied to a blank document with provision to record timings and a fuller description. The description in this way becomes a guide for each video chunk, and a basis for the voice-over, added later.

Videolinq video streams as an integral training tool.
Used as a training tool, Videolinq video streaming is a simple, practical way to satisfy both classroom and remote trade skills delivery. The streams are relatively easy to create and publish, and are readily customized to suit industry training needs. I believe that video streaming is a useful tool for TAFE trade skills practitioners looking to spice up their delivery.

Networked learning

June 20, 2008

vc STA & EIT

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Joyce Seitzinger, eLearning Adviser at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, recently asked me to present at their Half Day Retreat (Joyce and I are members of the OzNZ Educators network). The theme of the Retreat was “Engage, Relate, Connect” guiding Eastern Institute of Technology staff in the management of a changing student corpus. Joyce wanted her teachers to learn how Web 2.0 tools could be used to do this. Networked Learning was one of five hour-long sessions run concurrently (twice) on Friday 13th June. Reports from the sessions are viewable at the EIT wiki.

Connecting the Media
When Joyce and I discovered that both TAFE Queensland and the Eastern Institute of Technology used Tandberg equipment, we decided that video conferencing would be the best ‘virtual presence’ technology to use. Because the EIT and SkillsTech Australia videoconference networks had never before been connected, we arranged to test the equipment during the preceding week.

across the Tasman Sea

After several attempts, there was a simply magical moment when we spoke virtually face-to-face while sitting 2500 kilometers (1600 miles) apart. Joyce and I used Gmail, Twitter, Skype and mobile phone to arrange the rendezvous via Videolinq.

Planning the presentation
Joyce wanted me to share with her teachers how I’m building learning networks with my students and colleagues, as well as indicating what students, colleagues and management thought of it. I was to leave the sessions’ participants with tangible means of Engaging, Relating, and Connecting using Web 2.0 tools.

Sharing the presentation
Re-working an earlier presentation, I chose Gmail,, Flickr, and Ning as starting places for network novices. Sheryl (N2teaching) gave me Mark Twain’s story of Tom Sawyer enlisting his friends to help whitewash a fence, and I used screenshots of websites to explain how each social tool worked. I uploaded the PowerPoint presentation to SlideShare before the workshop, and Joyce displayed it during the presentation with a data projector. My notes are displayed as a comment on each slide.

Extending the conference
Joyce created a Ning network especially for the event, providing a public forum to discuss the conference, as well as tools to play with.

Meeting Jo and Sean at LT07

November 17, 2007

Meeting Jo and Sean at LT07

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Jo, Sean and I had a beer together before they returned home from the Learning Technologies conference at Mooloolaba.
Jo and Sean demonstrated Second Life on the big screen, presenting “Virtual Worlds and 3D” in Jokaydia.

Jo and Sean own and operate Jokaydia as a virtual meeting place for educators.