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.

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.

Teaching Using Google Glass and Apps

With the semester just over a week away, I wanted to describe the platform I plan to use this semester to support my seminar on technology, globalization, and sustainable development (UAP 5784).

Whereas I normally use VT Scholar to manage all course-related activities, this semester I will use Google Apps to promote a more seamless exchange of ideas among the seminar participants. The other factor driving this change is I plan to use Google Glass to share important ideas/thoughts/insights with students that I have outside of the classroom. One dimension that makes this change possible is that Virginia Tech recently made the transition to Google Apps, which means that most students will be proficient with basic Google services such as Google Drive for sharing documents.

Google+ Community

The epicenter for the seminar will be a UAP 5784 community I have created in Google+. Since I wanted to create a space in which students would feel comfortable sharing their ideas, this community is private and only accessible to those taking the seminar. I have provided a screen shot of this community below, which shows a few posts I have made to the community. At this point, no students have been invited to join the community. This action will happen during the first seminar as we begin to explore the platform. As the semester proceeds, I hope this community will become a vibrant place where students can discuss and expand on the material we are covering.

UAP5784 Community

The seminar will have two distinct parts. The first will consist of a group discussion of the assigned reading material. Students will be asked to read and “work up” the reading material with comments and questions before each seminar and be ready to engage in a discussion of the core ideas and themes that emerge from the texts. In the second part of the seminar, we will take a more reflexive look at how the students engaged with the reading material. During this discussion, I plan to develop a conversation around the material being discussed in the on-line community. Before each seminar, students will be asked to prepare a short post to the community in which they can discuss anything of relevance to the seminar. The post could consist of written, visual (e.g., photos, artwork, etc.), audio, and/or video media. Students could record a video (using a webcam) in which they describe their ideas and post it directly to the community for others to view. The process is simple so it will be interesting to see whether students prefer to write or record their posts. Each student will also be expected to comment on at least one post by a fellow seminarian. While student posts could document the questions they have about the reading material, I hope that the space will be used creatively. For example, students could discuss any additional material they consulted to better understand a specific subject. In addition, I will encourage students to try to document their key moments of learning in relation to the reading material, discussions, and/or assignments.

Google Drive

Google DriveSince it is not possible to post files to a Google+ Community, I plan to utilize Google Drive to share documents and PowerPoint/Prezi presentations directly with students. Once each student has been added to the UAP 5784 folder in my Google Drive, they will be able to view all of the files saved in the folder. I currently have four sub-folders in the main folder labeled course admin, reading material, slides, and assignments. One nice aspect of the Google Drive set up is I no longer have to upload files to VT Scholar, which always proved to be a time-consuming process.

In addition to using Google Drive to provide students with access to key documents, I plan to set up an individual folder for each student in the seminar. Students will be asked to save their assignments in these folders and provide me with rights to edit their documents. I plan to review, edit, and comment on each assignment on-line and record a video using Glass in which I will provide each student with feedback on their work while viewing it on my computer. I hope this more comprehensive feedback will demystify my written comments and provide students with a much better sense of how they could improve their work. This aspect of the seminar, which is made possible by Glass, is perhaps the most exciting part of this new platform. I’m keen to see how students react to this type of feedback and hope to see a discussion about whether it is valuable on the UAP 5784 Google+ Community.

Google Circle and Hangouts

While I will create an email listserv for the seminar, I also plan to communicate with students using a Google Circle. At this moment in time, it is not possible to share a Glass video directly with a Google+ community. As a Glass Explorer, I was able to ask a “Glass Guide” (i.e., a member of the Glass development team) whether there was any way to do this. I received the following reply: “Currently you cannot share with a Community page, I’ll add this as a feature request.” Thus, this feature may be coming soon, but it’s not yet available. As a way around this problem, I can create a Google Circle that consists of all of the students in the seminar and post my Glass videos directly to this group. I may want to do this if I have an idea I would like to share and am away from my computer. I also received the following advice from the Glass Guide on how to share my UAP 5784 circle with the students so they won’t have to recreate the circle themselves.

It is possible to share a Circle with your class, so they’ll not have to create Circles themselves. You can do this by visiting Google Plus and from the ‘Home’ tab in the top left corner clicking on ‘People’. Then click ‘Your circles’ and select the circle you’d like to share. Click ‘Actions’ > ‘Share’ this circle and click ‘Share’.

Your students would then receive a request on Google Plus to add that Circle and give them the opportunity to name it. Then you’ll be able to share to that Circle directly from Glass.”

The other aspect of creating a Google Circle for the seminar is that I will be able to initiate a Google Hangout with students directly from Glass. This will enable me to bring the students into conversations I might have with experts in a certain field or have them join me while I present at a conference. I hope to do this at the 4th Conference on Community Resilience in Davos, where I will provide my students with a bird’s eye view of my panel session on Approaches to Infrastructure Resiliency in Different National PowerPak+Contexts. [As an aside, I have purchased a NewTrent PowerPak + (NT135T) to charge my Glass device while it is under heavy use – such as hosting a Google Hangout. This mobile charger can fit in my pocket and connect to Glass via the micro USB cable. I hope the charger will enable me to go for an entire day without the need to find a power outlet to recharge Glass.]

As the semester proceeds, I will provide the occasional update on how this “Google platform” is working and whether the students find this new approach to be of value.