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Over the last year there’s been a sudden need for many of us to produce digital materials to plug the gaps in our teaching programmes that can’t realistically be filled by more live online teaching. Whatever name we choose to give these materials – flipped or asynchronous content tend to be the ones we’ve landed on to describe them – finding the time and the right tools to put these together is quite a challenge.
A stopgap solution for many of us has been putting together recorded presentations for our students. This might be us talking over some presentation slides and then making that available via the VLE or email. While they can be a useful source of input for students, they lack the interactivity to make them more engaging.
But there are tools out there that can help you or your centre create interactive flipped content and I am going to go through six of them here. For each of them I’ll give a brief description of what they do and what kind of content they produce, as well as how easy they are to learn and how much they can cost.
Curiously named but surprisingly powerful, H5P is a web-based tool – which means that content can be created directly in the browser and doesn’t need any special software to be downloaded. What’s impressive about H5P is the sheer variety of content that can be created, from drag and drop activities, gap-fills, quizzes as well as interactive guides and presentations. You can see a list of all the different content types on this page of their website and below are a few examples of content created with it. Just click on the tabs to move between them.
This is a vocabulary activity where you have to drag the words on the right to the correct space.
This is an interactive quiz with various question types such as multiple choice and T/F.
If you want to learn more about H5P, I’ve written a couple of blog posts about it: one giving an overview of the content that can be produced and another explaining how the pricing model works.
Learning curve: the best word to describe the interface of H5P is clunky. It doesn’t have the kind of interface – like, say, Powerpoint, where you can see immediately what the final content will look like. Instead you have to work with text menus and text boxes. It’s not particularly difficult to learn, it just needs patience to go through the documentation to understand what everything does.
Cost: The cost of H5P will depend largely how you access it. There’s a good chance that if you use something like Moodle or Blackboard as your LMS/VLE, it might already be built in and you can use it for free. Check with your IT department.
If you don’t have access to it via your VLE, then it’s considerably more expensive. A basic license costs around £410 a year. For this you can assign three different email addresses to access your H5P account. Now, this isn’t cheap, but if you plan to create a lot of content, it can be worth it. There’s a much cheaper way of setting up your own H5P server that involves WordPress, but is a little more technical. I’ve discussed it in a bit more detail towards the end of this blog post, but you might need a technical person help set it up for you.
Wordwall is another web-based tool like H5P that lets you create interactive activities directly in your browser. These can be accessed directly through the browser or many of them can be printed out to be used as photocopies in a face to face classroom. The tone and style of some of the more game-like activities – there’s both a pacman and a whack-a-mole type game – suggest it’s probably aimed at a younger audience. However, many of the activities are pretty traditional ones such as multiple choice and gap fills and are appropriate for adults as well. You can see one below I’ve taken from their website.
Learning curve: really easy to get to grips with, even the most technology-shy teacher should be able to work out how to create the activities with a clear What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWIG) interface.
Cost: Wordwall works on the freemium, which means you get access to some basic content for free but then pay if you want access to the full range of activity types.
The free level gives you access to about 18 different types of activity but you can only create 5 exercises, so if you plan to make more, you’ll either have to delete old ones to make way for the new or upgrade to a paid plan.
The pricing is very reasonable for a paid plan, about £40 a year for the medium tier that gives you access to the same 18 activities as the free model but with the ability to make unlimited resources. The top tier is about £60 a year and that gives you access to all 33 activity types and unlimited resources.
Edpuzzle focuses on one thing only – creating quizzes for video. So, as students are watching a video, questions can pop up at pre-determined times for them to answer. These can be multiple choice, gap-fill or just written answers that are not necessarily right or wrong. Videos can come from a variety of sources, you can upload your own or use YouTube of course, but also a large number of other sources such as Khan Academy, TED Talks and National Geographic. As well as create your own videos, there’s a huge library of user-created videos you can search and use or edit.
Edpuzzle is useful if you want add more interactivity to recorded presentations that you have made. Rather than having students sit passively through it, this helps them to focus and check their understanding as they work through. You can see an example of an Edpuzzle video below:
Learning curve: pretty easy to get to grips with and create questions for the videos. Sometimes sharing can be a little confusing, the language it uses is unclear (assign and share preview) so knowing how to get the video to your students is not as easy as it could be.
Cost: The free tier is pretty reasonable for teachers, you can create 20 video quizzes without any restrictions. If you exceed that, presumably you can go back and delete some of the earlier ones that are not being used anymore. Or you can sign up for a paid plan, which costs around £8 a month and lets you create unlimited videos. There are also pricing plans for whole schools or districts.
