Providing Video Feedback on Assignments

On Wednesday, February 10, at 10am, I will be giving a Practice Session at the 2016 Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy on Providing Video Feedback on Assignments. I have posted below the material I will be using during this 50-minute session.

During the session I will discuss how to [1] create a video-feedback platform using SnagIt, Google+, Google Circles, and YouTube, [2] structure the process of providing video feedback, and [3] what to include in the feedback video. I plan to share what I have learned from experimenting with Google Apps and screen capture software, and from recording over 300 assignment feedback videos.

Click on the image below to access the first Google Doc that will be used during the practice session. This document provides instructions on what participants will need to do to be able to engage in the session.


The second Google Doc below provides guidance on how to set up a Google Apps platform for a course.


The slides below provide some initial results from my research into providing video feedback on assignments.

Google Apps Features Wish List

Over the past year, I have used a range of Google Apps to support my courses at Virginia Tech. While these Apps have transformed the way I approach the delivery of my courses, I believe there is room to further improve the Apps to help faculty/teachers create a flexible and integrated course platform.

In this post, I list the Apps I currently use and provide my wish list of features that I’d like Google Apps developers to consider creating.

2015-02-26_1324Google Drive: I share course-related material with students enrolled in my courses via Google Drive. Each course folder typically consists of Syllabus, Readings, Slides, and Sharing subfolders. The files saved in the first three subfolders are ‘read only’ to protect the integrity of the information/data. Students have full editing rights for the Sharing subfolder, which is where new material, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc. are saved.

  • Feature Request: I would like students who officially enroll in one of my courses to be ‘automatically’ added to the course folder on Google Drive. The development of this feature would require close collaboration with VT’s Computing and Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS) groups.
  • Feature Request: I would like to have one interface where I could assign all the viewing/editing rights to each folder/subfolder for all of my students. This would save me from having to assign these permissions when viewing each folder/sub-folder.

Google+ Community:  I use both public and private Google+ Communities to share information and support course-related discussions/exchanges (both inside and outside of the classroom). The decision to make a community public or private is primarily based on the subject matter. However, I have found that private communities enable me to consolidate all of the Google Apps in use in one location, which is more difficult in a public setting since non-VT students frequently request access to course resources that are linked to a community.

  • Feature Request: The Google+ Community is the epicenter of my courses. Right now I link other Apps – such as a Google Drive folder and Google Classroom – to each community by adding a URL link to the description of the community (see the image below). It would be useful if I could connect these Apps in a more explicit way – i.e., have a dedicated area/space near the top of the community where all related Apps can be more clearly shown. The same ‘connections’ area/space should be added to Google Drive, Google Classroom, etc. to enable a seamless transition between Apps. This feature grows in importance as the number of Apps being used to support a course increases.

2015-02-26_1321Google Classroom: Used as an assignment management tool. This App streamlines the sharing of files and enables me to privately send grades to the students. This App is also the most underdeveloped.

  • Feature Request: I would like to be able to ‘add’ other instructors to a course that I have created in Google Classroom. When adding an instructor, I would like to be able to assign this person to all or a section of the students enrolled in the class. If an instructor is assigned to a section of the class, then this individual should only be able to view assignments (in the ‘Classroom’ folder in Google Drive) that are submitted by their students. The primary instructor should be able to view all of the assignments.
  • Feature Request: As with the Google Drive course folder, all students who officially enroll in one of my courses should be ‘automatically’ enrolled in the class in Google Classroom. The self-enrollment feature should be maintained for students who would like to audit a class.
  • Feature Request: As discussed above, there needs to be a ‘connections’ area/space in Google Classroom that enables faculty to link the App to all other Apps being used – especially to a Google Drive folder and Google+ Community.

2015-02-26_1325Google+ Circle: Used to share course-related announcements with students. Each announcement is sent to a student’s email and his/her private Google+ stream.

  • Feature Request: I would like to be able to send announcements/messages to a Google+ Circle or Community directly from my VT email. This feature should mirror the dropdown sharing menu shown in Google+ and YouTube (see the image below).Sharing

YouTube: Used to privately share assignment-feedback videos with students. The videos appear in each student’s Google+ stream. I currently record assignment-feedback videos using Snagit and upload these directly to YouTube, making sure all videos are set to private.

  • 2015-02-26_1321_001Feature Request: Given the volume of feedback videos I manage for each course, it would be helpful if the ‘Video Manager’ icon had a much more prominent position in YouTube so it can be accessed from any page/view.
  • Feature Request: When viewing the “Video Manager” screen (where all the videos are listed), it would be helpful see the name of the individual who was sent a private assignment-feedback video. Currently, the only way view these names is to “Edit” each video, which adds additional time to the process.

Google Docs: Used during class sessions to co-create material and capture student responses to assigned tasks.

