Creating podcasts and screencasts
in AS level chemistry and geography
Using e-learning technologies for ‘Assessment for learning’ strategies
Bexhill College Penland Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, TN40 2JG
Bexhill College is a medium-sized 6th Form College based in East Sussex with over 1400 full-
time students. Bexhill College offers a wide range of courses, including A levels, BTEC
National Diplomas, International Baccalaureate (IB) Vocational A levels, GCSEs, BTEC Firsts
and Foundation levels. A-Level results at Bexhill College improved once again in 2008 with
candidates achieving a pass rate of 98%.This figure continues the track record of success of
results being above the National Average for the past 15 years.
Staff involved in project
The Professional Development Adviser (PDA) and Project Lead: Malcolm Allen
Chemistry Teacher: Lara Ward Geography Teacher: Maz McGowan.
Outline of project
This project explores the use of e-learning technologies such as video, audio and
screencasting as ways of engaging students in their own learning. Two different approaches
were taken with Chemistry and Geography learners and staff.
The focus in Geography is the use of audio, images and video to provide AS Geography
students with a route to demonstrate their own learning but also to learn through peer-
assessment. This project helped develop skills in collecting and interpreting quantitative
Students were required to gather video/ audio/ photographic qualitative information on a high
street of their choice. The students worked in pairs or threes and had full control over what
media they chose to record. In addition students were asked to make notes assessing the
probably ethnic origin of the shops they recorded and any potential social indicators
suggested by the type of shops present. The context was that of examining qualitative data
for the specification topic ‘social and cultural diversity of urban areas’. In future the students
will be able to compare this process with that of collecting and interpreting quantitative data.
The focus in Chemistry is the use of screencasting for and by students to support their
revision programme through guided teacher and self-assessment with AS Chemistry
students. This project helped develop the students’ ability to look critically at their own and
others’ work, with a view to improving their understanding and ability to answer questions,
particularly exam questions.
BDP Learning are working with representative FE system partners and the Association for Learning Technology
to deliver and support the eCPD Programme on behalf of LSIS.
Aims of the project
To develop our understanding of the benefits of Assessment for Learning.
To explore the contribution of e-learning technology in Assessment for Learning.
To develop skills to identify and provide e-learning technology opportunities.
Action Plan drawn up by PDA and reviewed with the Showcase Facilitator.
Meeting of the PDA, Chemistry and Geography teachers with the Professional
Development Centre Manager to discuss the principles of Assessment for Learning.
Geography students given fieldwork brief and a questionnaire to complete.
Meeting between PDA and Geography teacher to structure the lesson.
Classroom time identified for Geography students to collate their resources.
PDA provided in-class technical support for students.
PDA worked alongside teacher in the classroom to share the learning experience and
engage in professional dialogue while students worked.
Students evaluated work in class.
Vodcasts placed on our Blackboard VLE.
Chemistry teacher provided with software and encouraged to develop a focus.
Meetings between PDA and Chemistry teacher to consider strengths and limitations of
the software and how to engage the students in the task.
Chemistry teacher set up project with students with PDA present to share and support
PDA provided in-class technical support to Chemistry teacher when students created
their own ScreenCasts.
Students evaluated Screen Casts in class.
ScreenCasts placed on Blackboard.
A detailed analysis of all data collected from the questionnaires (see PowerPoints).
Showcase Project report written, proof read and completed by the PDA.
PDA final meeting with all staff involved to evaluate the project and plan next steps.
Dissemination events planned for internal CPD Bite-Size Programme (more of this later).
Outcomes to date
Evaluation of software and hardware used in the project valuable for similar projects.
A bank of resources created by teachers and students for present and future use.
Use of VLE to share resources.
Creation of questionnaires for use with students.
Student feedback from students in analysis of data collected.
Identification of next steps beyond end of Showcase Project in terms of the classroom
and CPD in the College.
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Geography Vodcasts created by students.
Development of learner skills in their ability to manipulate of video, images and audio.
Chemistry teacher and student ScreenCasts created.
Development of learner skills in the use of interactive software to create video.
Blackboard VLE used to host all resources created.
Positive feedback from most students via questionnaires.
Development of students’ openness to new approaches to learning.
Good experience gained from the project to build upon in terms of teacher eCPD.
The benefits that a PDA can provide to develop and support similar projects.
