I thought I would share with you an educational media project that, while at the extreme edge of what most educators take on, illustrates several lessons or best practices.

At Royal Roads University I’ve been an instructional designer for 4 years (11 years as an instructional designer and educational technologist at UVic before that). Last year I became an associate director supervising learning technologies and media support for both on and off campus learning (RRU is about 70% online).

You have all been dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 virus over the last few weeks but China has been facing this since late December. Royal Roads has a number of online and blended programs for Chinese students, it also has several programs delivered face-to-face at universities in China. As mandatory quarantines spread across several regions of China, these were impacted. A series of courses offered at Jinhua Polytechnic (pictured above) by RRU in tourism and hospitality management had to be converted to online learning.

As a result we’ve been converting a face-to-face, translator-supported program into asynchronous online learning. Starting with less than a week’s notice the instructors and translators have met in Blackboard Collaborate (our web conferencing platform) to record narrated PowerPoint videos with English narration translated to Chinese every sentence or two. This isn’t the optimal educational media we would develop given a few months to prepare, but it was something we could design and produce in short order, and on the scale needed. We’ve developed around 100 videos for this project now and will likely produce a similar number before this semester is done.

There were a number of media principles and best practices that came into play for this project.

  1. We kept the videos short. They originated with on-campus lectures that would have been 45 to 60 minutes long. With some modification we were able to change this to 6 to 8 minute videos, each addressing a key topic.
  2. We kept the slides simple. The students had the instructor narative (translated) and the textbook for detail. The slides were for maintaining focus, important graphics and key text. Many students had just a smartphone in quarantine and would not benefit from complex slides.
  3. We kept video size down. Internet bandwidth in most regions of China is quite good, and the Royal Roads University Moodle systems are accessible from China, but media files can appear to be throttled when accessed from China. By keeping the videos small (under 10MB in most cases), it was easier to access them from our site and easier for students to share them via WeChat.

These steps helped us create effective content for four courses running concurrently. Of course all of this wouldn’t be possible without instructors who were able to rise to the unique occasion, dedicating a lot of hours in the week before we went live and evenings and weekends ever since. We were also lucky at Royal Roads to have on staff a translator and a bilingual learning technologist. Our bilingual Moodle instance was also useful for hosting the content. The instructors were also ready to use Chinese platforms (like WeChat) to facilitate most of the learning activities.

My take-away from this experience has been that having internalised many principles around educational media I was able to make rapid decisions about the best choices available (though I often called them ‘best-bad choices’) in our short time with limited resources, though certainly we had more resources than many institutions might have for this sort of situation.

Anyway this is still a work in progress. As we ramp up to move the on-campus portion of RRU programs online (just as most BC post-secondary institutions are doing), there’s lots of work to continue for Jinhua.