Learning Technology Coach Podcast

S1E5. Online Lecturing via Public Live-Streaming Platforms

July 22, 2022 David Churchill Season 1 Episode 5
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Featuring David Churchill - Associate Professor, Computer Science, Memorial University

The Learning Technology Coach Podcast is a CITL production.

Javad (00:09):

Hello everyone. My name is Javad,

Timilehin (00:10):

And my name is Timilehin.

Javad (00:12):

Welcome to the Learning Technology Coach podcast, where we talk to educators about adopting to the new normal.

Timilehin (00:21):

Here we talked to instructors about how Covid 19 affected their teaching style, the challenges they have to overcome the technologies they Used.

Javad (00:29):

Plus a whole lot more.

Timilehin (00:32):

Hi, Javad. How are you today?

Javad (00:34):

I can't be better. It's so warm outside. I love it.

Timilehin (00:37):

Great, great, great. So Javad, you were talking about hobbies the last time we were at a meeting. So what do you really have for me

Javad (00:47):

Today? Oh, I have a lot of hobbies. One of my great hobbies is photography. What about you? Do you have any hobbies?

Timilehin (00:55):

Well, this may sound so weird to you, but I love cooking even though I don't like eating too much. I love cooking. I love playing soccer sometimes at my leisure. And I like playing table tennis.

Javad (01:07):

You mean football? Yeah,

Timilehin (01:10):

Football as Americans. We call it <laugh>.

Javad (01:12):

When you say you like cooking, do you like, well, I mean, I like to eat, but I don't think I'm a good cook.

Timilehin (01:17):

Yeah, that happens. I think that happens to almost everybody. You know what you love to do. You don't like the process, you just like the result.<laugh>

Javad (01:25):

Do you have any activities that you don't like to try? Let's say anti hobby.

Timilehin (01:29):

Huh? Swimming. Because I've seen a lot of people carried away by water.

Javad (01:33):

Right. Well one of the activities that I really, really didn't want to get addicted to was video games. I never thought that, you know, I can be a, like a video game player. Like I never liked it until we hitthe COVID. So when we had our first lockdown, I was like, I'm so bored, what can I do? So I invested on buying a new PlayStation at a time, and I used that for like, maybe a week two or two. Like, it was, it was really great. I think you should try. Have you tried?

Timilehin (02:01):

Oh, I played PlayStation when I was in high school, but I think I'm getting old now.<laugh>

Javad (02:06):

Did you, did you like it

Timilehin (02:07):

<Laugh>? Yes, I do.

Javad (02:09):

And I know that you like teaching and you like, you know, learning new i new things. Do you know, like we had a very good conversation last week with Dr. David Churchill who has connected teaching, learning and video games,

Timilehin (02:25):


Javad (02:25):

We talked about online lecturing via public live streaming platforms.

Timilehin (02:29):

Yeah, that's correct. So listeners, if you're interested in knowing how instructor can earn student performance and engagement using live streaming platforms, please sit tight and enjoy this lovely interview.

Javad (02:41):

You're gonna love it.

Javad (02:56):

Welcome back to the studio. Live streaming a class is simply the act of a streaming lessons online with your students present. Technically, this is known as synchronously meeting your students to teach this week today we had a wonderful guest in our studio. Tim, would you please introduce our guest to us?

Timilehin (03:14):

Absolutely. Thank you Javad. Dr. Churchill is an associate professor of computer science at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He did his undergrad in pure mathematics and computer science at MUN. And in 2009, he completed his masters in computer science at MUN as well. He did research into autonomous robotics and computer vision. In 2016. He completed his PhD in computing science and artificial intelligence for StarCraft at the University of Alberta. And having been actively involved in research in AI and computer games ever since.

Javad (03:54):

Wow, that's a great bio. I know Dr. Churchill is also a big fan of video games. Anything from EverQuest, World of Warcraft to League of Legends, Final Fantasy. I don't know. Hi David. Welcome to our studio. How are you doing today?

David (04:08):

I'm doing great. Thanks for having me. You guys know a lot about me already.

