Video Annotations and Discussions

faces with a play button as in video

In our courses, we sometimes use videos as a prompt to start a discussion. The video is most likely to be included in the viewing section (aka Multimedia or Watch this), and possibly a link would be included in the prompt itself. It’s also possible to streamline the discussion flow by removing the permission to create a new thread on the student part. As creative as we can get when we push against Blackboard limitations, the result is not often optimal. I am going to show a couple of options where the interface is way friendlier.


This is a good social tool for annotating videos. You may use it with your own video from YouTube or use other people’s videos. It’s clean, may create a conversation among viewers (signing in with an existing account, such as Google user, required for responses and adding notes, but not for viewing). Create as many as you want. (Optional viewing)


Another similar service is provided by Vialogues. Here, too you can have a discussion (text discussion) of whatever is happening on the screen, plus the discussion can be guided by preset comments/annotations for others to react to in the context of the video.


Video Everywhere Working Again! With one extra step…

Hey all! We’re excited to announce that Video Everywhere is working again. However, for the time being there is one extra step necessary for using it to embed videos directly, easily, into Blackboard. The default dimensions for the embedded video are, for the time being, set to 120×90. Before you click to complete the submission of your video, on the step illustrated below, make sure you type in “420” over the 120 default value. The Height value should automatically adjust to read “315”; if it doesn’t, type that into the Height value. See screenshot below:

Video Everywhere Working Again

More on Interactive Videos

Zaption homepageAs you are considering creating more interactive experiences for students in your courses with video content, this service may come in handy.

Zaption is a service that claims to “turn online videos into interactive learning experiences that engage students and deepen understanding.” It’s friendly, clean and easy to get started with. While a lot of the gallery is K-12 content (this being the greater market), it’s possible to turn it around and find ways to add interactivity to more advanced educational content.

One example may be “Understanding Jim Crow“, which presents the segregation laws of the South and the historical backdrop for them.

If this piques your interest, try the demo and push buttons. The idea is that you will create your “tours”, and include questions, requests for comments, choices and such in appropriate places. Apparently, you can copy and tour and modify it to your heart’s content.

As you are watching these, are there opportunities for such interactions in your courses?

Let us know what you think!

Workaround for Media Content after Upgrade

In order to avoid issues, we encourage you to use Safari on Mac and Firefox on Windows.

However, for Chrome users and Firefox on Mac, please follow these steps to view some of the media content (YouTube videos, Vimeo, and some other services have not been affected).

The following is a set of directions for Chrome on Mac (similar on Windows).

  1. Look for a shield icon in the web address space when content is not displayed properly. Notice that https is green.Media not playing
  2. Click on the shield to get a popup. Click on “Load unsafe script”.Shield and unsafe script
  3. View your media content. Notice, that https is now crossed out.Media loads

In Firefox, similar steps.

1. Media not loading 2. Disable Protection 3. Media plays

Happy viewing! (We are hoping to get a better, sustainable solution for this in the near future).

Combining A Web Site Project With Rich Multimedia And Collaboration

Online courses life restrictions on tools when it comes to student projects and their impact. In a number of courses, students use Google Sites (a fairly straightforward tool) to create group or individual projects, and to promote awareness among colleagues and community. In several other courses, students create videos, either as a check-in assignment or as oral/visual presentations of their papers.

It appears that Tackk allows one to make both an engaging presentation of content with rich multimedia and invite participation through the commenting feature.

To learn more about sharing and commenting, check out this announcement by Tackk.

I came upon this resource by reading Free Tech For Teachers blog, which is prolific and is mostly geared towards K-12 audience. However, there are all sorts of universal resources one can use in any setting.

Other Options for Presentations (and Some Tips on Doing Research)

I have been researching some other options beyond the standard MS PowerPoint presentation at a request of a faculty.

I have done my research in Google Docs to begin with (Google Drive). If you have never done it, you should at least give it a shot. You will like it. In fact, you may like the Research Tool enough to share with your students to use when they are working on their research papers.

So, here are three tools I have looked up.

How to Use Storify


Storify Tour

Tell your story through putting together content from all sorts of social media, adding your own narrative to the collection. Great for finding out about trending topics and current events.


Online video editing, free for personal accounts with limits of 15 min movies exported in 480p (small, low res movies). Better options, including sharing media to edit, and creating shared projects for a fee.



Animated presentations, with interesting effects, and fairly friendly to use. For a free account, you can publish to YouTube and Facebook and Moovly will keep its watermark on the video.

Moovly on YouTube

5 Tips for Creating a Successful Animated Presentation

Moovly on Vimeo

Cool Tools – Wideo, Moovly, and PowToon

These may come on handy, and obviously, some individuals will like some and not the others. Here is an added bonus, your IDS quick presentation in Moovly.

What if your students created viral videos as course projects?

It might just work! Sure writing papers is academically significant and is a way to demonstrate understanding, analysis, and such. No question that putting together a web site is collaborative and there are opportunities to make changes after peers offer feedback on the project.

But if good videos carried a good message and through right distribution affected thousands of people and how they think? What if content was presented in a persuasive way, and had immediate impact? We can shoot for the stars, right?

Truth is that a good story is part of the success. Viral by itself isn’t much, it has to have a message. But it also needs to be produced well. What if we could attract high quality production people? What if there were local resources we could rely on? This might be worth looking into.

This video is one of those viral ones. The article presents a perspective on the process (you will not be able to miss the sales pitch in it for, but there is good content nonetheless).