Increasingly more often these days, instructors are seeing the value of delivering at least some lecture content online instead of in the classroom. Sometimes that choice is determined by trying to squeeze a little more content into a course than there is time for in class meetings. Other times it's part of a deliberate strategy to "flip the class," whereby some or all lecture content—usually in the form of self-made videos—is put online for students to view before they attend class, leaving class time available for more in-depth discussion, problem solving, hands-on activities, or other exercises. These self-made lecture videos are typically screencasts, which are either a recording of what's on a computer's screen with voice-over audio from the instructor or a recording of the instructor herself (framing her head and shoulders) using the computer's webcam, or even a combination of both. These videos or screencasts are superb for delivering the lecture content, and students enjoy having the ability to rewatch them in part or in their entirety. But what if the instructor could have the videos pause at certain moments to have the students answer questions—multiple choice, true or false, short answer, etc.—about the material they're learning? The instructor could assess students' understanding before going to the next class meeting, targeting any areas of difficulty. PlayPosit is the online tool that facilitates the creation of just such interactive video tutorials.
The tutorials in PlayPosit are called "bulbs" and consist of a video layer and interactive elements added to the video's timeline. The video can be something made by the instructor, such as the aforementioned screencast, or video found online. The sources can be YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube, SchoolTube, and a limited amount of mp4 files uploaded directly to PlayPosit itself, but the University of Michigan is also working on integrating Kaltura, the video management system that powers the Media Gallery in Canvas. You can also trim the video in PlayPosit and use multiple videos sequentially to make longer bulbs. The interactive elements can be multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, check-all-that-apply, and free-response questions, as well as a reflective pause option.
Imagine how advantageous it could be to create a bulb for a math course where the instructor explains how a crucial theorem featured in a textbook chapter is proven step by step, quizzing the students at critical points all the while. The foreign language instructor might present some text on screen and read it aloud, pausing for questions on vocabulary, grammar, culture, or pronunciation practice (yes, you can put audio files in the questions themselves as can the students in their responses). A literature instructor might select a few salient passages to go over and carefully scaffold the early stages of doing literary analysis. Or an instructor could take all this one step further and have her students create bulbs for their peers. PlayPosit isn't a substitute for traditional, face-to-face teaching, but it opens up a realm of new possibilities for interaction between students and instructor—for active learning scenarios—and also provides a way for students to become producers of interactive media instead of just passive recipients of textbooks and lectures.