Easy upload of video in Moodle; PoodLL as solution?

isaonscreen.007“How am I doing?”

This is something a learner wants to know when she is practicing communication skills. She doesn’t want to wait for a face-to-face workshop to get feedback on her progress. And she doesn’t have to, because there is so much you can do online! As a designer of a blended skills training you need tools to facilitate it. An easy and secure upload of video is the most important condition. In Moodle you can use PoodLL. Let’s see how this works.

Learning how to present via webcam

First a little information on our context. My colleagues of BestBlend are working on an online learning program for professionals who want to host a smashing webinar or give a riveting online presentation. They will speak with an audience through their webcam. There is quite a lot to learn here. Keeping your audience focused is a much bigger challenge if you as presenter are only virtually present.

Our program is built with four blocks:

  1. What are you going to tell and how? What is the essence of your story? What storyline and metaphores will work best?
  2. How do you express yourself as a presenter? This is all about you, your voice, your non-verbal behavior, your “presence”.
  3. How do you visualize your story? Is it only your audience is looking at or do you tell the story with captivating slides and video clips? And how do you interact online?
  4. How to combine it all? How to use your new presentation skills while you are operating  the software? This could be Adobe Connect, WebEx or just Skype.

Use video to feel closer to each other

We as trainers will be socially present in the online environment. Our aim is to make the participants feel we are with them, although all contact will be virtual. One of the ways to keep in touch, is to present important steps in the program on video. Participants see us present online and will use our behavior as a model. So, we as trainers, will profit from an easy way to upload our clips.

Participants show their skills on video

But, we as trainers are not the most important target group for the easy video upload solution. Our participants are! The second block, that focuses on expression, will lean heavily on submitting and discussing videoclips of participants’ performance. In thoe other blocks we will use at well. Whether your story really works, will only become clear if you tell it to an audience.

Our program is mostly based on a social learning strategy. Something like this

Figure borrowed from http://performancetechnologists.blogspot.nl/2013/05/impacts-of-social-media-on-learning.html; very good articles on the benefits and pitfalls of learning from social media

The coach looks at the participant’s performance, discusses with him – and if he wants that, also with peers – what his most urgent learning points are. The coach will explain, in an online conversation (Adobe Connect) what makes his behavior attractive, distractive, boring, crystal clear or incomprehensible. If there is real agreement on the learning goals, the participant will be offered examples and guidelines and exercises to practice. Soon there will be a second version to show and review.

As the participant’s ambition is to present through the webcam, it is rather obvious if he submits his work via online video as well. We will do this synchronously. Then the coach and maybe peers are watching while the learner is presenting. This has value because it’s always more exciting if you know that you’re being watched. Also, the viewers can give there first impressions. This however, we reserve for a moment near the end of the learning curve. Because for practicing the learner must be able to record, watch and evaluate, throw away and record again, until he thinks it will not get better and he needs feedback.

How to facilitate recording and submitting video?

We know that anything that makes a participant think or doubt his next step in an online environment, will take the dynamic out of the learning process. The attention should not go to searching for the right button but to “How can I apply the feedback I just received in my next attempt to make a catchy performance?”

Why is it such an issue? Everybody takes videos with his smartphone or tablet and throws them on Facebook or Twitter! Looking at my own learning curve regarding uploading video, it was remarkably short. I am already so familiair with how interfaces work that I can’t even remember thinking consciously about “Oh my, what to do next?” Even switching from iPhone to Android was no big deal.

Moodle is not Facebook

facebookAn online environment like Moodle somehow isn’t like Facebook. On Facebook it doesn’t matter which device or platform you use or which players you have installed. Behind the screen Facebook converts the video to a format that will work on practically every device. Facebook talks to your device, recognizes the configuration and spits out the right file format. No “Oh shoot, Flash doesn’t work on an iPad”, or “Jeez, a mov file can only be played by a Mac, unless people install Quicktime”.

(Too?) many options

Moodle has many different ways for participants to show a videoclip. First of all, there has to be a container to put it in. Participants with the role of student can not just dump their video anywhere. There has to be a learning activity where they are invited to do this. Could be a Forum, Assignment, Wiki or Workshop. I will not go into the differences here. Let’s think of a Forum where participants share a video with their coach and peers and gather feedback from them. In a Forum they can make a post, and then:

  • Use the Add media button in the editor
  • Upload a video file as an attachment
  • Use a plug in like PoodLL Anywhere (more about that later)
  • Upload the video to Vimeo or YouTube and link or embed the video
  • Link to a file in their personal Dropbox

What criteria we think are important?

All these options have their pro’s and cons. Criteria one could use to evaluate these options are:

  1. Is it easy? Not only for software-savvies, but also for hesitant software users?
  2. Is it secure? A participant wants to be absolutely sure that no one will ever accidentally find his video.
  3. Does the video play everywhere, even on iPads (no Flash) without installing extra’s?
  4. Does the video play smoothly with good sound?
  5. Is our server not overloaded with data within a few weeks?

My plan is to discuss all options and hold them against the criteria.

In this post I would like to zoom in on the PoodLL Anywhere plug in for Moodle. Here’s a short screencast:

What do you think?

Before I will give any comments, I want to see how my colleagues experience working with it. But, I need to warn them for a little something.

As you saw, the PoodLL Anywhere plug in sits in the Moodle editor. The editor is everywhere in Moodle, whether you are creating a Page or Book (not for students) or a Forum post, Wiki page or handing in an Assignment (for students). That’s why the plugin is called PoodLL Anywhere! When I was recording I was in doubt about showing a small Moodle thing or not. This is really something an unsuspecting participant will choke on.

If you have just logged into Moodle, open a Forum, and start a new post, the editor looks like this:

Editor collapsed

Editor collapsed

Now where are the PoodLL icons?

Editor expanded

Editor expanded

You have to click on the icon in the upper left corner to expand the editor and make the PoodLL icons appear. When Moodle 2.5 was introduced this collapse/expand feature was supposed to make editing easier…

Well, let’s forget about this sidestep and see how my colleagues like this little PoodLL. In my next post I wil give a review.