6th Annual  MSU Faculty  Technology  Showcase, Erickson Hall, February 22, 2013 

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Links from Carl Lira

These links were prepared for my presentation at the 6th Annual MSU Faculty Technology Showcase 2013, in Erickson Hall on the MSU campus on February 22, 2013. The links were organized to provide an overview of my experiences and recommendations.


Since about 2001, I have taught ChE804, Foundations in Chemical Engineering as a distance course. I am currently updating the lessons. The lessons are prerecorded using predominantly Adobe Presenter, with some use of Jing and Camtasia for computer software demonstrations. The students watch lessons asynchronously and follow a calendar to submit homework and take bi-weekly proctored quizzes.

As an engineering course, the course is problem-solving intensive. The problems do not lend themselves to multiple choice. Homework is scanned by the students and sent to a gmail address where I print and deliver to a grader. The grader scans and returns marked work via e-mail. Quizzes are scanned and e-mailed to me from the proctor. A database is used to manage all the student and proctor information and distribute quizzes to the proctors via e-mail.

Discussion forums are the primary tool used for Q and A.

The documentation for D2L is thorough in the 'on-line' training. I use the quiz tool for students to self-report that they have submitted homework. The solutions are then available to them. I use 'intelligent' agents to report by e-mail to the student and me the first time the solutions are accessed. The agents run on a schedule, not instantaneously when the items are accessed.

The quiz library was confusing to me at first, but I am able to generate quizzes more quickly now. It is possible to generate new quiz questions by modifying existing quiz questions.

The buttons are kind of large and the screen is sometimes not used efficiently. For example, the e-mail interface is awkward.


I am 'flipping' selected lessons in ChE 321, Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics. Weekly assignments are submitted written, but LON-CAPA problems have been intermixed. The use of screencasts has greatly improved the amount of personal contact and the amount of time that the TA and I are able to help students work homework problems. I have also scheduled computer program work sessions that were not previously possible.

I use LON-CAPA for 'concept tests' that follow the screencasts. I also use it for 'fill-in-the-blank' reporting for the in-class computer exercises, providing students with instant feedback if they are getting the correct answers.

I have also used the scripting in LON-CAPA to create personalized, randomized variations. The perl scripting language is relatively easy to learn and after a few times creating problems with the 'pretty' html editor, new users who are comfortable with html code can learn the loncapa delimiters used for writing problem in xml.

Though LON-CAPA does not have a help phone, the e-mail help desk is very responsive (within a day). The answers are always thorough. The system is significantly more powerful that D2L. The complexity may be confusing to beginners. If you want just a simple web site to host materials and problem sets, than D2L is easier. If you want a more complex site and customized problems, then LON-CAPA is better. Student feedback on a multi-step computational problem was heavily favorable. I like the 'compact' screen displays compared to D2L.

It is possible to customize release dates for different groups. I used this when I had to subdivide the class in groups with different due dates for a computer lab project.

It is not possible to subscribe to discussion forums. Html pages are very 'basic' if you want to include images. Mathematics is highly supported.

Tools That I Use

My top recommendation is to use a script for recorded lessons. This is also recommended by Techsmith.com. Also, if you want to comply with accessibility, captioning or text is required, and this is an easy way to meet this requirement.

Windows Snipping Tool

snip imageThis tools is available with Windows Vista and later Windows versions in the set of tools for Tablet PCs. It is very easy to create a screen shot of a portion of the desktop, pdf, or computer program, and then insert the image into a lesson. The software is usually available on desktop computers, but often not enabled by default unless you have a tablet PC. From the control panel, for Win7, visit 'Programs and Features' and then look in the sidebar for 'Turn Windows Features on or off", and then look for the 'Tablet PC components'.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

(www.nuance.com/dragon) I use Dragon Naturally Speaking to create my scripts. I talk through the presentation the first time, including the mouse 'clicks'. I rearrange the scxript and touch-up the script before the production recording.The script also helps me avoid repeating myself. It takes me about 3 minutes to read a one page script. This helps me judge the length of presentation.

The presentation should more more quickly than a live lecture. You need to talk faster than normal live lecture when making screencasts or it will be boring. A script enables me to present at a good pace. The listener can always pause or go back if they miss something.

