Presenting learning modules online: datavines, GIFs, and our tips so far

June 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

This week at School of Data we’ve been doing a Curriculum Sprint – getting people together to really block off some time to work on the online learning materials that we have to improve and standardise them.

One comment that I’ve heard a few times about the online modules we currently have is that they’re very text-heavy. So, I did some research into other ways of putting learning materials online; for example, via slide decks – like Michael’s course on Extracting information from PDFs.

But, sometimes (especially when following step-by-step instructions) it helps to be able to see them all at once on a screen, so that you can see where you went wrong, or figure out where you’re going, rather than having to scroll backwards and forwards through slides.

I found a couple of good examples from Guardian Data of #datavines, which they used to illustrate GCSE results from 2013, like this one:

I like the idea of having vines focused on just one figure or fact, and I was very happy to find this tutorial from Twitter, on “How to tell a numbers driven story in six seconds” (incidentally, written by Simon Rogers who used to be at Guardian Data). He includes three key tips at the end of this blogpost there:

Our three tips when making data-driven Vine videos: Keep it simple: one big number is enough for each one Make the idea behind the video memorable – but don’t over-complicate it. Does it support the story? Remember Vine’s unique ability to loop – people will watch this again and again so try to create something that circles seamlessly

In addition to these tips, and the other advice in Simon’s blog post, here are some addition things I’ve learned from my very basic attempts at making data vines. Bear in mind the materials I’ve used have been the ever so rudimentary collection of paper, post it notes and pens!

  • Don’t change shot too often — personally, I find using one sheet of paper as a background to be the easiest to follow
  • Leave enough time for people to read and take in what is in that particular frame before changing
  • Don’t try and convey too much information – six seconds isn’t very much!
  • Vine’s ‘ghost tool’ is amazing. I tried using a different app to start with ( as Vine was having some issues on my phone, but thanks to the ‘ghost tool’ as well as the other editing features, I’m a big convert.

Here are the vines which I made: one for World Refugee Day, and another one (using which tries to break down what we mean by ‘aid’.

One thing I found especially tricky in this one was the timing- I wanted to get exactly 4 seconds, or at least evenly spaced frames, but it was tricky without being able to see how far through (in seconds) I was through the total Vine length.

As my colleague Mariel accurately pointed out – the idea is not to substitute but rather duplicate for guaranteed learning. There’s no way that a looped video could properly replace chunks of text in terms of learning materials, but I hope that adding some more animations like this might make the modules easier to follow, or more interesting.

** Are there other ways of presenting learning materials online that we should be thinking about?*

Screencasts have been suggested, or including more pictures and illustrations in amongst the text. In a way, I like the clearly ‘human’ aspect of the vines, especially when they are handwritten, as well as the fact that they are very easy to begin making (at least, at my very basic level!) I’d love to know whether they add anything to the content from an audience perspective though – what do you think?

Leave your thoughts/ideas/suggestions/links in the comments below, or tweet them to @SchoolofData or @zararah.

Thank you!

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