Monday, April 30, 2018

New YouTube Data #Analytics

I'm not sure exactly when, but YouTube have recently made available more data to channel owners - this time in relation to "Impressions" and "Click-Through Rates" (CTR). Impressions tell you how many times your video thumbnails were shown to viewers. The click-through rate shows the percentage of views per impressions shown. This measures how often viewers watched a video after seeing an impression. Data are only available since 1st January 2018. So - over the first four months of 2018 there have been 8,239,406 impressions, with a click through rate of 6.89%. This means that 567,695 thumbnails were clicked - accounting for just under half of the 1,141,427 views in the same period. It's nice to know where the view traffic is coming from. For me, YouTube are doing a good job of recommending videos - I have no input into this whatsoever. 

Here's a snap shot of analytics for the first four months of 2018:

Tap/Click Image to Enlarge.

The chart shows the number of impressions in blue. These data are very cyclical - every one of the low points shows the number of impressions on a Saturday. This cycle closely matches the weekly cycle for views and watch time as well. The brown line represents the percentage click-through rate - at its highest it was 7.47% (2nd January), at its lowest it was 6.08% (28th April). While the number of impressions increases over the four months, the percentage click-through falls. According to YouTube "Half of all channels and videos on YouTube have an impressions CTR that can range between 2% and 10%". It can be seen from the average duration (2:27 minutes) that my thumbnails are not regarded as "click-bait". YouTube tell us that: 
  • Higher click-through rate with low average view duration: This may mean your thumbnails are "click-baity" or that your content doesn’t meet viewers’ expectations
  • Lower click-through rate and high average view duration: This may mean that your thumbnails or titles aren't getting viewers to click
Another interesting stat for me to follow!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

It must be exam time? #analytics #statistics

YouTube Analytics provides real-time data on who's viewing what over the past 60 minutes and over the past 48 hours, to content channel owners. Over the past year I have noted huge growth in the number of views and comments from viewers on my "How To... Statistics by Hand" playlist which contains 15 videos. Many of the comments I get are "Thank you" notes from students preparing for exams. As this is the beginning of exam season, I decided to take a look at some of the YouTube real-time data and see what it reveals.

Above are the top four videos being reviewed right now (during lunch Irish time). While the plotting multiple data in Excel video is my most popular at the moment, the next three are all Statistics videos. I expect that a lot of the views for these are from students revising for exams. If so, in the last hour 43 people viewed my How to... Perform Simple Linear Regression by Hand. Most of the overall views are from the United States, India, and the UK. Not many of my own students are watching - in the past hour there have been just two views of my videos in Ireland!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Very Old Photo

Researching and learning about my family tree has been an ongoing enjoyable experience for me. In some branches of my family I have managed to trace ancestors back to the late 1700s. I use Ancestry for my tree and it is a fantastic tool for both managing and researching the tree. It turns out that a very distant cousin lives close by my neighborhood and when I visited him recently he showed me the photo in its original frame below which features our mutual great-great grandfather - Richard Cullen:

We estimate that the photo was taken in the early 1870s. The photo features Richard and Julia Cullen, with their three sons (left to right) James, Bryan, and Richard. Photography was still in its infancy back in 1870 - it was invented in 1839 only 30 years earlier. No doubt people had to be perfectly still for the photograph - the Cullens were probably disappointed that the two younger lads could not keep still and their faces are sadly blurred. The boy on Richard's knee, also Richard, is my maternal great-grandfather. Richard senior was married three times. First to Mary Kate Giles (they lived in Wales) - they had two sons - Bryan and James in the photo above. His second marriage was to Julia Browne (they lived in Gorey) - she was one of eight Browne sisters from Gorey. They had five children: Richard (in the photo above), Patrick (who died as an infant), Mary Kate, Margaret, and another Patrick. His third marriage to Jane Cullen was childless. Four of the family are buried in St Michael's Cemetery in Gorey, Richard junior is buried in Mt Jerome Cemetery in Dublin, I don't know where James is buried.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What a Good Idea: "Fines for late return of library books set to be abolished" via @independent_ie #14929DaysLate

According to @CormacMcQuinn, writing last week in the Irish Independent, our Government is about to introduce a new policy so that Fines for late return of library books set to be abolished. This is an effort to remove barriers to people going to the Public Library, and to encourage more reading. Fines of 5c a day for late books was probably not much of a barrier anyway, and probably cost more to collect that it generated. I like this idea, though I feel there should probably be some kind of deterrent to prevent people keeping books for  along time.

G.A. Henty.
Image source: Wikipedia.
I was also listening to the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio this morning where she had a discussion with one of our national treasures, Professor Joseph O'Connor, about libraries. O'Connor loved visiting libraries as a kid and feels that everyone should have access to the joy of books (and even the smell!). He told us about reading Enid Blyton books, which I recall also doing when I was young. 

