Russell Stannard, NILE Affiliate Trainer, Founder: TeachingTrainingVideos.com
Using technology to enhance the way we provide feedback
Screen capture technology is perhaps one of the most widely used technologies in education. Many of the videos you see on YouTube and in lots of blended learning and Flipped Learning courses have been created with screen capture (SC) technology. SC technology is a simple piece of software that allows you to record the screen of your computer as if a video camera was pointing at it. Everything you do on the screen, anything you write, highlight, open, close, click on as well as anything you say will be recorded from the moment you click on the software. The resulting video can then be shared or played immediately. This same technology can also be used for providing feedback to students. A teacher can open up a student’s written work onto their screen, mark the areas they want to provide feedback on, turn on the SC software and record himself/herself correcting the students work. The resulting video can then be sent to the student, who has a sort of ‘live’ recording of the tutor correcting the work. The ideas was first suggested in 2006 (Stannard 2006). This paper is going to look at the contribution SC feedback can make to online courses and how it might increase the teacher presence and make the feedback more personal. The results are certainly encouraging.
Technology and Feedback
Using technology to improve the way feedback is provided to students is nothing new (Coleman 1972; Farnsworth 1974). Using audio tapes, these studies both highlighted the increase detail that could be provided through audio recordings since it is much easier to record yourself talking than writing it down. More recently there has been a large number of studies that looked into using podcasting to provide students with feedback (McFarlane and Wakeman (2011), Merry (2013), Merry & Orsmond (2008), Rotherham (2009). Again the amount of detail provided is highlighted in the findings as well as the personalisation of the feedback. Students also feel the feedback is more memorable and clearer and certainly overall the response from students has been very positive.
Using screen capture software for providing feedback has a much shorter history ( Stannard 2006, Brick 2007) though interestingly much of the early work was looking at feedback in English Language classes. Stannard (2006, 2015) outlined an experiment with 15 Chinese students where he had provided SC feedback on the first drafts of their written work. He highlighted the following points
- The feedback was much more detailed. In some cases providing the equivalent of 700 written words.
- The students found the videos clearer and easier to follow.
- Students like the use of the voice and felt the videos were more personal.
- Students felt that the feedback was an example of authentic listening material as the teacher had given the feedback in the target language.
- Students found the videos engaging and watched them several times before writing their re-drafts
- Students like the multimedia nature of the feedback being both visual and oral
Many studies have replicated this original study and come to similar conclusions (McClaughin 2007; Brick 2007). A quite extensive study in Norway looked at the use of SC feedback on a whole range of subject areas with students being overwhelmingly positive. It concluded
The results of studies and tests completed in eight separate subject areas demonstrate that video feedback simplifies and increases the efficiency of responding to students’ work, as it allows the opportunity to achieve increased levels of precision and quality in the feedback process. Students emphasize their learning dividend and the inspiration they experience from working with this format. They actively use their teacher’s comments and acquire a stronger emotional bond with him/her as well. (Mathesen, 2012: 1)
In the same year, the Open University undertook a study across a range of Modern Foreign Language courses. Uses a free Screen Capture tool called JING, they provided feedback to students on distance learning courses. Responses from both the tutors and the students were also positive. One tutor on the course commented
I think it is more personal and maybe memorable for the student and perhaps it helps them to pay more attention to their own mistakes. (Harper el al, 2012: 6)
In Canada, Serror (2012) experimented with the same software, JING. He even suggested that SC feedback could be used for peer review as well as tutor led feedback. Responses from his students were also encouraging with the personalised nature of the feedback and the importance of the voice again being raised by a number of the students.
In my own classes, students’ responses to screen casting as a feedback tool have overall been positive. With the exception of comments suggesting that they sometimes found the screencasts long to listen to, students have typically stressed the value of this form of feedback with comments such as: “Best feedback I’ve ever received from a prof” (Serror, 2012: 11)
The personalisation of the feedback is something prevalent throughout nearly all the studies. Mann (2015) has suggested that using the voice in recorded feedback often softens the feedback through the use of ‘hedging’ devices ( use of modal verbs, interjections etc) whereas written feedback tends to be very direct due to the limitations of expressing everything in the written form (Hyland and Hyland 2001). He cites an example of oral feedback and highlights some of the features like the use of I think, slight and might to soften the overall tone of the feedback and make it more conversational in nature.
