Tech Trends in Higher Education: Touchcast- the future of video

Online learning is listed twice in the NMC Horizon Report 2014 Higher Education Edition. The whole report was very stimulating and full of incredible ideas. I decided to focus on online learning as I am in the midst of developing a new online course and recently rolled out an online course in evidence-based medicine. Video is major tool for online teaching. There have been limits to how interactive you can make videos. For example, YouTube has an annotations feature that allows you to add links, polls, questions, surveys, etc. You can add pauses to allow learners to think and do various tasks and then the video will restart revealing the answer. New technology has made video more interactive.

Touchcast and HapYak are two tools that can be used to make video interactive. With HapYak you start with a YouTube video and add links, quizzes, and can even divide the video into chapters. This video gives a short overview of how it works. HapYak, while interactive, has limited elements that can be added. Touchcast offers many more options for interactivity.

As mentioned in the video the interactive elements are called video apps or vApps. As you can see in the picture below Touchcast offers many more interactive elements. It also offers the option of developing your own vApp (see “Developer” at the bottom right). Picture of the available apps in TouchcastMy artifact for this assignment is a Touchcast of an online journal club session (Try downloading the Touchcast app at the link above and viewing this Touchcast by searching for “case-control” in the “Explore” area). I plan to use a similar Touchcast in our November resident journal club. I am planning a cross-over intervention.  Several of the residents will do the online journal club while the remainder will participate in the usual face-to-face session. They will then switch to the opposite group so that each resident will complete both the online and face-to-face journal clubs. I will then informally evaluate which they felt was more engaging and educational.

Touchcast is very challenging to use initially. As you can see the audio isn’t tracking properly with the video (i applogize for this but I rerecorded this several times to no avail. Frustrated, I gave up.) I think this is more an issue with the desktop app (still somewhat in beta testing) as I made one other Touchcast previously using the iPad app and it worked fine. After you record a Touchcast you can not edit it. You can not edit individual vApps (other than resizing them) or the title graphic once you create them. All vApps must be created prior to recording a Touchcast. I was unable to reorder the vApps that I created. Some features (background removal and replacement) only work with a specialized camera (that of course they will sell you). Touchcasts are only interactive via the app. While a Touchcast can be uploaded to YouTube (here is mine on YouTube) the interactivity is lost.

Despite these shortcomings both of these tools have the potential benefit of personalizing the learning experience. The Horizon report notes a long-range trend of the evolution of online learning. Online courses must engage students with interactive features leading to a personalized learning experience. Both of these tools engage the learner as they can interact with elements embedded in the videos. Learning can also be personalized as links to multiple different types of materials can be embedded that learners can explore as they desire. Questions could be embedded with links to different videos or other learning materials tailored to the learners’ answers to questions.

This was a fun and stimulating exercise. I look forward to becoming more facile with Touchcast. I also plan to make a YouTube video with embedded questions leading to other videos tailored to the responses to the question. This will be a lot of work but will lead to a more personalized learning experience.

If you have used Touchcast I would like to hear your experiences with it.