Tuesday, 18 August 2015

MELSIG: Reflections on "Creative Lecture Capture, Webinars & Screencasting"

On Tuesday 20th January 2015 the University of Nottingham hosted a MELSIG (UK Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group) event with the theme of "Creative Lecture Capture, Webinars & Screencasting".

The event page has links to the recordings of the talks on the MELSIG YouTube channel, slideshares of the presentations from the talks, and a link to the storify for the event, put together by the phenomenal Andrew Middleton from Sheffield Hallam University.

Over six months on I finally have some time to reflect on the event.

I first met Andrew Middleton, MELSIG chair, back in June last year at an event that was funded by the HEA (Higher Education Academy) to disseminate our work from an HEA CLL (Changing Learning Landscapes) project. Andrew had met Sally Chappell and they had talked about Nottingham hosting a MELSIG event. I'd known about Andrew's work for some years so it was great to finally meet him in person, and we pretty quickly decided to host an event early in 2015, subject to finding funds for lunch and refreshments.

Given that the MELSIG event theme was how live and recorded video is being used creatively to promote learner engagement, it seemed a good idea to capture and live stream as much of the event as possible. I'd been closely involved in the introduction of lecture capture at The University of Nottingham, trialling our first capture systems back in 2008, but I hadn't done any live streaming since the previous March (2013) when I'd agreed to stream a talk by Richard Stallman using entirely free software. That experience warrants another blog post at some point. Meeting the founder of the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation is something I will never forget.

Luckily, the system we eventually introduced for lecture capture simplified live streaming (though it would not have met with the approval of rms as it is not free software).  With the help of our AV colleagues Terry Willmer and Darren James, I was confident that this aspect of the event would not present any issues.

Initially we were expeciting about 70 people so I booked a location on University Park Campus with this capacity. Once the announcement was made, it soon became clear that many more people wanted to come. As the Eventbrite alerts kept on arriving, we realised that we were going to have to find a bigger location.

As the programme took shape, we also realised that we would need multiple rooms for more parallel sessions. I finally managed to book a room that could seat 120 people, and several large seminar rooms at Jubilee campus.

As always with live streaming of events, there is a danger that publicising the fact that it will be streamed live might impact on physical attendance. Networking is very important at MELSIG events and so we decided not to shout about the existence of the live stream until the morning of the event.

As the day approached, there were warnings of snow and we suddenly had to consider whether the live stream might actually be an essential aspect of the event if people were unable to make it in person.

Luckily the snow did not fall and on the morning of the event people started to arrive early (before there was any coffee!). After an emergency trip to the coffee bar, my colleagues arrived to staff the registration desk. As more and more people arrived, I was quite overwhelmed to meet people for the first time that I had only previously been in contact with online.

Laura Fitch, Anne Rockliffe and Angelique Bodart (thanks for permission to use this image)

Unfortunately, due to the fact that I was the main organiser, I wasn't able to participate as much as I would have liked. I introduced our first speaker, Professor Wyn Morgan, who was then Assistant PVC for Teaching and Learning here at Nottingham, who welcomed everyone and started a running Spice Girls joke when he recounted how he had misheard MELSIG as 'Mel C'! - Andrew followed at which point I had to sneak out to welcome latecomers and guide them to to the room. As we were close to capacity, my colleague Angelique Bodart had the brainwave of leaving notices in the room asking people to cozy up!
MELSIG Nottingham - full to capacity - (thanks for permission to use this image)