I don't recall there being a library in Carnew National School or in the town during the 1960s when I was growing up. However, there was a library in my secondary school - Cistercian College Roscrea. When I was listening to Joe O'Connor I remembered that I still had a book from the CCR library: Orange and Green: A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick by G.A. Henty published in 1888 (Henty was a prolific author of books for boys - he published six in 1888!). I left CCR in 1977, so taking an estimate of the number of days from 1st June 1977 to today, it is 14,929 days. If I was fined 5c for each day, the total would be a whopping €746.21. I honestly don't recall if I forgot to give it back, or if I stole it, or if it was discarded by the library for free. In any case, I am 41 years late in returning it - I wonder does the CCR library want it back?

Monday, April 16, 2018

15,000,000+ Views @YouTube

Over the weekend my YouTube channel passed the 15 million views mark - this morning there are 15,008,683 views. As always, I am both astonished and grateful that so many people around the world are learning from my videos. Two other milestones that I appreciate are passing the 30,000 subscriber mark, and a new one-day record of 13,172 views. It has taken a long time for the disaster of May 2015 (which you can see in the chart below) to be reversed - but finally the figures are now better. The figure of 40,535,603 watch time minutes is only dated from 1st September, 2012 - this number is the equivalent of 77 years and 26 days!

Many thanks again to all my viewers - keep on learning!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Audio vs Written Feedback

A couple of years ago I used the audio feedback feature in the Turnitin Gradebook to provide a 3 minute recording of some feedback to each individual student about their assignment. Not many students commented on this at the time - those that did were positive about this technique. This past semester I have used audio comments again, mainly because I find that it is much quicker than writing out feedback to students. The 3 minute limit is a bit short - especially for students who exceed word counts or who produce detailed work.

It turns out that there is a lot of research on the use of audio compared to written feedback. For example - see an excellent paper Engaging Students with Audio Feedback by Alan Cann (2014) from the University of Leicester. Research tells us that evidence of the effectiveness of audio feedback is clear from published findings. So - if audio feedback is so effective, why do not more of us use it? Although producing audio files is relatively quick, and the rule of thumb appears to be that "one minute of audio is equal to six minutes of writing feedback" (see Lunt and Curran 2009). This means that the 3 minute limit in Turnitin is the equivalent of 18 minutes of written feedback. In my class where I recently used this there are 69 student assignments - using audio to provide feedback would take up to 207 minutes (3 hours and 27 minutes), while written feedback could have taken up to 1,242 minutes (nearly 21 hours). Quite a significant saving in time I think you'll agree. Cann also reports that the "use of audio feedback is popular with the majority of students" as well as that it has at least the "potential to save staff time". He is careful to warn that this is "only true if audio feedback is used as a replacement for text comments, not as an additional supplement". Audio feedback is "undoubtedly" more engaging to students.

I'd certainly like to use audio feedback a bit more - NCI uses Turnitin which provides this as standard (though I wish they would allow a slightly larger maximum than 3 minutes). Saving time is important to us all - especially coming to the busy end of year period. I'd urge other academics to consider it too, though I appreciate that in shared office areas that it might not be physically that easy to do. But Colleges could do more to provide audio friendly spaces not just for recording feedback, but for other audio-video uses too to enhance both the learning and teaching experience for both academic staff and students.

Cann, A. (2014) Engaging Students with Audio Feedback, Bioscience Education, 22:1, 31-41

Lunt, T. and Curran, J. (2009) Are you listening please? The advantages of electronic audio feedback compared to written feedback. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 35 (7), 759–769.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Busiest Time of Year #ImTooBusy

If you ask someone at work "How are things" these days you are very likely to get the response along the lines of: "I'm very busy", or "Jaysus - it's very busy". This is not just in my workplace, but in a lot of others too. In third-level education, very often the period of mid-April to the beginning of June is regarded as the busiest time of the year. End of semester, exams, grading, writing papers, and preparing for conferences - comes together into a melting pot of busyness that many academics are not slow to tell you about (as I'm doing now!). For the current semester, which has just two and a half weeks left to run, I have 200+ students. In addition to 12 hours class time per week, I have around 700 labs, assignments, and projects to grade - more than I have ever had in any of the 30 or so semesters that I have been teaching. This keeps me busy - most weeks this semester have been 50-60 hours.

I don't mind being busy, it's my job and I get paid to be so. But I have been reading about "Why you should stop telling people you're so busy". Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal tell us that "constantly harping about your busyness can actually have adverse consequences"! Their three reasons to stop telling people that you are busy are: 
  1. You may be bragging
  2. Busyness isn't remarkable
  3. Busyness closes doors

We have all heard the mantra, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person". While I often find this to be true, Chopra and Sehgal say that if people think you are busy that they won't "present you with opportunities", or that "busyness may send the signal to your enlightened colleagues and associates that you aren't working smart", and that instead of "telling people how hectic and hardworking you are, take the time to ask them questions". Good advice indeed, that I and many other people I know should follow!

Finally, Chuck Carey, writing about sales in Compendian, offers advice on "How do you deal with the “I’m too busy” excuse?"

Image source: Compendian.