Vodcasts – challenges and solutions:
Our initial challenge was how to collect the wide variety of audio, images and video from the
students from their fieldwork? It was decided that students must make available their
resources in common formats such as AVI, WMA, JPEG and mp3. This did ensure that the
lesson helped to focus on their analysis of the resources rather than having to resolve
obscure media formats. It may be of some use to colleagues to know of a free media
converting format website that we have used successfully so far http://media-convert.com/ .
The second challenge was to select what software to use. Our initial questionnaire found that
there was a very broad range of experience in the groups. We decided to use three free
programmes namely Audacity (audio editor), M/S Movie Maker (combine video, images and
audio) and Photo Story 3 (creates movie clips based on still images). Possibly we could have
provided some initial training but on reflection students responded well and had support to
answer the ‘Can I do...?’ questions from staff with the necessary knowledge.
We found that the first group only just had sufficient time to complete their task and
commented that they didn’t really develop their analysis because of this limitation. The
second group benefitted from a much clearer time-based structure with lots of reminders.
However long we give students to complete a task it would not be long enough as with video
and audio editing there is always some way in which the product can be improved.
A query from the outset was whether this task would provide enough opportunity for students
to produce an equivalent depth of analysis compared with a written assignment. Certainly
there was little evidence of research being brought to the classroom although use was made
of the Internet in the lesson. Many students also found they had to organise a script of some
kind when adding audio analysis.
One technical issue that occurred during the use of the wireless laptops was that video
production to their network drive became very slow. The second group saved to the local
drive which was more efficient. The pressure to collect video from the laptops at the end of
the laptops without a shared network drive was acute. Individual memory sticks were used to
collect. Perhaps the digital drop box of the VLE could have been used.
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Although some previous testing had been carried out it was reassuring that we found
Blackboard our VLE able to cope with the Vodcasts. Students were advised to download the
clips if they found streaming too slow. We had initially set suggested limits at three minute
clips or ten images although many students exceeded this.
Vodcast next steps:
Repeat the task for a different fieldwork assignment.
Explore the creation of video for classroom-based procedures.
Share this experience with the Chemistry teacher to look at how Vodcasts could be
created in the Chemistry lab.
ScreenCasts – challenges and solutions:
Our first challenge was how to create an effective teacher ScreenCast .The Chemistry
teacher had some limited experience of using Camtasia at her previous College and it was
decided to purchase this highly recommended, albeit expensive, software for this project. Our
research did come across a freely available download called Blink that might be worth
Learning the software to create ScreenCasts and maximising its potential was a steep
learning curve for both the teacher and the PDA. The intuitive nature of the software helped
as did having two of us working together. It is a sophisticated piece of software and some of
the facilities it has will help to develop ScreenCasts much further.
The ability to display the relevant learning intentions in a window at the base of the screen
whilst the video was playing was a good feature and one identified as having value by the
students. Initially the intention was to add audio at the same time as the video but this proved
more difficult in practice. The audio in the final ScreenCast was added later and was scripted.
We were a little surprised how the students initially responded to the idea of a ScreenCast.
There was quite some reticence about the value and benefits of this form of resource.
However many attitudes did change positively during the project once they saw what the
teacher had produced and when they had the opportunity to create their own. Perhaps the
relatively new concept of a ScreenCast was not clear at the outset.
With the students we used the interactive whiteboard InterWrite software
(www.interwritelearning.com.) that comes with the board. This has the Record and Playback
function to record screen movements and proved to be very suitable and reliable throughout.
This also has the ability to include sound. Students were very self-conscious about audio and
did not use this. We have digital voice recorders that we can use to add an audio
commentary as they watch their ScreenCast. The video and audio could then be combined in
M/S Movie Maker later although this would obviously extend the time taken but would
enhance the ScreenCasts in some instances. Note the SMART interactive has a similar
facility also called Recorder.
Technical note: to save as an AVI file we did need to install the Techsmith codec with the
InterWrite software. This is on the installation disc and can be downloaded. However the
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codec is required to run these files and this can cause difficulties at home or College
computers without the codec. Incidentally this is the same as used by Camtasia. We also
decided to save the Camtasia ScreenCast as AVI files so that the student files can be
combined in future teacher-created ScreenCasts. The AVI files can however be converted
easily to WMV files with M/S Movie Maker for distribution.
ScreenCast next steps:
To create more ScreenCasts for the students including incorporating student ScreenCasts
To provide more opportunities for the students to create their own ScreenCasts.
To share this experience with the Geography teacher to look at how ScreenCasts could
be created in the Geography classroom.
Contribution to learning
The clear, explicit and relevant assessment criteria set for tasks by the teachers helped
students to understand the learning process.