Javad (04:11):

Yeah.<Laugh>, we do our background check before our guests come here. How do you define live streaming classroom? What are the requirements, for example?

David (04:19):

So to me, live streaming means that you're recording you have the ability to make mistakes, so that's the live part of it. And streaming would mean that you're not physically present with your students, but some sort of online technology is being used in order for them to view your, your classroom synchronously. So synchronously meaning that they're there at the same time that you're saying stuff live.

Javad (04:43):

And what are the other requirements? Like in terms of, let's say internet speed or is there any limitation?

David (04:51):

Okay, so <laugh>, each of these small topics could, I could talk about it for hours, but yeah, there's definitely technology that's involved. So the first thing, you need to have an internet connection depending on what you're streaming, for example, if you're streaming like really complex fast moving video, you'd need to have a faster internet connection. If you're just streaming text on PowerPoint slides, you wouldn't need to have such a fast internet connection. You're gonna need a decent quality microphone like the ones we're using here today. Decent quality webcam so that the students can see you. I've actually done polls of my students of so I would ask them in a survey, what sort of device are you watching on? So for example, if you're delivering a podcast that most of your users are going to be listening to on their cell phones, then maybe your audio video quality doesn't need to be as good as if you were doing something that people are gonna watch on a big screen tv, for example. So there's a lot of factors that go into those decisions, but yeah, there's definitely a lot of technologies that are involved with it.

Javad (05:50):

When you were talking about audio, video and sharing and probably recording like those things, like what's the privacy like?

Javad (05:57):

Is it a big issue here?

David (05:59):

So privacy is always an issue. What I tell my students is that, so first, to get it out of the way to explain to people what, what I'm doing with my classes is that officially from the university's point of view, my classes are being given via prerecorded lectures. So I am technically pre-recording my lectures and then uploading them to like YouTube or our online D2L system so that students can watch the lectures whenever they want. So the live streaming part comes in so that students can watch me recording the lectures. So because these live on online streaming technologies are not officially supported by the university, I can't make them mandatory for my courses. So I tell my students, okay, if you can't make it live, you can view the lectures online later, they'll be recorded. But the live streaming is sort of this fun thing where you can interact with me like a live classroom with with a text-based chat, for example. And in terms of privacy of course I'm pretty public, so I don't really mind my own, you know, my face is there, my voice is there, people who know who I am, but I certainly don't require my students to divulge their names or anything like that online. So they're completely anonymous if they're chatting with me during the live streams.

Timilehin (07:19):

<Laugh>, thanks for acknowledging the fact that you are public. Now, you know why and how we know a lot about you <laugh>. So I know you are trying to simulate like physical class system by live streaming, and that is in a bit to kind of get more engagement from this student, but how close do you get to the physical class field?

David (07:42):

So that's a really good question, and I think that my classes and the topics that I teach really facilitate online learning. And what I mean by that is that, for example, if you were teaching a first year chemistry class or where you had like your mixing chemicals or turning on flames and stuff like, and burning stuff, or you're doing physical education where you need to throw dodge balls at people, like obviously that's not going to be as well received in an online setting, but my topic is computer science and programming. And so those type of topics like senior level computer science these students are used to being online. The topics are all explainable online. And the technologies really enable me to teach these courses in a way that's actually, for my specific topic, it's actually more dynamic than in a classroom setting. So because the, the topics that I'm teaching do not require physical engagement with the students my classes are more suited for online. But if you did have a class where you needed more physical engagement with students, it's kind of difficult to do that. You certainly wouldn't want to have a lab class be done on an, on an online setting, for example.

Javad (08:56):

What other type of engagement let's say software or like apps do you use to contact with your students? I know that some of your students told me that you are using Discord.

