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Community Colleges

Level Playing Field

Community colleges using lecture capture in remedial courses
University Business, May 2012
Students enrolled in remedial courses at Holmes Community College seem to be sticking it out in those courses, and the use of lecture capture may well be a big factor in why. Photo: Courtney Lange / Holmes Community College Staff Writer/Photographer
Students enrolled in remedial courses at Holmes Community College seem to be sticking it out in those courses, and the use of lecture capture may well be a big factor in why. Photo: Courtney Lange / Holmes Community College Staff Writer/Photographer

Boosting success for students in remedial education is crucial, particularly given the readiness gap seen at some community colleges. A recent report from McGraw-Hill Higher Education showed that despite receiving a high school diploma, at least 75 percent of first-year students at community colleges aren’t college-ready. And the number of students dropping out during their first year of college continues to rise. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including financial difficulties. But one of the most major issues for students is feeling overwhelmed with the rigor of college-level work.

Some community colleges are bucking this trend by using a mix of technologies for instruction. Lecture capture, they’re finding, can be a powerful tool for lowering dropout rates, increasing student involvement, and getting students through developmental education more quickly. The technology, in essence, is being used to help create a level playing field for these at-risk students.

The Gold Nugget Moment

With their mainly commuter, and many part time, populations, it makes sense that two-year schools would incorporate lecture capture. At Holmes Community College (Miss.), eLearning Instructional Design Coordinator Jenny Bailey Jones notes that remedial courses (called “pre-core”) benefit from judicious use of lecture capture with Blackboard Collaborate to keep students interested.
The college has been using lecture capture in combination with other technologies for about five years, but lecture capture was first used in pre-core classes this year. “It was a school-wide effort,” Jones says. “We recognized that the population of students who need it could be well served by this.”

Although they’re still waiting to gather results to see how lecture capture was received, anecdotal evidence suggests that withdrawal rates have lowered in pre-core courses over the past year. “Students are sticking with classes more than before,” says Jones, adding that these kinds of classes tend to have a higher withdrawal rate.

Jones believes that savvy editing of captured lectures is key. At some colleges, large files containing entire lectures are made available to students. At Holmes, lectures are broken into smaller snippets. For remedial students who require a higher level of repetition to grasp course material, this can be especially beneficial.

“If you try to watch a 50-minute block, your eyes glaze over pretty quickly,” she says. “So, we try to identify what will confuse students and concentrate our lecture capture only on those parts of the lesson.” In general, she tells professors to limit their lecture snippets to eight minutes, and suggests that five minutes is even more ideal. That creates a series of “mini-lectures” that can capture an essential component of a particular subject.

Jones notes, “We call it the gold nugget: the moment that makes the light bulb go on for the student. Maybe it takes just a couple minutes of a lecture for a student to grasp a certain point, for example, or to understand a point. That’s what we want them to be able to review.” To help professors get the hang of creating lectures in this way, Jones uses lecture capture for teacher training—allowing them to discover the power of effective video snippets.

“Many of our students in pre-core classes are what we’d call nontraditionals,” says Jones. “They might be a little older, or in the workforce, or have children. So, we have to be more flexible and give them extra help. Lecture capture is a great way to help them, especially in combination with other technologies.”

Review Session

For some students, better learning through video can work both ways. At Shoreline Community College (Wash.), students in the ESL program are encouraged to submit some of their assignments by video, so professor Ruth Duffy can gauge their progress with language comprehension. “They watch part of my lectures, and then practice by sending me a video back,” she says. “For some students, it’s really helped them to get more proficient than they would have with a more traditional classroom approach.”

Duffy has used Camtasia from TechSmith for video creation for five years. About a year ago, the institution added Tegrity Campus to the mix. That’s when she began using lecture capture as a way to help students review, and also to address different learning levels within a class. For example, she used to go over the results of a test in class. That was time consuming and unhelpful for students who’d aced the test. By creating a separate lecture capture video that students could watch in their spare time if needed, she provided the same information and spent more time in class on a new lesson.

Like Jones, she keeps videos short. She doesn’t move around much on screen, she says, since that can be distracting, and she transitions to new topics slowly.

For the future, she’d like to incorporate more closed captioning into the videos, because she feels that’s especially important for creating another level of understanding, whether the class is targeted toward language learners or not. Duffy is also looking at exploring more of the features of both products, such as incorporating quizzes into the screen capture to test students on their grasp of concepts included in the lecture capture videos.

Lecture capture does come with some challenges, Duffy notes. Some students have lower proficiency with or less access to technology. Also, she’s had problems in the past with upgrades to lecture capture software, particularly when her videos can’t be accessed through the newer system.

Despite these issues, Duffy finds that lecture capture has been a boon to her students, who often need extra review time. “I was recently in class, and saw students reviewing some lecture material during the break,” she says. “One of them told me it was fantastic, because it helps to reinforce the learning.”

Student Responsibility

Using lecture capture can do more than just provide an opportunity for review — it can also change the dynamic of a classroom, believes Maria Andersen, professor of mathematics at Muskegon Community College (Mich). “Lecture capture puts the responsibility back in the student’s hands. Before using it, I’d have students who missed class and they asked me to tell them what they missed. I’d lose valuable class time re-teaching part of the last lesson. With lecture capture, it’s up to the student to review.”
That shift is especially important in remedial education, she adds, since developmental students often have attendance issues due to family and work obligations.

Andersen says lecture capture can increase attendance in remedial courses. “It’s not easy to watch a lecture by yourself at home. It includes everything that happens in class, but I think students feel left out. It’s just not as much fun to work on problems at home alone.” She uses Camtasia to record lectures, preferring to capture an entire two-hour block of class time. She’ll simply hit “record” at the beginning of class and “stop” at the end, she notes. Although she’d like to do some editing at some point, she doesn’t have the time to go into the lecture and carve out small chunks of video. She does create shorter lectures for online students, however, since that approach works better for online courses.

“In a perfect world, I’d have a captioned set of videos cut down to size and be able to put them on YouTube,” she says. “But that’s a full-time job in itself.” For now, she’s just enjoying seeing remedial students become more engaged in courses because they come to class prepared as a result of watching the lecture capture videos for classes they’ve missed. “When they know they can watch the material online, they feel more confident,” she says.

Mastering the Material

As demonstrated by the preceding trio of community colleges, lecture capture can be done in numerous ways—from a quick snippet to a two-hour block—and incorporated with other class material to boost student comprehension.

For remedial students in particular, the advantages that lecture capture provides can be invaluable.

“This is a technology ideally suited for any sort of education where there’s a technique or process that needs to be reviewed to master the material,” says Alan Greenberg, practice manager for the Wainhouse Research Distance Education and e-Learning advisory service.

Some of the early adopters of lecture capture technology were medical schools and business schools, he adds, because the strategy helped students to review lessons more than once. With remedial students, who often need similar repetition, lecture capture can fit well with unpredictable schedules, a feeling of being overwhelmed by college-level courses, and self-paced learning programs.

“Lecture capture doesn’t replace going to class for these learners,” says Greenberg. “But it can make their lives easier if they have to miss class.”

Elizabeth Millard is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.