Open Resources as Marketing Tool for Universities

British academic Russell Stannard, an expert on ICT and language teaching, has produced an extensive range of online videos that demonstrate how to apply technology in teaching. He began by making screen casts with Camtasia of himself using a variety of the most common Web 2.0 tools. These videos became so popular that he launched them on his domain Stannard’s videos have proved to be not only very popular with teachers, but have also had an impact on the number of students applying for his courses.

A long-term columnist and the writer of Webwatcher for The English Teaching Professional, Russell Stannard was constantly receiving inquiries regarding his articles on Moodle, iTunes, Blackboard and Fronter. Teachers from all over the world besieged him with requests about the new tools. It was then that Stannard came up with a smart idea efficiently to provide the advice-seekers with tips and tricks. Instead of tediously writing down his instructions, he used the screen-capture software Camtasia to record a video reply that demonstrated him addressing the task on his own computer step by step. Using a microphone, he included a personal commentary that explained what he was doing. The videos provided visual as well as audio feedback and turned out to be an extremely popular way to guide teachers through the intricacies of ICT tools and to facilitate their learning process. Stannard’s videos soon became so sought after that he decided to share them with a larger audience online. He started his own website,, to provide free videos that provide training in most of today’s key ICT tools.

Two years later, the website has become one of the most popular resources for training teachers on the internet. The search term “teacher training” returns some thirty million pages and usually ranks in the top five of the results displayed. The accompanying newsletter has more than 1,000 subscribers, and about 10,000 teachers a month regularly use the site. In October 2008, Stannard was awarded the “Outstanding Initiative in ICT” from the Times Higher Education Supplement/ Joint Information Systems Committee.

Increasing Demand Online and in Class

Stannard soon realised that by making his content freely available online, he was indirectly promoting his own activities at the University of Westminster. An active instructor who also teaches multimedia, he then decided to build a second website of free videos,, which is now linked to his own multimedia courses at the University. Registration numbers have doubled in two years, and Stannard explains, “People visit the site, use the learning videos and become curious about the team behind it. We get a significant number of enquiries – and subsequent registrations – from students who first went on the website.” In February 2009, JISC awarded Stannard a grant to develop and enhance the Open Educational Resources on the site. is now used all over the world, gets as many as 500,000 hits per month in term time and has an extensive list of training videos for Flash, HTML, SEO, Photoshop and Director. In the latest development, Stannard has also added a section called „Tools for Students”.

Changing the Way of Teaching

According to Stannard, the videos have also had an impact on the way the University’s courses are taught. By adopting videos in courses rather than more traditional teaching methods, lecturers are able to deliver some course modules in a more time-efficient way. In regard to the Flash modules, for example, by using videos, they reduce the amount of time spent dealing with the minutiae of the technology. As a consequence, they have more time to work through other areas such as design and to look at real industry examples. A survey among 100 students showed that they approved this trend – 90% of them wanted more videos rather than lecture notes.

However, it was another application of screen-capture technology that, according to Stannard, really changed delivery of many of his courses: He began experimenting with video to provide feedback for his students’ assignments. In this approach, Stannard opens their assignments on his screen and records his corrections and comments directly. He then returns the video-based corrections to the students, who can listen and watch as they receive a “live” video feedback lesson.

This idea received national press coverage in the UK, and the combination of his innovative approach to providing student feedback and his website has subsequently taken Stannard all over the world.

Some simple examples of his feedback can be found at here and here.

At OEB 2009, as part of the lab session “Open Source Tools for Innovative Learning”, Russell Stannard will discuss the success of his sites and outline how he produced the videos using Camtasia. He will also demonstrate that by making the sites free and public, he has created a very powerful marketing tool for his courses at the University of Westminster. The lab session takes place on Thursday, December 3 from 12:00 – 13:30.


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