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Providing annotated slides as handouts after lectures (6 minutes : 24 seconds)

Joe Cornfield (School of Mathematical Sciences), Joel Feinstein (School of Mathematical Sciences).

Joe Cornfield, student, Mathematical Sciences:
One lecturer would have the notes on pdf, and he’d have them on his computer, and as the lecture went on, he’d project it on the white board behind him, and as the lecture went on, he’d be able to write on the pdf with this particular program he had

and then he’d be able to compile a new pdf out of that, which he could then publish with all the annotations on – sort of diagrams which you can’t really do typed, but you have to draw them, and some maths that you have to draw because typing it is very time consuming.

Right. So this lecturer would actually annotate the pre-prepared notes in the lecture and then make these available to you.

Yes, a lot of lecturers annotate the notes in lectures, they have overhead projectors and write on the slides, but of course they can’t be made available afterwards whereas the fantastic thing about that was that they were on the internet several hours afterwards. we spoke to the lecturer...

Joel Feinstein, Mathematical Sciences:
I prepare some pdf slides, just as if I was going to use an overhead projector, but they are incorporated into some software on this tablet pc, really a laptop with a tablet screen, and so I can annotate them.

I can look at the class, annotate these slides and it’s all projected, as I write, onto a huge screen in front of the class using a data projector. I can make corrections, I can use different colours, I can put in extra pages if I need to and things like that.

So how does this impact on the students and their learning in the class; what do you expect them to do before the lecture, during the lecture and after the lecture, what would be their experience of this?

They come into the lecture with some printed lecture notes that have roughly on them the prepared slide material so they don’t have to write down the stuff that is already prepared, so what they are expecting to do is probably to annotate their notes in the same way as I annotate the slides, and when I insert extra pages, then they will probably copy down what I write,

they don’t have to because I’m going to make them available afterwards, but a lot of people do like to put things in their own handwriting because they feel it goes in better, but they don’t have to write everything that’s there because they’ve got the skeleton already.

How do you make it available to the students after the class?

Well I just save it as a pdf file straight away, and it goes on the web, and they have this pdf in full colour available, so they can see it exactly as they saw it on the screen.

What’s been your time investment in getting to the stage where you can offer this annotated notes facility to your students?

So first I had to learn how to use the software.

What software is it?

So this software was Microsoft Journal, and it has some good help facilities and tutorials that you can work through, and it took me about an hour to work through that tutorial and feel that I was about ready to risk trying something.

And then I had a few attempts on my own just to see what the obvious pitfalls were, and I found some of them, then I went live in front of a class, and I found a few more!  But mostly things went ok, and I never got into a mess that I couldn’t get out of, at least… sometimes it took a few minutes, but I could always get out of it.

And in terms of the time it takes, I suppose, to then upload the notes and make any kind of improvements you want to, etc, what does that add to your normal time investment per lecture?

If I really was to put the notes directly on the web as done in class, and not make any improvements or corrections or adding in annotations, it would be very quick because I would save it to pdf file in half a minute, put it on some USB device, and put it straight on the web, and the whole thing would take about five minutes after the lecture.

However, usually when I look through the notes afterwards I see things that perhaps aren’t as clear as they should be, and/or could have done with a bit more space, and I’ll be tempted to maybe insert an extra page and write it out in a slightly more comfortable pattern so that I feel that they’ve got the notes in slightly better form.

I may occasionally spot mistakes, not as many as I might expect to see, but there are mistakes occasionally. I can tell the students about them, I can highlight them in red, and say “this should have been a minus sign” and so on.

I can do that afterwards, and then I could e-mail the class, or whichever my current communication system is, and say “you will note that there was a typo there which I have ringed in red.” And that way they can all know to go and have a look.

Have you had any feedback from your students; how are they finding this?

I’ve got quite a lot of feedback from the students, and when I was first learning to use it, the feedback involved comments on how things would go wrong.  As I got a bit better at using it, the feedback is more and more proportionally positive, extremely positive I would say by now.

The only things that bothered them are: it does slow you down a bit, so they were a bit concerned about the pace, because getting everything set up, and dealing with any bugs that arise, does slow you down a little bit and so they were concerned about getting through all the material at a comfortable rate, and I’m taking that onboard and know how to deal with that.

The better I get at using it, the less that becomes an issue. But that’s a learning experience as you go. It’s certainly quite tricky as you’re first using it.

But mostly, yes, the sort of positive feedback I’m getting, first of all, there are all the people for good reasons are missing the lecture, for example due to some sort of clash that’s unavoidable or illness or various other good causes, and they’ve all said they’re extremely grateful to be able to get, essentially, the closest thing to being there afterwards.

Produced: June 2007, in collaboration with the University's Promoting Enhanced Student Learning (PESL) initiative.

This video available in:
Teaching: Handouts (inclusive teaching)

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