David (09:08):

Yeah, so there's lots of different technologies that you can use out there. One of them that I do use is Discord. So if people don't know what Discord is, it's essentially an app that you can have on your phone or on your PC or on the web where students connect and it's like a big chat room. So it has text chat, you can copy and paste memes or images or PDF files or videos. You can have live video and audio chat with your students. And so, because I'm sort of a gamer already and a lot of my students are, because they're later computer science students, almost everyone in my class, I'd say 80 plus percent of my students were already using Discord for their own purposes, right? For online gaming, talking to their friends, stuff like that. So it was a really natural transition and I just thought that Discord was, while it does have some privacy issues, you know, it's not like completely locked down like the MUN servers are. So I don't make it necessary, but I do tell students that it will benefit them to, to join the Discord server. And because we have lots of group discussions, we have polls I post some solutions to things there, but I also post it to D2L, our, our online MUN learnings learning software so that if someone doesn't choose to participate in Discord, they still get all the relevant information.

Javad (10:24):

I have a question about the public term that we use here a lot. Let's say I'm not one of your student and I have access to YouTube. Can I access to all your course materials even if I don't enroll for your course?

David (10:36):

Yeah. So this, this is actually a really interesting topic because my courses are posted publicly on YouTube. So what I mean by that is that all of my video lectures are posted there. So if I record any lecture anyone, if they're interested in my classes on artificial intelligence or on video games, they can actually go watch my courses on YouTube. However the first thing people ask me when they watch my courses is where's the assignment files? Because there's people out there who believe it or not, actually want to learn and want to do the assignments. And the one thing that I have to restrict to not be public is my assignment files, because as, as you can already guess, like you're nodding there, you know that if I post my assignments online while there's gonna be a thousand people doing them and posting solutions everywhere.

David (11:24):

So the one thing I really am strict about, and I've had industry people contact me about the assignments I've had students contact me about the assignments, other professors contact me about assignments, and I I just tell them, listen, I have to have a zero tolerance policy because my assignments take months to create. And if they leak to the outside world, then that's the end of the course basically. So they can access absolutely everything about the course, except the exams and the assignments that I actually use to evaluate the students because of like plagiarism and cheating stuff,

Timilehin (12:00):

Right. Talking about plagiarism, cheating and leakage of exam or test materials. Do you feel kind of insecure, you know, conducting examinations online?

David (12:12):

Yeah, so I think that's the, the number one problem that me and my colleagues have had with teaching online isn't the delivering of material. I think that's pretty easy. You know, I, I get to teach from my home, so it's, it's easier than coming to a university to teach, right? And you also get to record lectures so you know, you can edit out mistakes if you want to, that sort of thing. But when it comes to cheating, that's, that's the number one problem. We've had a lot of a lot of my other faculty in, in the computer science department have found their entire course online. So all of the assignments, all of the solutions on, on website or assignment selling websites, I'm not gonna name them, but I'm sure some students are familiar with them. And so and also exams are a problem.

David (13:01):

So when it comes to doing exams online, you have to decide as a professor how are you going to prevent cheating? Mm-Hmm. Right? So some professors have done these sort of online invigilating software where it actually like watches you via webcam and some professors will have you like, you know, let's see your hands, or let's see your screen or your room or whatever. I absolutely don't like doing that. And so what I have done is my courses are actually, technically they're remotely delivered. So one of my classes does have exams and my other class does not have exams. It has a final project. So one of the ways that you can escape a bit of plagiarism and a bit of cheating is by having evaluations that are different from exams where it's not like, okay, answer A, B, C, or D, that's really easy to cheat.

David (13:50):

But in one of my courses, I have a final project where you make a video game, right? And so it's very difficult to like plagiarize an entire video game. It's like thousands of lines of code, months of work, that sort of thing. But for exams, what I actually do now is I have in-person exams for my remotely delivered courses. And because I found that you just, no matter what you do, you cannot stop cheating if students are not physically present, it will happen. Not to say every student will do it, but every class will have people cheating. And so in my classes, I actually have people come to a physical classroom to do their exams.

Javad (14:26):

But what did you do when we went full down in lockdown? Like when, yeah, when, like, we couldn't come for in-person exams.

