UKZN Technology Enhanced Learning
UKZN Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL) is a collaboration between the University’s Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) and Information Communication Services (ICS). UTEL was established to provide a suite of technology rich teaching and learning solutions and innovative pedagogies, using eLearning, online learning, blended learning and the flipped classroom approach.
The revitalised recording studios are equipped to professional standards and are ready to design e-learning solutions; undertake lecture capture, digitisation and dissemination; professionally direct and record studio interviews, debates, panel discussions and a host of other technology enhanced teaching and learning activities. The studios are versatile, using chroma key techniques, virtual sets and teleprompters.
Lecture capture integrates blended learning and flipped class approaches to teaching. In studio we re-create lecture content and selected lectures and make them available digitally to students. Students are able to review content in their own time with peers, and materials are used to reinforce understanding and prepare them for assessments. Teachers may not have to repeat lectures as digital content can be re-used and subsequent classes can watch materials; also useful when guest lectures cannot be brought back.
This assists students who are absent or not able to attend lectures due to overcrowded classrooms and/or when lectures are cancelled due to disruptions and time schedule constraints. It also assists with revision, so students can re-visit materials when lectures are not easily understood due to language barriers, and meets the need for laboratory or practical teaching sessions where class numbers are too large or there are not enough specimens to go around.
Linked to the above is the distribution of materials through a digital portal. Currently video materials are uploaded and links posted to Moodle. UTEL is in the process of creating an enterprise video library that will auto generate catalogues, using media asset management to centralise and organise materials, so users can perform a “smart search” across the library. Content in digital format will then be made available through an interactive web site where staff and students can watch or download to any mobile device.
Delivery through a web portal is preferred so that no specialised software will be required and the portal can be linked to existing solutions at UKZN such as Moodle, using active directory authentication and analytics.
A large amount of analogue video material held in the former AV archives and elsewhere in the University is becoming unusable. Tapes are deteriorating and playback devices have become scarce. UTEL has begun the process of digitising and converting the +3,000 video tapes in its archive into a digital format, using restoration processes to preserve quality.
Once complete all digital assets will be properly indexed, be catalogued and archived, then published in digital format.
The process being used is as follows:
- Tapes are put through a cleaning stage to remove mould and dirt, and release any faulty mechanism.
- They are then spooled and cleaned again.
- Playback is done using professional playback machines via a digital timebase corrector to ensure stable reference signals.
- Professional analogue to digital devices are used to digitise materials at the highest resolution possible.
- The digitised material then goes through a process whereby we can correct signal levels, colour imbalances and other imperfections.
- It is then edited to remove irrelevant parts and correct audio levels.
- The file is rendered and exported into a usable format, using the correct aspect ratio.
- Metadata information is captured and stored.
- The final asset is stored on UTEL’s digital content server and digital copies are made available to the client.
- These assets, after obtaining the relevant permissions, will then be published through a web portal. End users can use the search engine to gain easy access and find relevant items.
Video materials will be created for the purposes of marketing departments, programmes and courses to attract potential students and funders and promote the University. These are longer term projects that require conceptualisation, scripting, research, shooting and editing.
UTEL also creates video materials to enhance teaching and learning. Here ideas, concepts and academic content are researched, scripted and turned into effective educational videos for students to utilise for revision and clarification. This is different from capturing lectures “live” as this production process has to take into account the careful scripting and storyboarding so that content is rich with suitable visual materials.
Studio 3 is a small sound studio where multitrack recording and mastering is done, and final output may be published to CD or iTunes. Accompanying music videos can be created using green screen techniques and published alongside the audio materials. This studio is well suited for narration, voice overs, language translation, creation of music stings and themes, recording of small music ensembles, and radio interviews.
UTEL assists students who need to be trained by experts and have access to production and edit facilities. There is a demand for this service by Colleges, students and the industry. To employ our students, broadcast and external production companies usually require them to have practical work experience in addition to their qualifications. In 2018, UTEL conducted practical sessions for Media Studies 3rd year students who experienced multi-camera operations in studio. UTEL taught a video production module to 15 Media Studies Honours Students who were tasked to produce short 7 minute videos as their final project.
Offered as an NGO service to various community organisations, taking the form of free production training workshops as part of our community outreach strategy.
Short Courses and Certified Training
Short courses that take place over weekends or evenings, undertaken in subjects like sound engineering, multitrack recording, camera operation and video editing. This is useful for event and church operators. Certified training courses can be facilitated on behalf of industry players.
Student interns who are in the process of completing their studies in relevant fields often require practical experience and further skilling. An internship programme allows students to spend time at the studios and exit with work experience written into their CV. Outcomes-based criteria will be used for assessment of interns.
To address skills shortages, recognised as a national problem among previously disadvantaged individuals, and meet the skill needs in areas like production, technical and design, UTEL can provide in-house training on practical and theoretical components, exposing learners to various technologies.
Campus TV was created by Audio Visual in 2007, envisaged as a production facility and television station, run by students for students. Students who are interested in media production volunteered their time and in return, were provided experience and skilling in a variety of areas like sound/camera operation, mixing, directing, lighting, presenting, news gathering, etc. UTEL hopes to revive this as Studio 1 is ideally equipped for interviews, performances and news-type programmes. It is envisaged that UTEL will broadcast three hours of live content per day from the studio and can include debates on current topics using University experts. Students can be given the freedom to produce variety and daily news programmes.
The TV Studios will be developed and marketed as the production hub of the University since it has custom designed infrastructure, well suited for the purpose. It hopes to become a turnkey facility as a UKZN broadcast centre as well as the facility that will host Teaching & Learning TV. University leaders are able use the facility to engage in dialogue, interviews, speak to staff and students and do presentations. Broadcasters can interview experts directly “live” from Studio 1 on current subject matters. Programmes can be transmitted by satellite or by fibre to major broadcasters, and ultimately the University can have its own broadcast channel.
For UTEL to become self-sustaining, it plans to take on commercial work and earn revenue. A properly equipped video facility is available to external production companies and broadcasters to bring in 3rd stream income. External work may be done after hours but carefully managed so that University work is not compromised. This will allow the unit to generate its own funds to keep facilities up to date with the latest technology. There is a need for professional facilities in the province, and partnerships can be established. There are current requests from various stakeholders.
Jasper Cecil is the UTEL Project Manager with over 40 years’ experience in production and studio management. He has worked at the university as Production Manager, Head of Department and Director of Audio Visual, and taught video production to postgraduate media students for over 11 years. Jasper holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication, a Masters in Music Technology and various postgrad diplomas. He studied Advanced Video Production at Bath University and the BBC (UK).
Lungani Mdletshe, UTEL’s Production Assistant, provides technical and administrative assistance and support. Lungani coordinates bookings, facilities, and liaises with outsourced service providers on maintenance issues. On productions, he operates as floor manager, coordinator and camera operator. Lungani has qualifications in Electronic Engineering and has worked extensively in the industry, including as a technician in AV and ICS at UKZN. He has industry experience in AV, lighting and sound engineering.
Njabulo Osworld Dladla is UTEL’s main camera operator and video editor who also does vision mixing, graphic design, animation and video editing among other production tasks. He designs virtual sets used in UTEL Productions. Njabs has a BA in Visual Arts and experience in the field, having worked on many productions within the industry and at UKZN.
Vishnu Arunajallem is UTEL’s Senior Technician and Studio Engineer, responsible for installation, repairs and technical operations. On productions, he operates lighting and camera when required. Vish has a Diploma in Electronics and over 23 years of experience in the AV industry, including 10 years in IT, having done setup, repairs and installation work.