Case studies

"Teaching what is at the cutting edge makes the need to fully grasp the basic principles become more obvious."

Professor Alan Aylward, Dept of Physics and Astronomy

Using 'digital ink' in lectures

7 August 2013

Lynsie Chew, Teaching Fellow in Accounting, explains how she makes her lectures more interactive using live, on-screen annotation.

Audience in a UCL lecture theatre

The concept

The term ‘digital inking’ describes writing or drawing on a tablet screen using a stylus. In a lecture theatre context, a teacher can annotate their slides/sources on their own tablet and their actions will appear on the large display screen as they write.

The equipment

This case study used a Lenovo X200T tablet laptop which came with ‘digital ink’ software. The laptop was loaned from E-Learning Environments (ELE) as part of an innovations trial. While individuals or departments may wish to buy their own kit, we recommend liaising with ELE before you purchase as different products will suit different requirements. The ELE team are there to listen to your ideas, match them up with technological tools and provide you with any support you need.

How it worked

I teach accounting which is not the sexiest of subjects so last year I decided to try and make it more interactive. I had been in conversation with E-Learning Environments (ELE) about borrowing some Electronic Voting System (EVS) handsets and, when the team realised I was interested in trialling things, they asked if I’d like to experiment with their tablet.

I found that it had a digital ink function which means you can doodle on your PowerPoint slides and, once the tablet is hooked up to the visualiser, your scribbles appear on the lecture theatre’s screen in real time. You can highlight, draw diagrams, make calculations, whatever you want really, and it’s a good alternative to a whiteboard, which can cause visibility issues for students at the back of the room.

The process made me rethink how I was structuring my slides. I am guilty of sometimes overloading slides with too much information, but with digital ink you can add things as you go, using more or fewer examples than you had originally planned. Inking has many of the same advantages as a whiteboard, but the notes you make with digital ink can be saved, either being recorded as movement if you’re using Lecturecast or just saved as new static slides which you can then make available via Moodle.

Another big benefit of using digital ink is that you can work through exercises together with your students during the lecture, using EVS to collect their answers. It’s all well and good having numbers in a table but finding out how they actually got there, and in what order, is immensely valuable. Many of the students find that having something presented visually aids their understanding, and psychologically I believe that it makes students think, ‘we’ve made real progress during this lecture, look at all the notes we’ve taken down’.

I have to say that I underestimated how long the live exercises would take, so that was a learning curve for me. With a cohort of 160, it did eat into our session time, but they loved the EVS because it made them feel like they were on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – they felt involved, we had a bit of a laugh doing it and it broke up the session. I have also realised that I need to improve my handwriting when inking as some people have struggled to read things that I’ve written.

Overall, though, using digital ink has been a huge success. We got good student feedback, not least because it was the only course where the students were experiencing this level of interactivity and technology (which they thought was ‘cool’), and the digital ink project will be continuing at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We’re now thinking of using it as part of our assessment process as well. It will mean that the department’s administrative staff won’t have to deal with millions of pieces of paper and it also opens up the opportunity to have a large marking team who aren’t all in the same geographical location.

Interview by Ele Cooper

Further information 

Page last modified on 28 aug 13 16:17


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