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Tata for Now: A long term Ross client sparks new idea for online video tool

Creating a web experience that requires viewers to participate in order to proceed through pre-recorded video lectures

In October, Ross hosted the Tata Group Executive Leadership Seminar, a training program put together in tandem with The Tata Group, a conglomerate of companies operating in more than 80 countries.

Professor M.S. Krishnan played a large part in putting the ten day event together. While Ross has worked with Tata in this capacity for the last ten years, this time around Tata requested two “innovations” that put technology to use in ways that might prove useful for future learning applications.

Executives taking part in TGELS, with one of the live streaming HD cameras in the background.

Since there would only be 35 executives on-site during the seminar, other participants needed to be able to watch remotely from around the world. This represented the first of Tata’s requests.

“[Tata wanted] a streaming component, whereby people not in the classroom could listen to class discussions remotely,” Professor M.P. Narayanan said. Narayanan was one of the faculty members facilitating coursework for the program.

To accomplish the streaming component, a small team at Ross used three high definition cameras and a professional video mixer to broadcast a live feed to viewers around the globe.

“We live streamed the entire class in such a manner that the remote viewer felt like they were part of the class,” Instructional Support Manager Chris Visel said. Greg Barker, a videographer from Computing Services, operated the video mixer and called shots to three camera operators on the fly.

This streaming video component, while certainly important, wasn’t anything out of the ordinary—the biggest hurdle was time. Tata’s second request, however, evolved into something a bit more challenging.

“They wanted us to move some of the material used in the classrooms to a pre-recorded video and thereby release class time and allow us to do more in the same amount of time,” Narayanan said.

At first glance it didn’t seem like anything new. Ross’ in-house video hosting platform Mediasite makes it easy to pre-record content and send it out to students. It was Narayanan’s approach to the request that made the difference.

Screenshot of the experience. After the video has been watched, viewers scroll down and submit answers to continue.

“I decided to make it a participatory exercise,” he said.

Narayanan wanted to have participants watch a series of pre-recorded video segments online, just as Tata envisioned, but advance to the next one only after answering a series of questions based on the first video’s content.

“The videos would lay a foundation,” Narayanan said. “I’d start an example and walk them through it, and then ask them to do the numbers, and they had to actually type in the numbers.”

It was this participatory aspect of the videos that made it challenging. The task fell to Lars Jensen, a web programmer in Computing Services, who set out to create an experience that used resources Ross already had in place, such as Mediasite. Jensen said that he’d done something similar with online exams before, but nothing that integrated a video component.

“The biggest challenge was in figuring out the best way to embed the video onto the web page and interject questions after each chapter,” Jensen said.

Viewers were given two chances to answer correctly. If they got the answers wrong the first time, the software allowed them to try again. After a second incorrect attempt, the software gave them the right answer and allowed them to proceed onto the next segment or chapter.

Giving participants only two chances and allowing them to proceed even after two incorrect attempts was something Narayanan decided upon, but points out that this can be easily changed.

This method of delivering pre-recorded content that can only be advanced through by passing checkpoints is something he sees as transferrable even to non-Tata seminar activities, although in such applications he sees himself using it as more of a supplemental tool rather than a required pre-exercise.

In fact, something similar has been done before by Ross faculty in a more roundabout way, as detailed on Tech & Learning in a previous article about screencasting.

LINK: Ross faculty using pre-recorded lectures and interactive technology as a springboard for a richer in-class experience

The web tool was well received, even if it was more of a “proof of concept,” as Jensen described, and Narayanan took note of feedback for an improved iteration of the tool he hopes to use next time.

“In a version 2.0 [of this], feedback that we will have incorporated is having all of the previous answers cumulatively posted on one side of the screen, so that students do not have to refer to something else while they do it. That, and not being able to move to the next one without answering the questions, is what will happen next time.”

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