Adobe Presenter

(www.adobe.com/products/presenter.html). This is my primary tool for presenting conceptual material and examples. This is a 'plug in' that runs only in a PowerPoint Windows environment. I use a lot of animations in my recordings. Attributes I like: (1) You can record over a single slide without recording the entire presentation; (2) You can fix typos or animations without re-recording the presentation; (3) You can edit the audio without re-recording the entire presentation. Features that I have not yet used; (1) Quizzing capabilities (I put lon-capa quizzes after screencasts); (2) Interactivity; (3) Imbedding video (I just make a separate screencast).

I work to keep my presentations under 10 min as much as possible.

Example Adobe Presenter Lessons

http://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/workshop13/prep/viewer.swf - How to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for use with Adobe Presenter. (3min:30sec)

http://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/workshop13/prod/viewer.swf - How to record a PowerPoint presentation with Adobe Presenter. (5min:50sec)

http://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/workshop13/example_handout.pdf - lessons always have an accompanying pdf of slide templates. There are too many details for students to copy everything, so this gives then an initial template with drawings and equations.

http://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/PrinciplesOfProbability1/ - An example lesson where I used screen shots to create the slides from written material rather than typing them, and then I used lots of animations so the listener can follow. This is an option to save time from typing slides. Using a tool like Windows Journal or OneNote would have made the notes look tidier, but this happened to be a handout already given to a graduate class, so I took screen shots of the handout. (The next time I record this material, I will break it into at least two screencasts.)


jing image (www.techsmith.com/jing.html). Jing provides up to 5 min of screen capture. If you want more than 5 min, you should consider the Jing's big brothers, Snag-It or Camtasia. Neither Jing or Snag-It provide editing. It is possible to insert Jing movies into Camtasia to stick them together into a presentation longer than 5 min. To make 'perfect' presentations longer than 5 min, this tool can be used with Camtasia. However, Camtasia offers screen recording with many more features, so I rarely use Jing unless I don't plan on polishing the presentation.


(www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html) Unless you are perfect, or have lots of patience to make multiple 'takes', you will want to edit your screencasts. This is a great tool. The interface is intuitive. It is possible to import 'Jing' screencasts or record from within Camtasia. I upload my screencasts to youtube for wide distribution. Attributes I like: (1) you can separate audio and video and re-record audio while preserving video - (I need to eliminate lots of 'ums'); (2) you can patch videos together.

I recomment that you use standard screen capture sizes if you upload to youtube or test the aspect ratio. I have found a small difference in aspect ratio can make a large difference in image crispness on youtube.

When recording software demos, I use an off-screen outline of major points to make when recording a screencasts, rather than using a script. (My eyes can't be on the script and the screen at the same time!) I usually must do more editing of the recording compared to Adobe Presenter productions.

Example Screen-Recorded Screencasts

https://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/supp/software/Using_XSteam_Excel.swf - Made with Jing about how to use and customize software for calculating steam properties..

http://www.egr.msu.edu/~lira/workshop13/loncapa/grades.swf - Made with Jing about how to read loncapa grades.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAG050GGP8A - Made with Camtasia to demonstrate software. Note the use of 'zoom' on small dialog box text. (My older screencasts on youtube were made with Microsoft Expression 4).

http://www.screencast.com/users/ctlira/folders/workshop/media/433415bf-f86a-4080-92c7-bf78eb156296 - Made with Camtasia to show a loncapa problem that students liked.

http://www.screencast.com/users/ctlira/folders/workshop/media/cfc6fcc4-7394-451d-9148-7417bcf5aea9 - Made with Camtasia with an intentional error in the audio. (Fixed below).

http://www.screencast.com/users/ctlira/folders/workshop/media/f21049b1-7eda-4d1d-8c33-b86d2825d17f - Edited with Camtasia to 'patch' the audio in the above recording. I did a single take of the patch to demonstrate, so the patch is not perfect, but the example shows that it can be done with relatively little effort.


http://learndat.tech.msu.edu/tools/mediaspace - MSU sponsored hosting of media that allows tracking of usage.

http://www.youtube.com/education?category=University/Engineering - For broad exposure of material you wish to be in the public domain.