Five minutes with YouTube educator Dr Chris Tisdell

Using YouTube to pioneer a new avenue of digital learning, Dr Chris Tisdell from the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) School of Mathematics and Statistics has recently been approached by YouTube to become an official ‘Partner in Education’.

Using the UNSW’s YouTube channel to broadcast maths lectures across the globe, Tisdell has reached almost 180,000 hits, with a recent survey of engineering and maths students revealing that 92 per cent of students who watched the videos thought they were a valuable learning resource.

When were you approached by YouTube and asked to become an official partner in education? I have been making mathematical education videos for about two years, and YouTube approached me six months ago to become a partner in education. UNSW also has a partnership with YouTube in its YouTube EDU movement, where universities around the world can share their video lectures.

How successful has your UNSWelearning YouTube channel been? Students have been very encouraging of my YouTube initiative, both here at the UNSW and also around the world. Recent surveys from a large second-year engineering mathematics subject reveal that 70 per cent of students viewed at least one of my videos and 92 per cent of those student viewers believed that the videos were a valuable learning resource. Encouraging comments from around the globe are posted on my YouTube web page almost every day.

What age groups do your viewers fall into? My viewers tend to fall into three categories: Students at UNSW taking mathematics courses as part of their degree, students at other universities -- both in Australia and overseas -- and self-learners, including the practicing engineer who needs to brush up on some aspect of mathematics as part of their work. Due to the global reach of YouTube, the second and third groups outweigh the first.

What role does YouTube play in your teaching and why did you chose to use social media to engage with your students? I record my lectures live using an ELMO P30S document camera, and then edit and upload the video files to YouTube where students can revisit the lecture in their own time. Students have been using these resources as a revision tool rather than replacing physical attendance in lectures.

I chose YouTube because video is a powerful tool in learning and it is free to access. The free access to YouTube aligns with my beliefs in the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement, whose aim is to make knowledge and learning resources freely available to the world. My YouTube videos are my contribution to the OCW.

How do you keep your audience returning to your teachings and engaging with social media? I believe the key is to keep your YouTube page dynamic by regularly posting new material. I try to post my video lectures as soon as possible after the lecture, as students probably see the value of course materials decline with time. People are more likely to keep visiting my YouTube page if there is new material for them to view and learn from.

What role do you think telepresence could play in the future of online learning? I believe the role will continue to grow in the online learning environment. For example, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) continues to use Grid Access Rooms at universities across the nation for such purposes as enabling viewers in Melbourne to watch a live seminar in Sydney. In addition, I have colleagues who give tutorials to distance students via Skype.

What’s your next move in the IT space? I am working on a webpage that hosts notes for each of my videos. A learner can print out these worksheets and then view my videos, following along during the process and taking down notes. This ensures the viewer is more active in the learning process.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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