Teaching with technology: the grim reality

The US has the Ivy League universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.), and in the UK it’s the Russell Group (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, etc.). In Australia we have the yawningly-titled Group of Eight, deemed as the top research universities.

So it was that the medical faculty of one of these esteemed institutions invited my daughter to give a lecture on aspects of her medical specialty, oncology. For this unpaid task, she was given the choice of lecturing face-to-face or an online recorded lecture. As the face-to-face option involved not just lecturing at the main city campus but also driving to a a nearby city for a second session (she works and has a young child), she opted for the technological solution.

Support for the recording option was provided … well, promised anyway:

“If you would like to arrange a time for one of our staff to record you presenting the lecture, please contact xxx, eLearning manager, School of Medicine on xxx or telephone xxx. You can choose to record your presentation at our offices at xxx or a member of our e-learning team can come to your office.”

All fine, and she worked away at her presentation with accompanying slides for a few weeks. Come the time to record, however, the promised support disappeared, replaced by the appearance of a member of staff dropping off a laptop to my daughter’s office. It was apparently preferred as it sported Microsoft Office 2013, where my daughter’s beloved MacBook ‘only’ had PowerPoint 2011. Unimpressed by the turn of events, she soldiered on.

20150426_141158So, with deadline looming, she finished the slides and made ready to do the recording at home. I happened to be staying with her at the time, and we opened the laptop bag … the picture shows what we found. Yes, a dreadful old machine with antiquated accessories – that headset looks like something from the 1980s! Worse that that, the stupid thing wouldn’t work: it fired up, but do you think we could get the microphone and headset to work? We could not, even with the help of my daughter’s ever-so-able husband.

20150426_141339And what supporting documentation had the aforementioned e-learning team provided? None, unless you count the photocopied pages from Camtasia software. Where was the advice on how to present an effective online lecture? Where was the outline of the lecture requirements? There’d been a brief interchange on the contents of the lecture, but that was it.

The solution was obvious. She abandoned the piece of junk and repaired to her trusty MacBook. The Powerpoint software is quite intuitive, and a few hours later (well into the evening, after her husband and I finished watching the intriguing but stressful film Whiplash) she emerged with the job done.

The next morning she adjusted the voiceover for a few of the slides and felt it was at last complete. We packed my grandson into his car seat and headed off for the university campus. She returned the useless laptop, along with the obligatory file on Sandisk and  an explanatory note, and left them in the faculty office. We drove away for a welcome coffee and toasted banana bread.

The ordeal was over.

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