I think there is a slight difference between the preparation of task 1 and task 2 and you might have pointed the reader to this. (Mann 2015: 161)
It is not only the use of hedging devices, the use of the voice allows for more tone and intonation (Rust 2001) and makes the feedback more personal. This point has been raised in many of the SC feedback studies (Stannard 2014, Serror 2012). In Mann’s study students commented that the feedback felt more conversational and natural.
Using audio feedback is a very useful way of giving feedback. It makes me feel as if you are besides me. It is easier to comprehend what kind of idea you want to communicate to me. I appreciate that. I think I will use audio feedback with my TLs in the future. (Mann 2015: 162)
Perhaps the most important benefit of all seems to be the detail that can be provided. Mann (2015) suggests that using the voice can provide about 4 times as much feedback in the same amount of time as written feedback and other studies have made similar claims (Serror 2012, Stanndard 2014). Thompson and Lee (2012) talk about the ‘internal dialogue’ that tutors are having when they read and correct a student’s work. Due to the limitations of using written feedback, it is often difficult for tutors to express this ‘internal dialogue’ and what is actually presented to the students is just a few written comments that is really based on a much wider and in-depth thought process. SC feedback allows the tutor to express this inner dialogue and provide clearer and more nuanced feedback (Matheson 2012).
Distance Learning and the role of the tutor
SC feedback seems to provide a number of benefits and there is now a growing body of research both inside and outside ELT. One facet that is particularly interesting is the part it could play in distance learning courses. Research into distance learning courses have shown that students often feel isolated, don’t feel the presence of a teacher/ tutor and sometimes lose motivation and direction (Richardson & Swan 2003). The idea of teacher presence is nothing new (Wiener & Mehrabian 1968) and is related to the distance between the tutor and the object of communication. In distance learning courses developing a teacher presence can be quite a challenge.
Drop-out rates also tend to be quite high on online courses and this may in part be due to the lack of teacher presence (Richardson & Swan 2003. It is possible that SC feedback could help with some of the problems often related to distance learning courses? Apart from providing better quality feedback, the use of SC feedback may help to alleviate the problem of teacher presence and increase the personal connection between the tutor and the participants on the course. This is the specific issue that this current piece of research is focuses on.
PowerUp - Flipping your classes
In 2016, NILE and Teacher Training Videos, collaborated together to run short full online training courses for teachers. One of their biggest concerns was how to make sure there was a strong teacher presence on the course. The evidence from work with SC feedback suggested this could play a major role in both supporting students, increasing teacher presence as well as providing high quality SC feedback that the students would hopefully benefit from.
Participants on the course were asked to produce a flipped classroom course in Edmodo. Instead of providing written feedback on what participants had produced, it was decided that SC feedback would be used. This would allow the tutor to open the participants work onto their screen, turn on the SC software and then go through the participant’s work suggesting improvements, providing tips and feedback. Everything the tutor says and marks on the screen comes out in the video, which is then sent to the participants, who can use the video to make improvements to their work.
So far 4 cohorts of participants have received feedback this way. After the course the students were send a short questionnaire around their experience of receiving SC feedback. The results have been impressive and it is clear that the SC feedback is contributing to the overall impact of the course and that using SC is highly valued by nearly all the participants on the course.
So far 26 students from the 4 cohorts have completed the questionnaire. We are also beginning to back this up with one to one SKYPE videos where we interview the students to gather more data, though this data is not yet available.