David (14:33):

So what I did during that is I did have online exams and I did detect some cheating. And so there are strategies you can use to ask questions. So there's two types of cheating. One type of cheating is when you look up the answer somewhere, the other type of cheating is when two students would get in the same place and do the exam together, right? There's other types of cheating, but those are the main two that we're really concerned with. So the first type of cheating, which is looking up answers online, you can get around that a little bit by asking questions that are very hard to Google, right? So if you're teaching a math course and it's like, what's the integral of x squared? It's really easy to Google that, right? But in my classes, what I do is I ask questions on exams that are something like, okay, on assignment three we saw this thing happen.

David (15:24):

Why did that happen? Good luck Googling that answer, right? Because they don't, like, Google won't have any of the context to answer it for you, but the problem of two students getting in the same room and cheating off of each other the only way you could stop that is with like actually seeing them do the exam. And I, I didn't do that because I didn't want to invade the student's privacy. And I did have a couple of detected instances of that. So there's nothing that is going to a hundred percent prevent cheating. But after that experience, I did make sure that when we were allowed to have in-person exams, that I did go back to in-person exams.

Timilehin (15:58):

Right. Thank you so much that especially for acknowledging the facts that you cannot totally eradicate cheating. I mean, and coming doing an in-person examination actually tries to copy it my question now will be on the fact that the pandemic happened, but before the pandemic happened, you have been teaching and thank you also for acknowledging the fact that your that your courses are kind of remotely structured, like they are structured to be delivered remotely so they can adapt to whatever style of teaching you want to adopt. But did the pandemic actually inspire any change in your style of teaching?

David (16:39):

So, I mean, the pandemic obviously was terrible. No one wants to say that anything good came outta the pandemic, but selfishly, I will say that the pandemic was the perfect excuse for people like me who wanted to teach online, at least to experiment with teaching online to actually get the permission from the university to do that. So if I had asked the university beforehand, can I teach these courses online, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to get them to say yes to that. And so what the pandemic did for me was, was get that permission to start that process of teaching online. And once I went online, I had to say, okay, the first, the first thing for me personally that I'm not great at is organization. And so the organization of the course had to change a little bit so that it was more the structure was more defined.

David (17:30):

So I set up like a spreadsheet online with a list of all the lectures and a list of all the topics, a list of all the assignments, so that everything was sort of on one screen that, so that the students could see, okay, wow, okay, I'm sitting at home in my pajamas all day, my schedule is messed up. I don't know if it's Tuesday or Thursday. That's how I felt sometimes <laugh>. So at least they have that one screen that says, Hey, there's an assignment due in three days and if you're doing that assignment, here's the, here's the lectures that pertain to that assignment, right? So because students might like save up watching all the lectures until the day before the assignment is due, you really do need to have that sort of organization. So I'd say the number one thing that changed for me wasn't the lecture material or the way that I taught it, but more so the organization of the course changed so that it helped myself and the students stay organized when, you know, I'm sure everyone became a little bit disorganized during the pandemic when you don't have that regular set schedule anymore.

Javad (18:28):

But you mentioned that the transition to online teaching was very smooth, which makes sense because the department that you're teaching and also like the students you're dealing with, like I'm assuming like a one is like very, very great with computer. But did you face any challenges that you didn't expect and it shocked you at the moment?

David (18:46):

So I was, I was very lucky because I had had streaming experience before, so I wasn't like a professional streamer or anything like that, but my friends and I did stream, like we used to play StarCraft, we would stream it on Twitch, maybe get like, you know, five or 10 viewers or something like that. So the technological aspect of it I was very familiar with already. And my background, I actually have experience with like image processing and video and stuff, so I was very lucky in that respect. And, and some of my colleagues, you know, who may be a bit older is not ageism to say that like they don't have that sort of experience with online streaming. Like some of my colleagues have never didn't even hear of online streaming at this point, right? So if and also as you said, my students were already familiar with with that topic of, of live streaming, they all know what sort of Twitch is or YouTube streaming or Facebook streaming, and they could very easily watch that they had the devices, they have their laptop, but some classes, you know, may not have that same benefit of having really technologically advanced students who are able to consume that content as easily as mine.

