Organizing Technology to Teach On-Line

There are many technical issues to explore when setting up an on-line course.  The most important resource with respect to all aspects of technical course design was our superstar instructional technologist at Albany Law School, Darlene Cardillo (here is a link to her technology blog:   http://albanylawtech.wordpress.com). What follows are some of the important issues explored and lessons learned:

1 – What platform was available to “host” the course?  I had used Blackboard in the past, but Albany Law School did not have access to this.  In the end, TWEN was selected after Darlene’s recommendation.  I had some comfort with TWEN, having used some of its functionality last semester, but I definitely needed a tutorial on the possibilities it had for an on-line course. My next posting will provide details on how I am using the TWEN tools to deliver the course.

2 – What other software and hardware did I need? After deciding that I would not be having students log-in for live video chats (this eliminated the need for a webcam/camera in my computer and the need to download software (such as Skype), I did decide to try using slide presentations with my voice over to convey certain information for some weeks. To accomplish this, Darlene set me up with Adobe Presenter and a microphone.  I also got a small recorder that saves recordings as mp3 files for easy uploading to the course site.  This will allow me to post “podcasts” of interviews I might conduct during the semester.

3 – Practice.  I like the Adobe Presenter software since it allows me to record audio one slide at a time and save it.  I didn’t count on the amount of time it would take me to record the audio.  For week one I had 17 slides.  I figured it would take me 25-30 minutes to record the audio.  Wrong.  It took me 90 minutes.  I realized that when I went to record a “lasting memorial” of my words, I sought greater perfection than the more informal patterns of speech in front of the classroom.  I re-recorded individual slides more times that I care to relate.  I resisted though the temptation to “script” the slides.  I thought it would take too much time and my presentations/discussions in class are not “scripted” as such.  I wanted to words and speech patterns to seem real, yet polished.  The ninety minute investment was worth it – except, I did not save the presentation correctly, lost it, and had to start over again.  Hard lesson in what not to do!

4- Size of the files for posting.  Generally I have not had problems opening pdf files I have placed in the weekly resource files.  However, some difficulty was experienced opening the pdf of the slide presentation made with Adobe Presenter.  I may not have compressed the file when I saved it.  It was also advised that Adobe 9 was required to open the document. Aaron Cabbage at Westlaw who works on TWEN design/development has also recommended saving the slides in the future through Slide Share (http://www.slideshare.net ) and then posting a link from the TWEN site.  I may try that next.

Patty Salkin, Albany Law School

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for giving us the chance to learn from your attempt at this brave new world….I know that there are folks that have really strong opinions about Blackboard vs. TWEN and about what has worked and not worked. I hope we get some interchange going …..

  2. I hope I’m not being too techie but I’d like to add some info on using TWEN for online teaching.

    TWEN has the ability (using the HTML button) to copy embed codes from external sources of content and embed large files so students don’t have to download them.

    This can be done for videos in YouTube and in Vimeo and for large documents (pdfs, ppts) in Slideshare,net.

    One thing I learned is that in Slideshare, pdfs with audio attached (such as what Patty did with Adobe Presenter) don’t upload correctly.

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