Archive for August, 2011

Linking lecture theatres via desktop video – Google Chat

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

One of our clever academics wants to link our 2 simlulation labs, so we are looking at the options.

He wants the students in the other room to see his face and his presentation slides, and he wants to see the students.  The lecturer in the other room will help translate any questions if the audio isn’t up to it.

The first thing we looked at was Google Chat.  It doesn’t have desktop sharing but all our staff have Gmail so this was the most accessible and easy to test.

Plug in your web cam and open Gmail.   Got to the Gmail settings.

gmail chat

…….gmail setting1




Click on Chat and in the Video Chat section click on learn more.

gmail setting 2

Click on Install voice and video chat.

gmail install vid chat

Go into Labs to make sure Video enhancements are enabled.

gmail labs

Have a look at your Chat contacts and if the other person has their video set up you will see a green video icon.  Click on it.

Click on the box with a box icon in the top left hand corner to go to full screen.

The video and audio quality was good and if you use Gmail, and just want point to point video, this is the way to go.

But it doesn’t show the desktop and jerry rigging a stand to point the webcam at the computer screen seemed a bit pointless.  So we kept looking.

More Turnitin goodness

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Here’s another video from CQ university on how you would use Turnitin with Moodle.

And of course you can always go to the official site

Another Turnitin video

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

This is another reasonable short (8 min)  video on Turnitin.  This one is from Oxford Brookes University.  It is targeted at students, but it also provides a useful introduction for academics.

Turnitin Oxford Brookes University

In terms of the presentation, I don’t particularly mind the “talking head” delivery as it personalises the presentation and is well delivered.  I think the focus on examples from actual reports was good but it probably should have switched to a full screen a bit more often.  A good view of the highlighted text is more important than having the presenter on screen.

The first 2 minutes and last minute would have been better if the slides reinforced the message through animation or visuals rather than  presenting pages of text which largely duplicated the audio.   Overall a pretty useful video.

A short rant about journals

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Why isn’t there an Australian G8 branded suite of  ‘A level’ academic journals so our top researchers can meet their publication targets without having to produce research based on European or U.S data, which is frequently of marginal use in an Australian context (and therefore of marginal value to students and Australian society)?

It’s not hard to do.  We’re not some intellectual backwater filled with slack jawed professors in moulding tweed.  We already have people on international editorial panels, we have authors and editors of major textbooks.  The skills are there.

It’s not expensive, particularly across 8 universities and particularly given the recent developments in digital publishing and distribution.

This should be a no-brainer.  Why do we continue to piss in the pockets of international journals at the expense of our own academics and locally useful knowledge.

Rant over.

Free U.S. audio – Are you partial to Yodeling?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

There are number of free audio resources around web.  This one from the U.S. Library of congress is interesting, but perhaps more novelty value than useful.  There are a small number of early political speeches, but if you’re looking for some background audio and are partial to original Blues or Jazz this could be just the ticket (the songs stream – no dowlnloads).  There is also Whistling and Yodeling but I can’t for the life of me think of a use for them

“The Library of Congress has made available more than 3 million music and spoken-word recordings for online public streaming as part of a new National Jukebox project, a joint venture between the library and Sony Music that will give free access to thousands of Sony-controlled recordings long out of circulation because of commercial or copyright issues. Some of the 10,000 titles streamable at the new National Jukebox website have been unavailable for more than 100 years”

I found the Humour section amusing but perhaps for the wrong reasons.  The comedy routine, “How mother made soup”, where mother used a soup  recipe from the newspaper, only due to her illiteracy she mistook soup for soap and poisoned the family, was pure 1909 comedy gold.

Actually the funniest line on the site is from the web developer who added this descriptor to the ‘Humorous Songs’ section

“Note that use of the term “humorous” indicates only the intention of the work at the time the recording was made.”

