Teaching students has its fair share of struggles: you need to keep students motivated, thoroughly teach all of the material and spot the students who would need a little more help. With the Coronavirus threat and the need for online teaching growing, a lot of teachers have the same worries regarding the alternative: how do you keep students engaged when you can't see them? How to make sure they are learning all of their material? How to know if they are actually viewing your class and not just skipping the video all together? Most of the LMS cannot answer these questions as they just provide the opportunity to upload your content and hope for the best. BitDegree, on the other hand, brings a little extra for you and your students by offering a gamified learning experience.
Bringing the Classroom Experience Online
If you’ve spent your whole life between the board and the students, switching to a different environment may seem like a challenge – but with BitDegree, it doesn’t have to be! All you need to start is your lecture materials, a camera or a smartphone, and a place to film. You don’t need to create any slides (though you can use them, if you already have some ready): you can just stand in front of a whiteboard like you would in a classroom and deliver the lecture as you normally would. If you are already using other tools to livestream the lecture, we would still recommend recording it: this would allow the students who didn’t get the chance to see the livestream to catch up later. In addition to that, you would be able to track your students’ progress like you would in a regular physical classroom. If this is your first time filming a class for remote learning, use the list below as a checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important:
- Materials. Prepare your materials: if you have a whiteboard, set it up. Check if your markers have ink. If you have slides, you might want to only record the audio or film yourself as you guide people through them (you will find more instructions on how to do that below). If you have some teaching material in text, save it as a .doc or .pdf file: you can later add it as a downloadable resource or save it as a separate lecture.
- Place. Find a quiet place where you could film undisturbed. If you don’t know where to stand, the best thing you can do is find a light wall: not only will it reflect the light well, but it will also help your students concentrate better without any distractions.
- Lighting. Make sure that the space is well-lit, and you will be clearly visible in the video. Natural lightning is always best, but you can also use lamps – just don’t rely only on the ceiling lamp. Try taking your desk lamp and directing it at you to properly light up your face. Make sure that you don’t create too many shadows: this can be distracting. Sound. Try to say a few sentences in the room: are they echoing back? A place where everyone will easily understand what you are saying is always the best option. Speak loud and clear, and make sure that your microphone can easily pick up your voice. We would advise you to have a few tries before you record your lesson: this will allow you to check if the microphone is recording your voice properly.
- Outline / script. Plan and prepare what you are going to say in the lecture. Practice your text, questions, and pauses a few times, so when it comes to filming, everything goes smoothly. Filming. If you have a smartphone or a camera, check their recording settings first: set them to the highest possible quality (720p would be recommended) and 16:9 type of video. If it's possible to choose the format in which the videos will be saved, choose MP4. Set up your phone / camera on a solid surface and make sure you are both seen and heard well. Do a few minute tests: film yourself starting the lecture (it might feel weird at first, talking to your phone instead of students – don’t worry, you'll get used to it soon!) and review the video: does everything look good, or maybe you need to make a few adjustments? When you’re filming, try to look directly at the camera: this way, your students will feel as if you are talking directly to them. Don't make too many pauses (unless you can edit them out later) and stick to your plan as you deliver your lecture.
- Recording slides with a voiceover or the so-called ‘talking head’. Choose this if you are a little more advanced with editing, as you will have to combine multiple different sources into one video. If you have slides prepared, you can do slides with a voiceover or a video of you talking in the corner of the screen. To be able to do this, you will need a computer microphone and three applications: a screen recorder, a video recorder (smartphone / camera) and an audio recorder (already present in most computers – or you can use the phone / camera). Then, you would just have to narrate the slides.
- Exporting / Editing. Once you have your video, upload it to your computer or Google Drive so you can access it later. If you made a few mistakes during filming and know how to use editing programs, you can do some additional touches to your video, but it's not necessary.
If you have more questions on how to make video lectures, you can write to [email protected] and we will help you. Once you have your video material ready, you can head to BitDegree and start uploading!
Creating the Course
To create a course, you first would need to access the Instructor area. You can do that either through your profile or going straight here: https://www.bitdegree.org/studio. Of course, to use it, a lecturer would need to sign up to the platform beforehand. Once there, a lecturer can select to create a new course starting with the title. We suggest including the school, subject and class name, not to mix up with other lecturers who teach the same subject. BitDegree recommends splitting the educational material into sections according to each topic as this would provide structure and guidance for the students. We recommend creating sections according to the ongoing topic and title it according to the dates according to the student curriculum (ie, they would be studying Ancient Greece literature between 10th March and 20th March in the university, so a lecturer could impose similar guideline dates online). This would help students see when they should be finished with this section. And now we move over to the fun part: uploading lectures! The most common type for lectures is video ones which should be 3-10 minutes long. Why specifically this length? Well, it not only eases the upload, but it's also more efficient for online viewing:
- Easier for learners to keep track;
- Learners stay engaged more than with longer videos;
- Each video touches on an important point before moving on to the next one;
- The teacher can provide relevant material to each video for further studying.