David (19:51):

So I think I forgot, was there a question there? I just made a comment.

Javad (19:54):

<Laugh>,Well, you pretty much answered like what I've had in my mind, like basically like what I wanted to know was how can I rephrase that one? I guess you pretty much answered like what I had in my mind. That's fine. But I have another question here. I know that you've worked with StarCraft AI competitions, like is this the moment that you started like thinking about going online and doing like some live streaming classroom? Like did it have any did it generate any ideas in your mind?

David (20:26):

So I don't think it was necessarily the topic that I was teaching that made me want to transition online more of the type of material that I was teaching. So the classes that I teach involve a lot of programming, for example. So when you're teaching programming, sometimes it's really nice to be able to switch between writing on a black, a blackboard to showing PowerPoint slides to like actually typing and coding examples and compiling and showing them the results of that. And in a, any programming teacher will tell you that in a classroom setting, sometimes you don't have the best technology available, right? You might be working off of your laptop or like a really slow university computer or something like that. And so it's actually takes up to a minute to switch contexts like that, right? So I, I'll be giving a PowerPoint slide and then I'll say, okay, now I'm gonna start programming for a little bit and it takes me like a minute to, to get it set up.

David (21:19):

And by then the, the context and the flow of the lecture is gone. But the really great thing about the online streaming technology, so I use this thing called open broadcasting software, and it lets you set up these predefined scenes. So for example, here's a scene where I'm programming, here's a scene where I have PowerPoint, here's a scene where I'm playing the video game, and so I have like buttons, hot keys on my computer where I can instantaneously switch from one context of teaching to another. So within literally one second I go from a PowerPoint slide to actually coding. And so through the, you know, through video games and through programming video games and stuff, I really realized, oh wow, those technologies can actually make teaching more effective online than in a classroom setting. And not only can I switch between these scenes really easily, but the fact that I can record, like record a high quality 10 80 p good sound and video quality lecture, and then have the students be able to rewatch that later either at half speed if I was talking too fast or at double speed if I was talking too slow.

David (22:22):

It's just such a great way, in my opinion, to deliver online material.

Timilehin (22:26):

Awesome. Awesome. Now you, you, you mentioned that the type of courses you teach the level of technological knowledge that your students have and your experience help you, you know, to develop these kind of ideas and ties of teaching. So if you have like your colleagues, like instructors, professors who have classes that are not as technologically developed as yours or they're not teaching courses that are, you know, relatively easily adaptable to remote structures, what would your advice be for them and you know, the pandemic has actually compared them to do this kind of stuff. What would your advice be to to them or what would you say to them, you know, to just make their life easy doing these things?

David (23:12):

Yeah, so I think the first thing that we should be doing is actually talking to the students. So one thing that really made my stuff successful was that one or two times, maybe three times throughout a semester, I would send out like a Google Forms survey to my students to say, Hey, what are you enjoying? What are you not enjoying? What would you like to see more of? What we'd just like to see less of? And I learned a lot from that, right? Like, you don't need to do this so much, you could do this more. We enjoy this part of the course. And so I think that the first thing to do is to get an, an overall picture of what your students, like, how would they enjoy the lecture material being given? And if they say, Hey, we actually really like this topic being taught in person, then maybe you don't have to go online.

David (23:56):

But if you're talking about a situation where you're forced to go online and you want that transition to be smoother, really it's all about just muscle memory and trying it. Like you have to go out there, download the software, practice recording your audio practice, recording your video, practice some editing if you want to edit things together practice switching between PowerPoint and programming if that's your thing. So you really just have to go out there and practice it. And unfortunately it does take, you know, some maybe a dozen hours to get familiar with the software and the technology and maybe go talk to the university. I think now at at Memorial we actually have places set up where if you don't have all that technology at home and you don't want to go spend thousands of dollars of your own money, there's actually rooms set up where professors can go to record their lectures on campus. So also talk to the university people at CITL for example. You contact them, you email them, say, here's what I want to do, can you help me do it? And there's very experienced professional people who will guide you and handhold you through every step of that.