Self Assessment and Peer Assessment were used and valued by students.
Interactive revision material prepared for Chemistry students.
Students involved in the learning process created their own Vodcasts and ScreenCasts.
Geography students became aware of the need for equivalent amount of research for a
Vodcast as for a written assignment although the material would be used in a different
Chemistry students encouraged and challenged to explore different methods of learning
compared to their preference for book-based learning.
Students became reflective learners through the use of questionnaires and peer-
All resources stored for future use by staff and students.
The role of the Professional Development Advisor (PDA)
The PDA was instrumental in drawing up the Action Plan in consultation with the staff
members. This involved helping to clarify learning objectives, the practicalities of the task and
establish realistic expectations for the project.
It was important to involve the Professional Development Centre Manager in the project for
two key reasons. Initially to feedback on the PDA training, the eCPD Framework and how the
role of the PDA could assist the College. We found that there are many similarities between
the PDA and Subject Learning Coaches training. It was agreed that the PDA would have
some involvement in the training of our Subject Learning Coaches. The second benefit was
to set up a meeting with all of the teachers involved for the PDC Manager to lead a
discussion about Assessment for Learning.
Central to the process was the PDA keeping regular contact with the members of staff. This
was through face-to-face and a limited number of e-mails. Both teachers have a heavy
commitment so any communications needs to specific and precise. This contact was to
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clarify the process, sort out any technical or organisational difficulties and to keep to the
Part of the PDA role was also predicting and solving technology issues such as resource
formats and the preparation of hardware and software required. This was in order to reduce
the potential technical barriers to the project and maximise the chances of success. Adam
Blackwood (JISC RSC-SE) has been very helpful in supporting this project and through the
‘ILT Stirring Pot’ event that he held.
The PDA was also asked to create regular video blogs for the LSIS eCPD website. Whilst
this was a time-consuming process, it did help keep focus and also to recognise
achievements and milestones along the way.
Making it work
A key to success is to have teachers who are enthusiastic and committed to trying new ideas.
This attitude makes the process much easier to manage and maximises the chances for
success. It has been mentioned previously that it is important to provide the necessary
support to the staff to accomplish the aims of the project. This was done through the use of
encouragement, praise and reassurance. Time is the most precious commodity in College.
Provide as much time as possible for staff to explore the creative possibilities ideally with a
colleague to discuss different ideas.
Central to this project and the principles of Assessment for Learning was the engagement of
the students in the process and the valuing of their comments. This was achieved in two
ways. One was the skill of the teacher to ‘sell’ the project, discussing and resolving the
reservations that many of the students had to different ways of working and thinking. The
second was through the use of questionnaires to provide opportunities for the students to
provide their ‘voice’ to the project. An analysis of the questionnaires can be found in the
PowerPoint files submitted as part of this project. Support to students was provided through
the provision of clear guidance and time frame for students.
Think in advance about potential hardware and software issues but don’t be surprised if
things still go wrong! Early on we looked to identify compatible formats for the collection of
audio and video resources for use in other software, such as PowerPoint and Windows
Media Player, for example .wmv/.avi video and mp3 audio. Many Helpsheets are available
from the eCPD website and we have produced some for support and logging settings used
(see full list of Resources).
Advance preparation of resources and testing as much as possible is of benefit such as
testing the capability of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to manage video files.
However we were still caught out twice. The first lesson learnt was that the use of video and
editing challenges hardware and is best carried out locally rather than across a network. The
second was to think about how to collect completed tasks if there is no Shared Drive
available. Consider the use of individual memory sticks if that facility is not available.
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I found that the experience has proved a positive one for my CPD, especially as I am a Newly
Qualified Teacher (NQT) and I have enjoyed exploring ways of improving traditional learning
experiences in geography to include greater use of new technologies. The most immediate
impact on the learners has been one of improving motivation in all lessons after the project,
possibly due to the students being made aware that geography can be fun. Students
commented that it was a ‘Different way of learning – more practical and interesting’ and that it
was a ‘Fun way to learn’.
The major impact on my development in understanding of Assessment for Learning was to
improve the way in which I think about assessment for learning rather than just assessment
of learning. The use of student self assessment questionnaires before and after the project is
an approach I will use in the future. The benefit of this for students will be a more structured
approach to planning assessment and learning.