While one of the best formats for a lecture is to have a video where the lecturer explains the subject in detail (even better if they can use graphics to illustrate the point), you can mix up the lectures by adding text lessons too. By choosing "Article", you can provide your lesson in text form, add illustrations that would help get the point across and embed external videos for further watching. No matter the type of lecture, you can always provide additional materials by attaching them to the appropriate lecture. If you want to test your students, you can select the "Input" type or create a "Quiz". If you select the "Input" type, students can upload a document and you can select the criteria according which will you grade their paper. If this is not the option for you, you can also create a quiz. These quizzes can be multiple or single choice or file type upload (where the learner would have to upload their answer - a docx, pdf or different file for the teacher to review). The quizzes also have different features for you to try:
- Question groups. Use this option to create several sets of different questions. One set of questions will then be randomly selected as learners get to the quiz. This option is great if you want to decrease cheating and bring some diversity to your course for different learners without updating course questions often.
- Required number of questions. You can create multiple questions and choose to show only a part of them. With this option you can pick the number of questions that will be shown to students when taking the course. The questions will be taken at random from the ones you provide. This is a good option if you want to prevent cheating and add diversity to your course for different learners.
- Randomize answers. Use this option to mix up the answer sequence for questions. This option can be used as a prevention for cheating. Keep in mind that if you use this option, you cannot use answers like “All of the above are correct/incorrect” in this quiz as the answer’s position will be randomized.
- Quiz adds to the total score —> Quiz is a graded assessment. Choose this option if you want to compare your learners and track their progress. Such graded assessments do not give learners immediate feedback on correct/wrong answers but instead are used to evaluate their understanding of the course like a final exam would. Learners also see their score at the end, but they cannot see other student scores. This is how the view for the lecturer would look like:
For the single type of quizzes, it is not necessary for the teacher to upload the answer. It can be left as a blank space for the students to fill in their answers for the teacher to check later. Same as with lectures, you can also include learning materials / attachments for students to take a look before they take the quiz. Once you have all of the wanted parts, it's time to move on to the finishing touches on the course. For this, you will have to provide:
- Visibility: if you select "Public", the course will be visible on the platform and various people will be able to find it and enroll in it. By selecting "Secret" you allow the course be seen only by people who have the link to the course - it will not be accessible or seen on the main BitDegree platform. In case you want to control even more who access the course, you can select "By invitation only": this will allow your course to be seen only by those users whose mail you specify.
- Category: put "Interactive Learning";
- Language: choose English for the course to appear on the main, www.bitdegree.org platform.
- Skill level: put Beginner if the for the first year students, intermediate for the middle years, and advanced for the final year;
- Course thumbnail: it can be drawn by BitDegree team if you don't have a suitable image;
- Course description: the required word count is 300, but if you are a university lecturer, you can contact BitDegree beforehand and our team can provide a description for you. This is necessary for "Public" courses, if you choose "Secret" or "By invitation only", you won't need to provide a description;
- Course tags: provide your university name, subject, and class year/name: this will also help your students find the course via BitDegree search if they lose the link (they can only find it if it's "Public", "Secret" and "By Invitation Only" courses will not be found through search;
- Requirements: if some supplies (like calculators) or prior knowledge (i.e. reading "Catcher in the Rye") are needed for the course from the students, you can put them down here. Otherwise, type in "None".
- Course achievements: key points your students should learn during the course;
- Target students: you can put the class name or study year here.
Lastly, in the pricing section, select the Free option to allow your students to start learning. Once you submit the course, somebody from BitDegree Instructors Support Team will check if everything is alright (are the videos working, sound quality) and your course will be published. If you wish to upload a paid course (for example you create a course not for your students, but want to allow other people to access it as well), you can also create specific promo codes to gain a bigger audience and allow some students to study for a cheaper price.
Making changes to the courses
As the course goes further, you might need to add new lectures or sections to the course. In this case, just return to your instructor’s area, choose the appropriate course, choose "Lectures" from the sidebar and press one of the two purple buttons. Then just upload new videos, articles or quizzes for the students, press save and your course will be updated!
Tracking your students
The most important thing for a lecturer is to know how their students are doing: did they understand everything? Did they watch / read all of the required material? What about the quizzes, did they answer everything correctly? BitDegree provides easy tracking of your students via the Student List. Here you can not only see all of the names of your students, but also:
- Time Spent: you can see who takes a bit longer in some lectures and who flies by through the lessons;
- Completion: you can see how many items were completed by the students and if somebody is behind, maybe it's a signal for you to reach out or clarify some of the materials;
- Assessment Score: if your course had quizzes, here you can see how the students performed in them.
Such tracking provides an opportunity for you to not only see who is paying attention to your classes, but also who is performing better or worse. You can also track your courses in the overview Stats page. Here you will see top geographies (from where are your students), total number of students, how many of them are enrolled, learning or finished the courses, as well as averages: average scores from quizzes, average progress and time spent in courses.
Keep Your Students Engaged With BitDegree
It's not difficult to create a course on BitDegree, but oh, the advantages it brings are so much more than a simple learning platform. Not only do lecturers get the possibility to track their students progress similarly like they would in real life, the students are motivated via the gamified system to strive for their best. The students who are stuck at home because of the ongoing virus get the chance to feel almost as they would be at an elevated school. Sure, they would still need to prepare and go through all of the lectures, but they would still be able to discuss the lecture with the lecturer and their classmates, compete for the best score, and track their progress. With BitDegree university and formal education could become more than a chore. It could become an engaging learning quest that students look forward to as they gain not only knowledge but also levels, experience points, puzzle pieces, and more. So, what would you need to become a part of BitDegree and start this learning journey for your students? Your teaching materials (that are probably already prepared in advance) and good internet connection. Looking forward to meeting you in the instructor's area.