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Lecture Capture: Policy and Strategy

What is happening to the pedagogical process because of lecture capture?
University Business, Jul 2010
While out on the ice competing in the Olympics, Northeastern student Julia Marty didn't have to worry about what lectures she was missing back on campus, as they were being recorded.

Thanks to lecture capture, Julia Marty completed her junior year at Northeastern University (Mass.) this spring. The Office of Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) offers student-athletes access to videos of missed classes, allowing Marty to compete on Team Switzerland's hockey team at the 2010 Winter Olympics and not sacrifice her studies. While she missed a month of classes, three of her professors recorded their lectures and "she had an extremely successful spring term," says Coleen Pantalone, associate dean for undergraduate business. The online access, Marty adds, "gave me the feeling that I didn't miss any classes at all."

In the past, student-athletes would fall behind. A senior varsity baseball player asked faculty athletics representative Fred Wiseman to find a solution. Wiseman partnered with SASS director Lauren DeSantis and came up with the lecture-capture initiative, which includes a Tegrity system to make classroom recordings accessible online for student-athletes to download and view at their convenience. (The general student body also benefits, as any class recorded for a student-athlete is made available to every member of that class.) The initiative was piloted in the fall of 2009 and became a full-time program this spring. "Athletes can miss up to 30 percent of their classes," says Wiseman, a professor in the College of Business Administration, "making it nearly impossible to succeed." Currently, more than 50 faculty members participate; the business school dean funded most of the technology and encourages faculty to get on board.

Northeastern is not the only higher ed institution using lecture capture to change the way students learn and professors teach. Thanks to the nearly pervasive usage of this technology, schools across the country are using it more strategically.

Clemson faculty can record themselves prior to attending a conference and not have to cancel class.

At many universities, students are watching video simulations before attending clinical courses. "A professor might put together a simulation showing how to handle hazardous material and ask students to watch it before their first lab," says Sean Brown, vice president of higher education for Sonic Foundry, whose Mediasite webcasting platform automates the capture, management, delivery and search of lectures, online training and briefings.

This type of previewing is also happening in nonsimulation courses, and instructors tell Brown that it increases the quality of interaction in the classroom. "We see some schools making lectures available a week before class. In addition to improving the level of dialogue, doing this can help schools handle financial challenges, as they can cover material with fewer class meetings," says Brown.

Edward J. Berger, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, also teaches engineering. He says students benefit greatly from the repetition in his videos, especially since he can narrate his thought process as he solves problems. Berger uses a tablet PC for annotation, which allows him to incorporate smart design principles such as color to indicate certain elements. He has created a library of 400 video solutions, some of which are being packaged with a textbook as digital extras, using tools such as Camtasia Relay from TechSmith. "I don't require anyone to access the digital material. ... But for anyone who wants additional ways to understand the lessons, it's available. I think it changes learning by empowering them to make that decision."

At DePauw University (Ind.), this "upside-down classroom" has become hugely popular. Computer Science Chair Dave Berque is one proponent. "In a traditional class, you spend time going over basics and building toward more difficult stuff," he says. "When you assign homework problems and the students struggle, the learning happens when you aren't there." The upside-down class gives students time to work on the harder, open-ended problems together so the teacher can coach. Berque, who uses DyKnow during class to deliver content, says he's had good results by teaching this way. "I think lecture capture is leveling the playing field," he adds.

B-school students at The University of Toledo participate in role play and then watch them- selves on video for instant feedback on their performance.

"When I construct a lecture that I know will be recorded, archived, and used in subsequent semesters, I think about it differently," says David Wicks, director of instructional technology at Seattle Pacific University (Wash.). "I think about big-picture stuff, I include a conceptual overview, and I'm more careful about consistent use of format and color."

Other professors use lecture capture for self-evaluation. They can view their recordings to learn how they can improve their performance and refine their materials. The technology is also a time saver. Bill Havice, a professor and associate dean at Clemson University (S.C.), explains that his colleagues make recordings using Sonic Foundry's Mediasite. "For example, if a faculty member needs to be at a conference or professional event, he or she can do a recording instead of canceling classes."