Using the cartoon about the busy king going into battle, Carey gives us two morals for busyness:
  1. The moral for the King is: Never be too busy to stop and listen to a salesman with a machine gun, if you are planning on fighting a battle with a sword.
  2. The moral for our salesman is: If you want to get the attention of the King, then you better be able to explain to him why it is in his advantage to take time to meet, or speak with you.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Dead Fitbit

I have been wearing a Fitbit HR for most of the past year (and a bit!) - but now it is not syncing with my computer anymore. I tried everything I could to fix it - online Help is not much good. It has also become an unattractive device on my right wrist as it is now held together with Super Glue having come apart several times. Taking it on and off every day (it is not waterproof) no doubt puts a lot of pressure on the meagre strapping, and also remembering to sync it is a bit of a drag too. As I ride a motorcycle to and from work - the vibrations from the handlebars add about 5,000 steps each day (while I'm just sitting on the bike).

I have decided not to replace the Fitbit and the old one will be recycled. I do see the attraction of having this as part of a watch, but I will not be replacing my fabulous Nixon watch anytime soon.

Fitbit does allow you to download your data, though curiously only one month's worth at a time. For chart below I had to combine 12 separate monthly files. I wondered what a year's worth of activity would look like - so I plotted the number of steps recorded every day for 2017:

Click/Tap Image to Enlarge.

I wonder if anyone was asked to plot out activity levels in advance for a year - what would it look like? Clearly I am inactive a lot, the three blank times above were where I did not wear the Fitbit at all. I would have thought I would be more active, but no I'm not. The high peaks are almost all for days when I was teaching in College in the evening and therefore had the morning off - I usually went for a long walk. The Fitbit did not really work for me as a motivation to exercise more - I never looked at it and saw a number like 9,000 steps, and then thought to make it 10,000. After a year and a bit - this piece of wearable technology is not for me.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Smartphones in the classroom?

Image source: Barrie Today.
Everyone in my generation managed to get thorough primary, secondary, and third-level education without the use of a smartphone, or a mobile phone of any type. Indeed I had a giggle to myself when at a 40-year school reunion last December I learned after the Reunion Mass that some of the guys at the back were looking up the football results on their phones. Would I have done the same if I had a smartphone 40 years ago? Totally! Would I have used a smartphone to look up "dirty" pictures in class if I could get away with it? Most probably yes. Would I have googled a word for a definition? Absolutely.

And there is the dilemma - where is the line between educational use and misuse of any device in the classroom? I teach at third level and there is no way that I will have a rule in my classes banning smartphone usage. Indeed they are on many desks during class with students multitasking checking messages and communicating with friends and family. They also use their phones for classwork - but I would guess that this is a minor part of their usage. I'm guessing that the most common use of smartphones in my classes is for translations by students for whom English is not a first language. Most don't need to be told to keep their phones on silent, and in general my classes are not interrupted by phones. Several of my classes, and an increasing number in the college, require students to have a laptop anyway - so for me there is no argument about smartphone usage in third level classes. It is a behaviour issue and as long as you inform students at the beginning of the semester what is and is not appropriate - students usually go along with this.

There's probably no argument about usage of smartphones at primary level as most students will not own a smartphone - though maybe some 11 and 12 year olds might have them. But this will be an argument in the future as smartphones become even more ubiquitous than they are now.

Second level seems to be the battle ground at this time. In yesterday's Irish Independent Ralph Reigel writes that "There are huge issues around the rush to digitise classrooms" - it appears that there are different policies in our schools around smartphone usage. Some ban them outright while others don't. A key point for me in this article is the quote from a teacher who said that "it will be difficult for authorities to order controls while, at the same time, supporting the use of tablets in classroom" - too true!

Writing in, Rodney Jackson makes the point that "to deny today’s cutting edge technology from a classroom instead of embracing and exploiting it seems to be a draconian, counterintuitive measure". He also tells us that to "deny that the technological reality of today has any usefulness in the classroom is shortsighted and uninspired. As a citizen, parent and employer I expect more from our educators". Whatever career students go on to after school/college will require the use of a smartphone - they can be used for instant access to maps, definitions, case-studies. In contrast, textbooks get outdated very quickly.

Smartphones are learning devices too - let's not ban them and instead try a little harder to incorporate them into the classroom.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

GAA or Rugby? #ToughChoices

Cheers at The Aviva!
Today in Dublin you could go to the GAA's National Football League Final between Dublin and Galway in Croke Park, or the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final between Leinster and Saracens at the Aviva stadium. The Sports Gods got this one mixed up - it is not too often that there are two such huge games on in Dublin on the same day. Missing my GAA partner Kate, I went along to see the rugby rather than our usual trek to Croker - may the GAA Gods forgive me!

With a sub plot of Ireland vs England (always a good motivator for Irish fans of any sport) - Leinster put the current European Champions to the sword though at times they were dominated by the Saracens from London. However, three tries to one told the story and the results was never really in doubt. Saracens were guilty of  some dreadful handling errors, but the Leinster men were more than a match winning out by 30 points to 19 - a well deserved victory.

Next up for Leinster it is the Welshmen from Llanelli - the Scarlets. Those in the know at the match today said that the Scarlets would be favourites - but on today's form Leinster will take some beating.

BTW - Dublin beat Galway by 18 points to 14. Another summer of Dubs domination????

It's all over!