Students overwhelmingly prefer receiving SC feedback to normal written feedback. In fact in the most recent cohort all 11 students who answered the questions, preferred SC feedback. When asked why they liked the feedback , one participant wrote
First, I could see on the screen what you were talking about I could write down the remarks I wanted to focus then I think it was better to hear the teacher's voice as it is as if I had private lesson. Finally I think it was easier to concentrate on, more lively and your conclusion is really aimed at my work so I really felt that my work was taken into consideration. (Participant Cohort 2)
This remark about the feedback being like a private lesson shows the impact of SC feedback in terms of personalisation. Students feel that the teacher is talking to them and for them. The participant also mentions the ‘teacher’s voice’. This points to an increased teacher presence, a recognition that the teacher is involved in the course and running the course. This is not an isolated comment either as the following comments demonstrate
I prefer screen cast video feedback because it's like having a teacher's face-to-face explanation and you can come back to your feedback all the times you want. . (Participant Cohort 2)
This one was very unique and I could hear Russell's intonation when he was giving his feedback. It felt more personal. . (Participant Cohort 3)
A more natural way of giving feedback. It felt more like a conversation, more chatty. . (Participant Cohort 3)
Students were asked whether they agreed with the statement that ‘SC feedback felt more personal’ From the 26 responses, all participants either agreed or totally agreed with this statement. Students felt it helped them build a better understanding of what the tutor was trying to convey with again all 26 responses either agreeing or totally agreeing. As one participant said
Screen cast video feedback helped me to follow the stream of Russell's thoughts and to deeply understand the hints given. It was food for thoughts (Participant Cohort 4)
Perhaps most importantly for distance learning courses students were asked if providing them with SC feedback has added value to the course. 25 out of 26 of the participants wrote that they totally agreed with this statement. It seems that students do perceive the SC feedback as making a valuable contribution to the overall value of the course and this certainly comes through in the overall feedback of the Flipped Classroom courses, which has been very positive. One student even described SC feedback as ‘perfect’
Screen cast video feedback is more effective and straight to the point, I can check and get aware of things done while watching . It was the first time I received this kind of feedback and I found it perfect, more personal and detailed. (Participant Cohort 4)
Not all the feedback has been completely positive. Participants point out that sometimes playing back the SC feedback is difficult since you have to search through it if you want to go over a specific point. Others have pointed out that you can’t casually go over the feedback on the bus or train, since you need an internet connection to play the videos.
Screen cast captures tone of voice. Sometimes a student may take a written comment the wrong way. Also for good points the voice conveys more enthusiasm. The one downside would be keeping it for future reference. If you wanted to go back over something at a later date to recall what your teacher said, I think written comments are quicker and more permanent. It´s more of a hassle calling up the video, listening to it again and remembering where the useful comment was. (Participant Cohort 4)
In truth there are a whole range of concerns that we need to consider. Though technically screen capture technology is easy to use, students and teachers do need access to a good internet connection. They also need a fairly modern computer (less than 5 years old) to make sure the recording is of a good enough quality.
Consideration needs to be given to what feedback is provided. In a language learning context does the tutor focus on the surface errors, the organisation of the text or even the content. How does the tutor give the feedback? Is it through a series of questions, comments etc. At the end of the day, SC feedback is really about a mode of delivery and how effective the feedback is, will still largely depend on what feedback the tutor provides. It may also be in a language teaching context, that with low level students in a monolingual context, that the feedback is given in the L1. The teacher really has to make a value judgement about the benefits of clarity against the benefits of offering in feedback in the target language which will be good for the student’s listening skills.
This study is attempting to go slightly beyond the ‘feasibility’ studies that have taken place over the last 10 years. It attempts to find out what is the impact of SC feedback and why is it perceived so positively. We are particularly interested in how it can contribute to courses delivered online. One key feature seems to be around the feeling that the feedback is more personal and that it increases teacher presence. The findings also mirror previous studies in both online and blended learning contexts.The data emerging from the first SKYPE interviews is also helping us to understand the impact SC feedback is having and we also are beginning to build a picture of how the participants actually use the videos with participants often accessing the SC feedback on a variety of devices and locations. There is a growing body of research into this idea and so far much of what has been written suggests that SC feedback might have a bright future.
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