Lecture capture pitfalls January 10, 2008Posted by ficial in brain dump, Instructional Technology, lecture capture.
We (Williams) have been experimenting lately with ‘automated’ classroom lecture capture, using the Echo360 tools. Lecture capture in this case means recording audio, video, and projected data of a presentation. The word automated is in quotes because it’s only automated from the perspective of the presenter. This system, like most (all?) others actually requires a fair bit of human work on the back end to make it seem automatic to the person actually giving the lecture. A person has to manually schedule the event and send that schedule to the machines that do the actual recording.
The Echo360 system has actually worked well, better than expected even. There are a lot of pieces in the process, and thus a lot of points of potential failure. Capture a single presentation involves these component all working correctly on their own and in conjunction with each other:
- manual scheduling (software and process)
- wireless, clip-on microphone
- video camera
- capture station – a special computer that does the actual recording and sends the result to the content manager
- content manager – a special server that manages the capture lectures
- Blackboard – our course system, on which recorded lectures are posted
That’s all in addition to the standard classroom technology (projector, speakers, lectern computers, media players). Even given all that, it works reliably fairly well for us (though it took a couple of months to smooth out the bugs). We’re now at a point where if we’re told someone wants to record a presentation in one of our three equipped rooms, we can make it happen and the resulting recording will posted to the appropriate course in Blackboard. From a technical standpoint, classroom capture is a success.
The only real problem we have with it at the moment is that none of the professors actually want to use it. There are three main objections that are raised. First, professors are concerned that if the lectures are recorded then students won’t bother actually showing up to class. Second, professors don’t like the idea of being recorded – it makes them uncomfortable. Third, professors don’t want to change their lecture styles to work better with the recording system – the video camera has a fixed mount, which means if the presenter wants to be recorded there’s a limited area they can use, and the camera is of a limited enough resolution that text written on a board is difficult to read (info sent through the projector works fine, but not everyone uses that).
I have no doubt that over time people will decide they do want to take advantage of this kind of system. Experience at other schools suggests that students, on the whole, do still come to class, and also get a lot out of the recordings. It’s especially useful in situations where the student is still struggling with the language being used to teach (either a foreign student, or a class taught in a different language). It’s also a handy way an instructor can see themselves teach – it provides a useful, objective feedback mechanism.
If anyone else is thinking about implementing such a system my advice is to get people committed to using it, at least some of the time, before going through the time and effort and expense of installing it. If anyone’s interested I can provide more detailed information about our install process and the parts and skills needed to make it all work.