Faculty roles will continue to change as professors become more experimental with recordings. "You could assemble a series of lectures by people that are the best on a topic, a sort of 'greatest hits of lectures,' " says Mark H. Nestor, chief information officer at Miami Dade College's Medical Center Campus, which uses Panopto. "You'd have more time in class to devote to the students."

Lecture capture has improved student performance, Nestor is convinced. A colleague told him that since he's begun using it, his students' test scores have improved by 10 percent. "Students are encouraged to take fewer notes and really listen to what the instructor is saying in class. Why spend time writing it down when you can go back and watch it?" asks Nestor.

A Carleton University student can watch—or re-watch—a demonstration by chemistry professor Bob Burk put on an iPod at their leisure.

Most lecture capture equipment lets students choose to watch a whole lecture or jump right to a certain part. Nestor says the analytics prove that his students tend to watch just what they need. "Students are mobile and want to access this content in different places. They want it on their iPads and their phones; they're watching on the bus or on a train. It fits into their multitasking lives."

At Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada), a technology team devised a video mashup tool called Video Notes that lets students personalize recorded lectures by tagging, editing, and annotating them. Even better, they can share their results. "We got the idea from similar tools that let sports enthusiasts make their own highlight reels of NBA games," says Carol Miles, head of the educational development center. The sharing component is wiki-like, with different people contributing to one mashup to make one study tool. Miles says, "It is very successful and powerful. Passive watchers become engaged and decide what is critical."

Carleton professors watch the mashups to see what students deemed essential and what they cut out, helping them determine their instructional prowess.

Eric Burns, chief technology officer for Panopto, is confident we will see more schools using lecture capture to let students create content. "It's pretty radical," he says, adding that students are already doing this in public-speaking classes, debates, and mock trials at the Suffolk University Law School (Mass.). At the University of Colorado, Denver, physical therapy students watch recordings of manipulations to learn how to pivot a shoulder, for instance. "They tell me they watch these recordings over and over and freeze the key parts. It is taking the place of study clubs," says David Paul, manager of educational support technology at the university, which uses Panopto Focus.

The University of Toledo's College of Business (Ohio) has 10 classrooms equipped with Mediasite and five action-learning labs for its 300 students to do role-play. Students practice selling to the purchasing department, then purchasing puts together an RFP and everyone competes for business. "Lecture capture lets us capture all of it. We stream the role plays live and watch each other," says Deirdre Jones, assistant director of the Edward H. Schmidt School of Professional Sales. "Our students can watch themselves immediately to see their successes and their mistakes."

The faculty provides feedback and grades the role-plays; in addition, they share the recordings with the business community, which gives feedback and uses it as a recruiting tool. Students each do eight or nine graded role-plays by the time they graduate, and at least half are taped, according to Jones. A recruiter can see a student's growth and progression; he or she can see the student's style and personality and make educated personnel decisions.

This year, the school began a new initiative and is recording students doing elevator pitches. These video resumes will go into an online catalog, serving as another tool for recruiters. "This project will help us teach networking skills while giving them practice," says Jones, who says lecture capture has been transformative. "No one wants to listen to a professor talk and talk and talk. It lets us focus on the development of the talent and set proper expectations of what a career in professional sales means."

As lecture-capture technology continues to catch on, people like Panopto's Burns say the idea of the lecture as an atomic unit will start to come apart. At one university in the United Kingdom, professors are creating pre- and post-lecture content. "You watch something, go to an interactive lecture, and then watch something else afterward. The hour-long meeting time is becoming less of the point where everything has to happen."

Burns thinks we will find more students and leading-edge faculty start to remix and reuse existing content, perhaps in a similar method as what's already happening at Carleton. He poses this question to hone in on that thought: "If a student can create a greatest-hits review section of her professor, other professors, and leading experts, who is doing the teaching at that point?"

Ellen Ullman is a freelance writer and editor in Fairfield, Conn.