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Stephanie Chasteen

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Capture your lecture for posterity

posted: April 9, 2010 by

lecturecaptureI first learned about lecture capture at a physics education research conference.  The poor presenter didn’t quite seem to know his audience.  He explained, enthusiastically, how the system that he’d developed tracked the instructor with a robotic camera, based on infrared technology.  Everything that an instructor said or wrote would be recorded on camera, so students could watch it later on their own time.  He seemed a bit confused that we weren’t as thrilled as he was about this great new technology.  The audience asked a few polite questions, but overall there was an embarrassed silence.

“You’re talking to us about lecturing at a conference focused on active learning?” The silence seemed to say.

My colleague leaned towards me, “If students learned from lecture, then this would be a great tool.”

I think that’s too harsh, and missing the point.  Lecture capture can be a great resource, if used correctly.  If you hang around education researchers, you may think that instructors who lecture do students grave harm. However, I know that those same colleagues who roll their eyes at the idea of lecture capture pride themselves on well-organized and carefully planned lectures.

That’s because lectures can be a great learning tool. Didactic lecture isn’t likely to go away anytime soon – it’s an efficient mode of outlining the information that students are expected to know.  But it’s important to remember how people learn new information:

Learning does not happen, for example, through some kind of   literal recording process. Rather, learning is an interpretive process: new information is stored by relating it to, or linking it up with, what is already known. – deWinstanley and Bjork, “Successful Lecturing:  Presenting Information in Ways that Engage Effective Processing

This can be accomplished, for example, by using clickers in conjunction with shorter chunks of lecture, showing concepts in different ways, or using visuals (read more).  There is a time for telling – it’s just that it’s best done after students have had a chance to wrestle with the ideas first.

After all, what’s the point of coming to class if you can get the same benefit from watching it on tape?  This is the fear of many instructors – will students still come to class if they can watch the lecture from the comfort of their room?  I think that lecture should offer more value than just a didactic transmission of information from instructor to students.  And some early results show that most students do come to class when lectures are captured, but over half use the recorded lectures as well.  This is the next generation of audio recorders – you get the whole shebang for your buck.

What are the benefits of capturing these presentations in recorded form?

  • Missed class? Students can see the whole lecture.
  • Zoned out? If a student misses a point, or was sleepy in class, they can see the presentation again.
  • Moving too quickly? If the instructor lectures faster than they can write, students can go back and see it again.  If they’re unable to follow the instructor’s point, or focus on the visuals, because they’re too busy writing notes, they can listen during lecture and take notes at home.  This is particularly important for students for whom English is not their first language or those who need a little extra time to think.  Some students may be struggling in class because lecture moves too quickly for them to process the ideas. The ability to pause, go back, replay, and take notes may be crucial for these students’ success.
  • Exam time? Students can review lectures on difficult points in order to study for an exam.
  • One of a kind? Lecture capture can also be incredibly useful for capturing demonstrations that can’t be easily repeated (as in medical programs).
  • Online course development. Recorded lectures can be easily used to put together online course offerings, long after the fact.  In general, any stellar lecture can be assigned as a “watch-at-home” instead of given again.
  • Professional development. Watching yourself teach is a surefire way to help improve your practice.  It can also be useful for future instructors to have an archive of how a course was taught previously.

Most students are likely to use lectures as some sort of study tool.  One pitfall, however, is that students are generally not aware of how to most effectively study.  Re-reading lecture notes does not engage a student in processing ideas in a way that helps them understand the material deeply – but this is the primary way that many students study for an exam.  Lecture capture may offer a seemingly university-sanctioned method to continue this relatively ineffective method of studying.

Even though straight lecture isn’t the most effective way to teach, capturing that portion of a class period can be incredibly helpful.  If your campus doesn’t automatically capture lectures, there are several simple ways that you can, at least, record your slides and audio presentations using screen recording software.

Relevant links:

7 Things you should know about lecture capture (from Educause)

Lecture Capture:  Augmenting the Traditional Lecture

If you build it, will they still come to class?

MScribe – The pilot robotic lecture capture camera described in the post

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Video_Camera.JPG

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Categories: 21st Century Teaching, Classroom Response Systems, Exam Preparation, Higher Education, Lecture Capture
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2 Responses to “Capture your lecture for posterity”

  1. Derek Bruff Says:

    Your point about moving too quickly is an important one. I’ve been doing some midsemester focus groups with students in various classes (mostly in the sciences), and the challenge of taking notes in class has come up repeatedly. Several students have indicated that they would like instructors to post their lecture notes or PowerPoint slides to a course Web site after class–primarily so that the students can take fewer notes in class and spend their energies on paying attention and making sense of the course material!

    You mentioned “cognitive load” in your last post, and I’m becoming more convinced that taking notes during class might just be all some students can handle–leaving no room for actually thinking about course material during class.

  2. Stephanie Chasteen Says:

    Hi Derek, sorry for the delay in responding to this comment! I’m impressed with the students in those focus groups — that shows a fair amount of metacognitive ability, to recognize that their notetaking reduces their attention to making sense of the material.

    We just aren’t good multitaskers, even when we think we are (though I’m convinced that the millennials are better than we, er, older folk are). So taking notes while listening means that you’re actually rapidly switching between listening and writing. So, I’m not sure that I agree that note-taking is a cognitive load issue in itself — I think it’s an attention issue. I think the cognitive load comes in when we’re trying to make sense of all the materials that is being issued towards us in the course of the lecture. Stopping lecture helps with that (as with clickers). Or, I imagine, lecture capture could also help because when your brain is full, you stop processing, so you can then go back to the taped lecture to pick up where your brain left off.

    There’s my two cents!

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