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After high school comes iSchool

Screen shot from professor Tony Bell's Youtube video.
Image Credit: SOURCE/Youtube
May 21, 2013 - 7:31 AM


Wait, what? Didn't get that one.

Pause. Rewind. Start it again.

An eraser can rub out the errors on the page, but the rewind button on YouTube promises another chance to catch the professor's point.

Thompson Rivers University professor Tony Bell realized that before he began posting supplemental course materials to YouTube last January for his students.

"It's a lot of learning how to do a process," Bell says. "The best way to learn accounting is by doing examples, getting reps in, almost like going to the gym."

Over 100 extra hours he's put into creating the videos with just a laptop, writing tablet and webcam have already paid off. He's received tremendous feedback for his one-stop resources, which is clear from the comments on his YouTube channel alone. So far, they've garnered 130,000 accumulated hits reaching a worldwide audience and helped him earn a TRU Teaching Excellence Award.

"It was purely for my students," Bell says. "Anything and beyond was a bonus."

While his videos are accessible online to anyone, he says they are supplemental and don't substitute face-to-face education. He doesn't have as much time to answer questions in the video's discussion forum as he does for his students.

"You'd still want to take a class," he said.

Bell's YouTube videos are part of a growing trend by TRU professors. Technology helps solve the old question posed in a recent viral video: How to engage students. TRU business professor Amy Tucker uses social media and rich multimedia to answer that question in her classes.

"You've got to get with the times," she says.

She set up Twitter hashtags for each of her courses to promote conversation, and she posts relevant material such as job openings and articles in Facebook groups she's created. She also uses social media to promote her classes and boost enrolment, as well as network with past students to get feedback and keep in touch. Her favourite class project is an Organizational Behaviour course where students learn team building by creating a documentary together. It's like a research paper, but she says it's harder to create something worth showing your peers.

"It makes everyone more accountable," she says.

Tucker encourages laptop use in her classroom, with just a couple rules: No porn or Ebay, she says with a chuckle.

While some professors are dialled into the benefits of the Internet, TRU professor Jim Swingle, uses polling software to engage students.

He posts questions on a screen during class and students answer using the device of their choice like a laptop, tablet or cell phone. Swingle says it's a great way to track progress in real time.

"If half of the class missed it, obviously it needs to be covered again," he says.

While the software automatically tracks student progress and can be allotted to student grades, Swingle says it's more for learning than testing. And in the real world, students familiar with the technology in class are more comfortable when they leave.

"It's going to be there in their work environment," he says.

In more than five years of teaching at TRU, he says professors at the university have the option to teach their courses using the materials of their choosing.

But while some teachers are busy chastising their students for using their cellphones or even laptops in class, Swingle is more practical.

"In a business meeting, you probably have a cell phone on you."

To contact a reporter for this story, email: or call (250) 319-7494.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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