Javad (24:59):

Well covid almost like is over, not covid, I mean like we are back to school again. What has changed in your teaching style, like after all those lockdowns?

David (25:10):

Oh, that's a good question. 

Javad (25:12):

Like what would you do? What wouldn't you do these days if it was not because of Covid?

David (25:19):

I think that one thing that has changed is that I have realized just how amazingly effective recording your lectures can be. So whether it's in person or online, if I was to teach in person again, I would not do it unless I was recording my lectures. One thing that I noticed about teaching online is that just to make selfishly make my own life easier, people can re-watch the lectures. And so they're not sending you 15 emails a day, like, I didn't get this topic, or I didn't quite understand that I could, cuz they can just go re-watch the lecture. And so I think that recording of in-person lectures would be the, the number one change. I would definitely do that. And I do remember that something that changed in me personally was that before the pandemic I could not stand the sound of my own voice.

David (26:13):

I don't know about, you know, anyone listening, but the sound of my own voice made me cringe so hard because, you know, you don't listen to your own voice very often. And, and so I was, you know, I have a little bit of a, a Newfy accent, not, not so much, but I was very self-conscious of that. And so listening to myself at the start of the pandemic when I had to record a lecture and then watch it back, oh, it was, it was so embarrassing. But now I wouldn't say that I enjoy the sound of my own voice, but I'm absolutely like that has been beaten out of me, like listening to myself so, so often doing sound checks, doing video checks. I'm now very used to like recording and practicing. And I think that's made me a better lecturer overall is being able to listen to myself, identify my mistakes, and then improve them over time.

Timilehin (27:00):

Thank you very much for those very detailed answers to our questions. Thank you so much for coming Dr. Churchill, we really appreciate you being here.

David (27:10):

Oh, you're very welcome and thanks for listening to me ramble about a topic that I really care about. It's great that you're doing this podcast and I can't wait to listen to more of them in the future.

Javad (27:17):

Thank you

David (27:18):


Javad (27:33):

Wow, that was a wonderful interview. So many interesting topics. What's your take in Timilehin?

Timilehin (27:39):

Well, Javad, I agree with you. That was one real kind of interview, you know, I was here to learn at the end of the day I learned and I also caught a lot of fun, you know, so one thing that stood out for me, I have a couple of them here, but I'll talk about, the first one is about getting feedback from your student. You know, I hacked Dr. Churchill that time that you should tell us about what it would advise his colleagues who are trying to do something similar to what he is doing. And they do not have, you know, the technological know-how, you know, they don't have the skill, the experience they're just setting out. And he said, just try to get information from your students. When you try it, ask them what do they like, what do they not like? You know, in that way you are not only trying to give them the right information, the right content, but you're also telling them that you think about them. You know, that makes a lot of sense to me. And another thing that he mentioned was the fact that you cannot totally eradicate cheating in a remote setting, so you have to compliment that with, you know, physical examination and that was a big thing. So I would say it's a wonderful, wonderful interview.

Javad (28:48):

Indeed. What I liked from the interview was the fact that he mentioned that he always wanted to try like fully online teaching but he never get a chance to do that. But because of the COVID, he had chance to do that and like he developed confidence in himself and at the end of the, you know, COVID era, like he could like make really, really nice classes like with so many like good videos and he really liked it and I really, really enjoyed that part.

Timilehin (29:13):

Right. Same for me listeners. Thank you so much for sticking by throughout the, this episode. We really appreciate your time and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did till the next time we meet again. I'm Timilehin,

Javad (29:26):

And my name is Javad.

Timilehin (29:28):

Thank you. Bye.

Javad (29:30):



Episode Introduction
Guest Introduction
What is a live streaming classroom
Understanding privacy issues
Live-streaming vs in-class teaching
Consequences of posting lectures on a public platform
Managing plagiarism and exam malpractices when teaching online
Instructional strategies inspired by the pandemic
Importance of collecting student feedback
How the pandemic affected teaching styles
Summary - Big Learning Moment!