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Engineering professor uses streaming video to teach students sustainable skills


Civil Engineering Professor Larry Nies has been teaching students about the importance of sustainability for more than a decade. Though the significance of enduring, productive systems is typically discussed in an engineering context in his classes, sustainability and productivity also characterize the instructional technology Nies has incorporated into coursework in recent semesters, notably his use of instructor- and student-produced online video.

ITaP can help with a variety of applications available for video production by faculty and students. Observing a shift in students’ learning preferences and the growing use of video technology in the professional workplace, Nies decided to produce his own video lecture presentations for a reconfigured version of his CE 355 course on engineering environmental sustainability. He began the process in the spring of 2012 as a faculty fellow in IMPACT, the Purdue program to encourage more interactive teaching and learning.

The course incorporates a mix of instructional models, including the “flipped classroom,” which requires students to watch Nies’ video lectures outside of class through the Kalturaapplication within Blackboard Learn. Media uploaded to Kaltura are available for online streaming to users across multiple platforms, including mobile devices. Through the Kaltura “building block” tool, instructors can upload, publish, search and share videos directly from Blackboard Learn.

“The advantage of using video lectures in Blackboard Learn is that it’s extremely convenient for students,” Nies says. “They can replay parts if they didn’t understand something or pause the lecture and come back to it later.”

When the lecture material is viewed before class, students spend class time collaborating and solving problems in small groups, asking questions of one another and their professor, who is on hand to facilitate cooperative learning.

In addition to the alternative class format, students in Nies’ course use the most recent technology to complete assignments. Students produce, share and view videos using DoubleTake, an ITaP-developed application for students to create and submit video-based assignments. DoubleTake offers a direct mobile interface for students to upload videos from their smartphones. At the start of the semester, Nies’ CE 355 students create a 30- to 60-second video to introduce themselves to the class. For the course’s final project, they work in teams to create informational videos related to course concepts, adding their own creative flare.

“I think that video is going to play a larger role in professional engineering practice in the future,” Nies says. “In a global economy, it’s not always possible to get everyone in the same room. Being able to produce and evaluate a prepackaged informational video is going to play an increasingly larger role in professional practice.”

In the fall of 2012, Nies began using Camtasia Studio software to create video lectures for a distance learning course. He selected the software after meeting with an ITaP educational technologist because it allows him to easily incorporate documentary clips and edit his narration.

“Meeting with an ITaP technologist was worthwhile because I don’t really know that much about video,” Nies said. “It gave me some ideas on how to improve the appearance and format of my finished lectures.”

Recently, Nies used Camtasia Studio to follow up on a concept discussed in class, taking a video clip from a documentary that effectively illustrated a technical term many of his students were unfamiliar with and uploading it to Blackboard Learn. The video was uploaded for streaming through Kaltura, which automatically displays the correct video stream based on the user’s device, and was only accessible to registered students in the course. 

To schedule a one-on-one or small-group consultation about any ITaP instructional technology, contact ITaP’s teaching and learning staff.

Writer: Jonathan Hines, technology writer, ITaP, 765-496-7998, hines18@purdue.edu

Sources: Larry Nies, School of Civil Engineering, 765-494-8327, nies@purdue.edu

Last updated: March 7, 2013