For a while now I've been thinking about how I could develop more academic skills resources for students here at Leicester (and anyone else who would find them useful for that matter) and I've come to the conclusion that I can't. At least not at the scale I'd like to. My job involves various aspects including teaching, student consultations, managing the website, overseeing our helpdesk, and resource development. The resource development bit just gets squeezed into the gaps around all the other stuff. However, without wanting to blow my own trumpet (okay, maybe just a little bit), many of the resources I've developed have been well received - having more than 50,000 views (yup, fifty thousand) and lots of good feedback. The resources are:
- the plagiarism tutorials that I started to develop in April 2007 (there are now 17 versions for different disciplines) and they've had more than 32,000 views;
- a tutorial on designing academic posters that I published in April 2009, which has had more than 18,000 views;
- and in September 2009, with Steve, the What it means to be a critical student tutorial, with more than 1,600 views.
- you don't need much technical skill (other than a good working knowledge of PowerPoint animation) to create them;
- other than PowerPoint the tools you can create them with are free (I used Screenr to do the screen capture and audio);
- neither do the tools require any installation (useful when working in an environment that restricts such things);
- when published on YouTube you can add closed captions (useful for accessibility reasons);
- it's embeddable;
- and the format is even suitable for mobile devices (like the iPhone).
Every story in this book relies on a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users. The promise is the basic "why" for anyone to join or contribute to a group. The tool helps with the "how" - how will the difficulties of coordination be overcome, or at least be held to manageable levels? And the bargain sets the rules of the road: if you are interested in the promise and adopt the tools, what can you expect, and what will be expected of you?Although he does say in the next sentence...
[...] the interaction of promise, tool, and bargain cannot be used as a recipe, because the interactions among the different components is too complex.But even though he says it can't be used as a recipe, I still think it's worth a go. I could apply for funding for this but there's little of it about in higher education at the moment, in any case, I'd like to see if it can be done without funding. So...
PromiseOr why would anyone want to be involved in this project? Well, I think it's a good opportunity to contribute some valuable creative commons, open educational resources and learn some valuable new skills.
ToolWe'd need a space to discuss and collaborate on the development of the resources. It could be Twitter, it could be this blog, or it could be a space we set up especially for the purpose (as long as it was public and not a walled garden like Ning). In terms of developing the tutorials themselves I guess people could use whatever tools they liked but I think it's important that the final output should be in YouTube with closed captions for reasons of both consistency and accessibility. My recent experience, as mentioned above, has been with PowerPoint and Screenr, but people could use whatever animation (I'd love to see it done with Open Ofiice's Presentation tool) and screen capture software they were most familiar with.
BargainShirky says this is difficult to pin down at an early stage, but it would include receiving feedback, comment and support from me and whoever else joins.
It might not work of course. This whole idea also relates to another of Shirky's chapters, Lowering the cost of failure, but that's probably the subject of another post. If between us we could make 5 or 10 decent tutorials I think it would be a worthwhile project.
What have I missed? If there's enough interest this post will need a part two, which will be more of a how-to, including the original template files. Who'd like to help?