Setting up OBS for screen sharing presentations and webinars

The video below looks at how to overlay presentations with a mask so that it wraps up various media into a single cohesive presentation that you can screen share. The positioning of the speaker’s webcam in virtual presentations has never been quite satisfactory. In Zoom, you disappear altogether, while in Teams you are relegated to a little blob at the bottom of the screen. There is often value in having a larger speaker view; to impart the human gestures accompanying presentation or for particular teaching moments where you might want to share some detail on camera. David Read told me 10…

A new book on teaching chemistry in higher education

This summer I published a very special book on teaching chemistry in higher education. Each chapter in the book contains some approach on teaching chemistry, written by someone who has implemented that approach more than once in their own setting. Chapters explain how the approaches are grounded in the literature, explain the rationale for the approach, and then go on to give some detail on the implementation and outcomes of the approach. Thus the book intends to be useful to those new or reconsidering approaches to teaching chemistry in higher education, as well as those involved in education development. While…

A view from Down Under

I’ve spent the last two week in Australia thanks to a trip to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute 100th Annual Congress in Melbourne. I attended the Chemistry Education symposium. So what is keeping chemistry educators busy around this part of the world? There are a lot of similarities, but some differences. While we wrestle with the ripples of TEF and the totalitarian threat of learning gains, around here the acronym of fear is TLO: threshold learning outcomes.  As I understand it, these are legally binding statements stating that university courses will ensure students will graduate with the stated outcomes. Institutions…

Mayer’s Principles: Using multimedia for e-learning (updated 2017)

Anyone involved in e-learning will know of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, which draws together information processing model (dual coding), cognitive load theory (working memory), and the notion of active processing. You can read a little more of this in this (old) post. Anyway, for most of us who don’t do full on e-learning, Mayer’s principles have value when we make things like videos or multimedia that we wish the students to interact with outside of their time with us. As such, Mayer’s principles, as reported in The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning are well cited. Mayer has just…

Revising functional groups with lightbulb feedback

I’m always a little envious when people tell me they were students of chemistry at Glasgow during Alex Johnstone’s time there. A recent read from the Education in Chemistry back-catalogue has turned me a shade greener. Let me tell you about something wonderful. The concept of working memory is based on the notion that we can process a finite number of new bits in one instance, originally thought to be about 7, now about 4.  What these ‘bits’ are depend on what we know. So a person who only knows a little chemistry will look at a complex organic molecule…

Why do academics use technology in teaching?

This week is All Aboard week in Ireland, essayed at “Building Confidence in Digital Skills for Learning”. I am speaking today in the gorgeous city of Galway on this topic, and came across this paper in a recent BJET which gives some useful context. It summarises interviews with 33 Australian academics from various disciplines, on the topic of why they used technology in assessment. While the particular lens is on assessment, I think there are some useful things to note for those espousing the incorporation of technology generally. Four themes emerge from the interviews The first is that there is…

Rounding up the peer review and digital badge project

Marcy Towns’ lovely paper from 2015 described the use of digital badges in higher education chemistry, specifically for assessment of laboratory skills. This work was important.  The concept of badges had been around for a while. When I first came across them while doing an MSc in E-Learning back in 2010, laboratory work seemed an obvious place to use them. But while the technology promised a lot, there wasn’t feasible systems in place to do it. And what exactly would you badge, anyway? And would undergraduate students really take a digital badge seriously? Towns’ work was important for several reasons. On…

Using the Columbo approach on Discussion Boards

As pat of our ongoing development of an electronic laboratory manual at Edinburgh, I decided this year to incorporate discussion boards to support students doing physical chemistry labs. It’s always a shock, and a bit upsetting, to hear students say that they spent very long periods of time on lab reports. The idea behind the discussion board was to support them as they were doing these reports, so that they could use the time they were working on them in a more focussed way. The core aim is to avoid the horror stories of students spending 18 hours on a…

Using digital technology to assess experimental science

The following was a pre-conference piece submitted to a Royal Society conference on assessment in practical science. Summary A modern laboratory education curriculum should embrace digital technologies with assessment protocols that enable students to showcase their skills and competences. With regards to assessment, such a curriculum should: incorporate the digital domain for all aspects related to experimental work; preparations, activities, reflections; provide a robust and valid assessment framework but with flexibility for individuality; emphasise to students the role of documenting evidence in demonstrating skills and competences by means of micro-accreditation, such as digital badges. This paper summarizes how some digital…