Google Sheets: Used during class sessions to co-create spreadsheets and for homework assignments.

Google Slides: Used to manage and develop lecture material.

  • Feature Request: It would be useful if a Participoll add-on could be developed for Google Slides.


While I have not yet used Google Groups, Google Forms, or Google Sites as part of a course, it would be useful if these Apps could be included in any ‘connections’ area/space that is developed.

I would welcome the opportunity to speak with any Google Apps developers who are interested in working on any of the above features.

Innovation in Teaching Using Google Apps

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of talking with the PGG doctoral students about life as a faculty member and how I approach the design of my courses. In this post, I thought I’d capture some of the ideas we discussed about my overall approach to teaching.

My teaching philosophy is largely a product of my own learning and research experience. I believe students should be encouraged to think—and approach problems—in an integrative and transdisciplinary manner. I believe that teaching innovation occurs through a process of creative destruction, where new ideas and ways of learning continually challenge, replace, or enhance the old. The challenge, though, is knowing when something is working and why. Thus, evaluating how I can improve my teaching and mentoring of students is a central part of my philosophy.

In 2013, I was invited to become a Google Glass Explorer, which had a profound impact on how I approach my teaching and interact with students. Prior to Glass, my engagement with students was structured, perhaps ‘constrained,’ by the VT Scholar [course management] system and by my scheduled class time with students. I believe the ability to ‘recycle’ my courses in Scholar had the effect of dampening my enthusiasm to radically revise each course. I became aware of this after making the transition to delivering all of my courses using various combinations of VT Google Apps. The ease at which an entire course can be created in Google Drive and changed while in progress is liberating. Students can also take control of the course platform and share information either via a public or private Google+ Community or in a shared Google Drive folder. This process enables students to take ownership of their learning and become teachers in the process. This enables me to focus less on identifying and mastering content, and more on helping students interpret and locate new information, ideas, and theories in their own learning frameworks or value systems.

I now build each of my courses around a shared Google Drive folder and a public or private Google+ Community. I’d recommend using a private community so that links to course-related Apps can be embedded in the community (see the top right corner of the image below). All assignments are managed via Google Classroom. Course communication happens primarily in a Google+ Community or via messages I send from my Google+ account to a Google Circle created for each course. [Note to Google – it would be useful if I could also send these message directly from my VT gmail account.] The Google Circles are important since they enable me to quickly identify specific students when in YouTube so I can send them private assignment-feedback videos. Whereas I used to record these videos using Google Glass, I recently made the transition to Snagit, which enables me to capture my computer screen while providing audio feedback on a student’s assignment. After recording a video (1 to 5 minutes in length), I directly upload it to YouTube from Snagit, making sure the video has a clear label and is set to ‘private.’ From YouTube, I privately share the feedback video with each student. After viewing the video, students are able to send me private comments on my feedback (in Google+/YouTube), which creates a two way dialogue rather than a one way conveyance of information. Since January 2014, I have recorded well over 100 assignment-feedback videos that have been sent to students in six different courses. I am currently working with Mary English to evaluate the impact of this feedback and we plan to publish the results of this research later this year.


A benefit of the Google Apps platform is that it enables the sharing of information from any device at any time of day. I believe learning can occur at any moment, such as when riding the bus or a bike, taking a walk, or even sitting in one of my colleague’s classes! Having a platform that enables students to engage from wherever they are is important. The Google+ community is the medium where students can link the theories/ideas we discuss in the classroom to real-world events. This process deepens their understanding of the material and may result in better long-term retention due to the networked nature of the conversation and information.

As should be evident from the above description, the suite of Google Apps I’m using has ‘freed’ my approach to teaching that is now more fluid and flexible. However, now that I have complete control over my courses, I also need to manage the enrolment/disenrollment of students from each course. While this process can be a little challenging, once the Apps have been mastered the process is relatively straightforward. The autonomy of the platform has enabled me to explore the idea of letting students be a lifelong member of a course, which I am trying in my sustainability class. My hope is that as students progress through their professional careers, they will re-engage with the course when they have something to contribute or if they want to refresh or update their knowledge. This approach to delivering a course could advance a learning model that is truly lifelong.

In summary, my experience with using Google Apps has led to one significant realization. The systems we use to support our teaching can either enable or inhibit innovation in teaching. Those systems that can be easily integrated and adapted are likely to survive, whereas those that constrain creatively are likely to stifle innovation in teaching. While Google Apps are not perfect, their flexibility and ease of use means that it is more difficult to become locked-in to a system or way of delivering a course. I have full autonomy over how I administer, structure, and approach my courses, which I believe is the key to teaching innovation.