Alternative lecture recording options

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Not all of our teaching spaces have recording facilities and I get the occasional querey from lecturers about alternative recording options.  The easiest way is to use the recorder on whatever mp3 player you have.  I also have a couple of digital recorders because some our lecturers don’t have mp3 player/recorders (how last millennium).  You just have to be a bit more explicit when referring to graphical elements such as slides and whiteboards.

Screen recording is a little more problematic.  I like CamStudio.  It’s is a free screen capture program but it only captures in blocks of about 15 minutes so it’s an extra thing to manage during the lecture.  There are also number of commercial applications, but we don’t have site licences for any of them.  A simple alternative is to point a webcam at the screen and record via that.  We also have a couple of digital video cameras.  With each of these you’ll probably need a conversion program (Format Factory is my favourite) to turn the video into something that is both compact and clear.

Students with smart phones / tablets have a few additional options.  It doesn’t look like these apps have export options so they are only of use to individual students.

One for the iPhone / iPad2 – Snoozzer Recordings lets you take time stamped photos of the slides as you audio record the lecture.

And one for Android – NoteRec lets you take time stamped notes as you record your lecture.

Any other suggestions?

PowerPoint to PDF printing problem – Solution 4

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Ok, you have done what you can to trim down your PowerPoint derived PDF (see Solutions 1, 2 and 3) .  Here are some things your students can do to speed up the printing process.

In the Print dialogue box select Advanced

Select Print as Image and Ok

PDF print advPDF print as image

To really speed things up click on the Transparency Flattener drop down and select Low Resolution.

print pdf advanced trans low res

Good visualisation examples – The Crisis of Credit and the US Debt Crisis

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Rasika Amarasiri, our data base and tech guru (who also designed this piece of festival lighting awesomeness), has recently sent me links to these 2 examples of visualisations of complex economic issues

These short animated videos are great example of how even complex issues can be visualised in way that enhances understanding and retention

The ‘Crisis of Credit Visualised’ provides a simple explanation of the GFC

While this isn’t a the type of resource that we would be knocking out on a regular basis (it’s done in Flash), it is worth dissecting the way the creator, Jonathan Jarvis, uses images to support the message rather than text.

credit crisis visual

US Debt Crisis explains the current US Debt problem.

usdebt crisis

Each video explains in 10 minutes what an average dull lecture would take an hour to do.  Obviously, there is a lot of underlying detail we also need to cover. You could make watching the video homework or even show it at the start of the lecture.  All students would then be ‘on the same page’. The rest of the 50 minutes could be guided discussion of the problem which would bring out the underlying issues in a much more meaningful way (especially if  the alternative is 30 slides of text summarising a chapter).

Both videos use static images and very simple animation to explain the basic ideas.  You could do something very similar just using PowerPoint.

If you’re a Monash AccFin person and are interested in trying something like this let me know.

PowerPoint to PDF printing problem – Solution 3 (flattening)

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

‘Flattening” delays are a major pain.  I’m not sure of the cause as it hasn’t happened to me, but I have had to fix it for others.  This took me a while to figure out.

pdf print flattening

If you have tried the other solutions and are getting massive delays associated with the “flattening” process, try this.

Open the file in Adobe Pro (for Monash staff you can download it from the “Get Programs” list).

Click Tools

Select Protection

Select Remove Hidden items

pdf print pdf prep for dist flat sol

Click on Remove and Ok

pdf print pdf prep for dist flat sol 2

The “flattening” dialog box should now not appear and your file should print almost instantly.

If you know how to avoid the problem occurring in the first place please let me know.

Cool Things about Moodle – Gradebook releasing results

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Making grades visible to students in Blackboard is a multi-step, non-intuitive, unnecessarily fiddly, pain in the butt.

Moodle is much easier.  Click the Turn Editing On button.

Click on Grades in the Settings block

settings block grades

Click the Eye icon on the Grade column you want to hide.  The Eye icon will switch from open to closed.  How easy is that!

The Edit icon (the hand holding the pen) allows you to change other settings including setting an automatic release date for the grade to become visible

Gradebook general view 2