Genially is a relatively new online tool for creating content, and the focus seems to be more on creating interactive presentations – e.g. ones that people work through on their own but which have information popping out or available at the click of a button. It does do quizzes and exercises, but these seem less of a priority and are certainly less easy to create.
The most obvious thing about Genially is how attractive their content looks, it’s visually very pretty, and great if you are doing things like charts or graphs or infographics. You can see an example of this below – not my content, but one taken from their website.
Learning curve: Not as intuitive as I thought it was going to be to be honest. The whole website has a modern feel to it, so I thought the interface would be easy to use, but it’s oddly unintuitive at times how to do things. With time you can learn it, but not something you can pick up quickly unfortunately.
Cost: Genially go down a slightly different route with their pricing. With their free tier you can still create as many resources as you want, but they will be public (i.e. you have no control over who can access them) and the content will have a fairly unobtrusive Genially watermark in the corner of the screen. You also can’t download the content as PDFs or pictures. The paid tiers (the cheapest of which starts at about £6 a month) remove these restrictions so you can make the content private and download in different formats.
Articulate Storyline is software somewhat similar to something like PowerPoint which you can use to create sophisticated interactive content. Unlike the other tools we’ve mentioned so far, this needs to be downloaded to your computer as a separate programme.
Storyline gives you complete control over what you want to create and you are only really limited by your knowledge of the software. We’ve used this at the University of Sheffield to create a large amount of flipped content for our courses. You can also buy Storyline as part of a subscription package called Articulate 360 and this gives you additional tools such as Articulate Rise – a web-based tool for creating content – as well as Articulate Review, a place online where you can upload your Storyline content in draft content for others to look at and comment on.
The real benefit of using Storyline in addition to the interactions you can create is the ability to send it to your VLE in a special format (SCORM) that means it can be tracked and added to the grade centre.
You can click on the tabs below to see examples of content created with Articulate Storyline. They are fully interactive.
Here is an example of some content we created for our EAP pre-sessional course on introductions and conclusions.
Learning curve: It does take time to learn Storyline, but if you are familiar with tools such as PowerPoint and video-editing, the interface will feel familiar. They also have a really good online community and online tutorials that make it easy to find the answers you want. But it’s definitely a tool for someone who is confident with technology.
Cost: Not cheap. At all. They do offer a generous 2-month free trial so you can test it out but for the Articulate 360 license – which is the product I’d recommend – it’s about £1000 per year for an individual or about £500 a year if you are an academic institution. This is something you really need to know you are going to be using a lot if you are going to commit to it.
I leave this one to last as it might not be something you are able to access unless you work at a university (and it may not be available even then). Xerte is somewhat similar to H5P in that it is a web-based tool for creating different types of interaction and is somewhat rudimentary and old-fashioned in its interface. However, it’s not something you can easily access or pay for, instead it’s free software that needs to be installed on some available web space to use. This is not a trivial thing and would require technical knowledge to do. Many universities have installed it though as a free alternative to some of these more expensive programmes, so you might want to check to see if it’s available through your university log in.
One thing it shares with Storyline is the ability to transfer to your VLE/LMS to track it in the grade centre.
We haven’t really used Xerte at our centre as we found Articulate Storyline a more user-friendly tool, so don’t have an examples to share. However, if you click the picture below, it will take you to some example content created in Xerte demonstrating the various activity types that are available.
Learning Curve: Pretty steep. You will feel you’ve gone back a couple of decades with its reliance on folder and file interfaces and text field interactions. You can produce some pretty decent stuff once you’ve worked out how to navigate the interface but it can be very daunting at first glance.
Cost: As mentioned earlier, it’s completely free but not something that anyone can just pick up and start using. Your university or institution would have needed to install this already for you to be able to use it, so check with your IT department if you are not sure.
When deciding which tools or combination of tools to use, cost and learning curve are two key things to consider, and I’ve mentioned those for each tool. However, a few other things worth bearing in mind are:
By this I mean, how easy is it to move content out of the tool and put somewhere else, such as your VLE/LMS. Most tools let you share content via a link or by embedding the content in the pages of your VLE – in the same way that a YouTube video can be embedded in any web page.
However, you may need to track in the VLE whether your students have completed the content or what score they got for it. In which case, you are more limited and only tools such as Storyline or Xerte can do that.
Most of the tools above are web-based, which means you need to be online to create them and students need to be online to access them.
This can cause some issues however. One thing to be particularly aware of is the possibility that the website goes down temporarily or even worse goes down permanently because their business model didn’t work. In which case you could lose access to all your content. This happened at our centre on a couple of occasions where we invested time and energy into creating content using online tools only for it all to disappear.
Some of these tools however allow offline access, or at least allow you to download the content as files that can then be uploaded elsewhere. Storyline, H5P and Xerte all have this facility.