VT Assessment Showcase (Feb 9-13)

This afternoon I attended the first of five “Live Assessment Briefings” that will be held this week as part of the Virginia Tech Assessment Showcase. This inaugural event features successful assessment and evaluation initiatives from across the university. Today’s assessment briefing included the following talks (the image below provides a summary of the remaining four sessions):

  • Catherine Amelink20 – Assessing Changes in Entrepreneurial Mindset Among Faculty and Students.
  • Michael J. Kutnak – Creating a Master Transition Plan for Virginia Tech.
  • Sophie Wenzel – Virginia Tech Faculty and Staff Tobacco Free Campus Policy Assessment.
  • Jack Evans – Assessing Active Learning in Introductory Biology Courses.

Given my interest in using Google Apps to support teaching, I found the talk by Jack Evans on the ‘flipped classroom’ model being advanced for their freshman Biology Course of particular interest. I believe there is an opportunity to leverage different Google Apps to support their new model of student engagement/learning and reduce the burden of administering the class via the VT Scholar system. In particular, I believe Google Drive, a (private) Google+ Community, Google+ Circles, Google Docs (for co-creating work), and Google Classroom (to administer assignments) could be set-up as an integrated platform for the ‘flipped classroom.’ I also believe Apps like ParticiPoll could be used effectively for in-class polling (or quizzes), which would replace the current use of clickers. Other Apps like Splashtop could also be an effective way to enable instructors to control their laptops remotely from an iPAD, tablet, or smartphone. I plan to follow-up with Jack’s team in the near future to discuss these ideas and to learn more about their teaching model. I also plan to develop a wishlist of Google Apps functions that could enhance the use of this platform in a teaching environment. I’ll post the list here when its ready.

Posters from the Assessment Showcase speakers will be on display all week in Newman Library with a live “popcorn and posters” session on February 13 from noon – 2:00 p.m. I encourage anyone on campus to drop by the event to learn more about the various assessment activities that are underway at the university.

The photos below were taken during the event using Google Glass.

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Update on Google Glass and Apps

Following the announcement that Google will no longer be selling Glass, I thought I’d provide an update on my plans for using Google Glass and Apps this coming semester. Essentially, not much will change. I will continue to use the platform to support my courses and plan to test new ways of interacting with students in the classroom, such as using ParticiPoll to ask questions during a presentation.

My experience with learning and using Glass and Google Apps has transformed the way I approach my teaching. I no longer use VT’s Scholar system and run all of my courses using VT-supported Google Apps. I’m more willing to try new things and can easily walk away from ideas that simply didn’t work. I’m sure the spirit of the Explorer program had something to do with this. Below is the welcome message from Google that came with Glass device.


During the Fall 2014 semester, I tested Google Classroom in one of my courses and will now rollout this App in all of my courses. I would describe the App as a useful assignment management tool that eliminates the need to download/upload assignments and streamlines this aspect of administering a course. While it took a while to understand exactly how files were being shared – this process is managed in the Classroom App – I’d recommend the App to anyone who is comfortable using Google Drive.

Towards the end of this semester, I plan to conclude an assignment-feedback study I have been undertaking with Mary English that should reveal the value of providing video feedback in addition to written comments. With Glass being phased out for now, I plan to start testing alternative video recording devices and software to capture my feedback. The suite of Google Apps I use to support my courses will not change.

I have included a short article below that was published in the Engineers’ Forum magazine (pp. 14-15) that talks about my use of Google Glass and Apps. The title of the article reflects my jump into the Google Inc. universe. A jump that I have yet to regret.


Teaching Using Google Glass and Apps

The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy has just published a Tool Tips article I wrote on how I’m using Google Glass and Apps to support my teaching at Virginia Tech. The multimedia format of the journal offers a unique opportunity to embed pictures and videos in the article that provide a rich context to the platform I’m using and what students thought of the experience.


New Google+ WASH Community

This semester I’m going to use a Google+ community to support my course on Water Supply and Sanitation in Developing Countries. Whereas the community I created last semester for my sustainability seminar was private, this WASH (water, sanitation, and health) community will be open for anyone to join.


My transition to using Google Apps is fueled by my interest in using Google Glass in education. While the VT Glass Team is still working on an App that I can use during my class (more to come on this), I have had some initial success in recording assignment-feedback videos for students. This semester I have teamed up with Mary English in VT’s Network Learning Initiatives, to formally evaluate my video feedback process. I am aware that there are many ways in which video feedback could be provided, but the Google Apps and Glass platform does make the process easy and therefore doable. I also believe that this use of Glass is one area where the device can add real value in an educational setting.

Since the assignment-feedback videos are privately shared with each student (via their Google+ account), they will not be available on the Google+ WASH community. However, I plan to post videos that discuss new WASH material that will be of interest to my students. These videos will provide a sense of how the assignment-feedback videos work in practice. I will share the results from our formal evaluation of this application of Glass as soon as they are available.