Archive for the ‘Lecture Capture’ Category




Do they do the reading? Helping students prepare for lecture

posted: December 28, 2011 by

Since my last post on the Flipped Classroom, I’ve stumbled across enough particularly good resources on a similar topic to merit a follow-up post.  The idea behind the Flipped Classroom is that classtime is better spent in helping students to apply ideas (e.g., working problems, doing labs, or in other words making sense of the content) rather than in the traditional lecture content-delivery mode.  So, students watch mini recorded lectures at home to get the content, and then spend class time applying the ideas, with the teacher as a coach.  You can see more about this technique on the previous posts, or at Learning4Mastery. In this post, I will talk about ways to help students use pre-lecture time to adequately prepare for class — whether you’re using a flipped classroom model or not — and the research behind some of those techniques.

Have student reading habits changed?

Have student reading habits changed?

It’s a common complaint:  Students don’t read the book before class.  It’s probably equally true in the humanities, but my main experience is in the sciences.  Science textbooks are dense, full of extraneous diagrams and pictures, and it’s a real challenge for an introductory student to muddle their way through all that information to try to extract useful information from it.  So most don’t bother — they go to class to see what content the professor thinks is important, and then use the textbook to help them to do the homework and guide their exam studying.  But this constrains us to use class in content-delivery mode: If students don’t know the first thing about Newton’s Laws, then how can we do anything in class other than tell them about Newton’s Laws?

Do they read?

Some of my colleagues at CU Boulder studied how students use textbooks in introductory physics (Podolefsky and Finkelstein, “The Perceived Value of Textbooks: Students and instructors may not see eye to eye.” The Physics Teacher, 44, 6, 2006),     Noah Podolefsky, one of the study’s authors, summarizes it below (as quoted from a physics teacher listserv):

In a nutshell, what we found was that few students read the book before class, more student did read (but still not many). However, there was no correlation between reading habits and final grade.  We interviewed students and basically found that they had different strategies for
reading – some read straight through, some read in a non-linear way (going back and forth), some just read the summary. Some students didn’t use the book because they scoured the internet for resources that made more sense to them. We couldn’t find any consistent patterns that related reading habits to performance in the class.

From their data, he claims, it was not clear that encouraging students to read the textbook would have actually helped them.  There’s no correlation between reading the book and doing well in the class, and students are reading in so many different ways that it’s hard to say anymore what “reading” means.  Noah postulates:

I can speculate as to why textbooks are not read, and perhaps not that useful, which is that they aren’t very well designed tools for learning physics. They’re pretty good for re-learning physics if you already have a good framework (i.e., you’re an upper level physics major or grad). But they don’t match very well how new comers (intro students) learn.

I think that this is why we, as academics, get so frustrated when students don’t read.  This is how we learn a new topic — by reading a journal article or a book.  But we’re experts, and we can make sense of the information as it’s presented in the book.  But students are novices, and need more guidance.

So how can we provide that guidance?

One thing that some faculty have tried are multimedia modules to help guide your students in their pre-class preparation.  For example, the University of Illinois has created a suite of multimedia modules, about 10 minutes long, which each guide students through some of the main ideas in the text for a particular topic.   Students watch the videos before class, and take a short quiz on their content to encourage participation. Below are a few such resources that are available online, but please let me know of others that you’re aware of:

  1. Physics: Multimedia Modules; 20-minute lessons with pictures and audio from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne.  Published work on effectiveness here.
  2. Various science: Hippocampus. Short lessons on various topics from the Monterey Institute of Technology, including some recommended ones on physics.
  3. Chemistry & Physics: Georgia Public Broadcasting.  Videos on science, recommended by a high school teacher.
  4. Chemical Engineering: LearnChMe screencasts from CU-Boulder. A richly developed suite of materials on engineering topics.
  5. Various science: Learning4Mastery website by Bergman and Sams covers high school chemistry, physics, earth science, astronomy, calculus, and biology, though their style is idiosyncratic and less easily incorporated into another class


Some other ways to guide students in their preparation are:

  1. Skip the multimedia part and just record your own lectures (using, for example, Panopto).  See some examples of this in physics here and here.
  2. Use pre-existing lectures such as MIT Open Courseware, or other lectures available on iTunesU.
  3. Ask students a pre-lecture quiz, to encourage and guide the reading, or simply ask them what was confusing or what they don’t understand.  This can also guide you as the instructor as to what students are struggling with.  This is called Just in Time Teaching, or JiTT. The quiz can be multiple choice and graded in your course management system to reduce grading burden.
  4. Have students write a brief summary of the reading, and a question that they have about the reading.


The research.

Of course, the big question is, does this stuff work? The answer is probably, as always, “it depends.”  There are few, if any, plug-and-play solutions in education.  How an instructor uses these resources, and coordinates them with the class time, is essential.  That said, here are the results of a few studies.

The UIUC multimedia modules have been studied for several years.  One way to look at the effectiveness is to look at a particular topic, and show students either the multimedia modules, or let them read the traditional textbook.  When they did this (Am. J. Phys, 2009), students did better on a subsequent test on their learning of that topic than with the text-based presentation alone.  That’s not too surprising, since using multiple modes of presentation is typically better than only one mode.  The UIUC folks have also used the multimedia modules in several courses — students watch the modules, and then take a short quiz on their understanding before class.  In another publication (Phys. Rev. ST, 2010), they found that students overall performed better on these “preflight” questions than did students in traditional lectures.  However, they have also reported that students don’t do much better, if at all, on course exams (Am. J. Phys, 2010).  Their interpretation of these results are that students are masters of efficiency.  If they’re aiming for a “B”,  then they’re going to get that “B” with as little work as possible.  So, by guiding students, the modules might have helped them to be more efficient in their studying practices.

Another study in Biology (Lents and Cifuentes, Web-based learning enhancements, J. College Sci. Teach., Nov/Dec 2009), some lecture attendance was replaced with video lectures that consisted of the visual of a powerpoint slide presentation enhanced with audio voiceover.  They found no effect (negative or positive) on student learning from this substitution.  While these authors were aiming to reduce student time-on-task for their largely commuter college, this does suggest the next step — having students engage in video-based learning at home and using lecture time for additional engagement — could be beneficial.

So, it certainly doesn’t seem to hurt to add some sort of pre-class preparation, and if you find some way to guide your students through the topic in a way that is more suited to novice learners than a dense textbook — it could help free up some of your class time to do more in-depth learning.

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Categories: Engagement, Formative Assessment, Higher Education, Lecture Capture
Read All 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:

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Categories: 21st Century Teaching, Classroom Response Systems, Exam Preparation, Higher Education, Lecture Capture
Read All Stephanie Chasteen

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