We had an increase in the number of students who rated the project highly for effectiveness
as an assignment task. We also had an increase in students who rated highly for
effectiveness of feedback from peers and tutors. I would expect that completing a further step
of the project such as being able to rate each other’s projects after viewing them on
Blackboard would increase this further, although the students did rate each other’s work in
Students in Group B seemed to perceive a greater benefit to preferred learning style than
Group A. This could reflect the multimedia nature of the project having greater appeal to
Group B, which is the group with the widest range of learning styles. Around half of the B
Group include Kinaesthetic in their learning style profile, compared with less than a quarter of
the A Group who are mainly visual learners who may prefer reading about something to
doing things in a more practical way.
Positive comments included ‘Narration helped understanding’ - a reference to the scripting
and narration of a commentary over the visual images the students had collected. The
students felt that by adding this commentary they were required to really think hard about the
information they were presenting. Many students commented on their dissatisfaction with the
quality of their analysis including ‘Not enough time given to do a full analysis’, ‘More research
needed’ and ‘Not enough detail. No analysis’. This partly reflects the inexperience of the
students in producing work of this nature, that they were required to produce their analysis as
part of their research before the lesson. There were mixed responses to the e-learning
technology, with some finding use of the computers and software easy and beneficial, and
some finding that they spent time grappling with the technology that they would have rather
spent in analysis of their information.
Lessons learned from the project include the benefit of having a trained e-learning specialist
present to guide the students in the use of the software we used for this project. The students
also responded well to the interdisciplinary approach and seemed to feel due to the obvious
extra effort made to enable them to approach learning in a different way.
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This project has made me renew my thought processes for teaching this particular topic and
leads onto bringing in the ideas into other topics.
The learners have been enthusiastic about looking back at their own ScreenCasts and
evaluating their own and other’s work. It is apparent that Assessment for Learning is an
important part of a student’s development in the subject.
This was reflected in the student feedback. Students commented on the teacher-made
Screencast that it was ‘…clear and easy to understand how the objective met what was being
shown in the video.’ The students thought that ‘Visual aids with sounds over the top means it
is easier to understand,’ ‘It gives you a step-by-step visual’ and ‘It provided a basic insight
into learning objectives.’
The students recognised that the use of ScreenCasts ‘Covers a range of learning styles.’
Feedback indicated that there was a move towards a more positive match to preferred
learning styles during the Project. Visual and auditory learners recognised the greatest
benefits for their preferred learning styles.
The next Step is to include real student responses in order to develop other students’
understanding of the topic and ability to answer questions appropriately. A challenge is to find
the time to incorporate the students’ work using the ScreenCast software.
Advice for ScreenCasts: Keep it short and to the point!
Full list of resources
PDA Video Blog entries in .wmv format.
Selected Geography student Vodcasts in .wmv format.
Teacher-created Screencast and selected Chemistry student ScreenCasts in .wmv
Two M/S PowerPoints with analysis of student questionnaires for Geography &
Five M/S Word Student Questionnaires pre-task and post-task for Geography &
M/S Word Helpsheets.
How to use the InterWrite Recorder function.
Settings to create .avi files in Camtasia.
How to use M/S Movie Maker to convert .avi files to .wmv files.
Not included but we used numerous Helpsheets from the Shared Resources Library
available on the eCPD website, Photo Story 3 for example.
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Next Steps for CPD
Bexhill College has a Bite-Size Training programme in place. This is a regular programme of
30 minute sessions run each week by the staff for the staff in all manner of topics from Active
Learning, through Behaviour Management to ILT training. Staff sign up to the topic of interest
and this contributes towards their IfL 30 hours CPD requirement.
There are two parts of each topic. The first session brings staff together to discuss the focus
of the training, what works, what problems have been encountered and possible solutions.
There is a two week gap before the second session in order to try out the ideas and
techniques explored. Staff then bring together their experiences and report progress made.
We will use this programme initially to feed back the work of the Showcase project to
identified members of each Faculty as well to interested members of staff. The teachers
involved will become nominated advisers for other staff. The PDA will be available to support
other teacher with similar projects.
The Bite-Size Programme will also be used to provide hands-on experience of the hardware
and software used. Staff can then make informed decisions about what best suits their
intended purpose and appropriate budgetary decisions can be made.
An area on the Blackboard (VLE) Staff site was set up to include this Case Study, video
blogs created as part of the projects, Vodcasts, ScreenCasts, an analysis of student
questionnaires and related other related resources. This was referenced via e-mail to all staff.
The Showcase project was shared with all staff in an article written for and included in the
College Staff Newsletter. The Blackboard link was also provided.
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