Please, Lecture Me Again

“Students like reviewing recorded classes,” said Diane S. Aschenbrenner, RN, MS, ACNS-BC, an undergraduate faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore. “They like going back to listen again, and they particularly like summary reviews, which they will often listen to several times.”

Aschenbrenner, who also coordinates the School’s Nursing Simulation Practice Labs, likes the flexibility that recorded classes add to her busy schedule. “It gives me options if I can’t have a class. If I have to attend a conference and miss a class, I can record a class before I leave,” she said.

In the past, recording lectures required expensive gear installed in dedicated classrooms or lugged from room to room.

 “We basically rolled video cameras into the classroom,” said Andaz Ahmad, director of instructional technology at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, IN, in a prepared case history. “This tied up our resources and took a tremendous amount of time, as multimedia technicians needed to record the session, transfer footage onto a computer, do some editing, and then burn it to a CD or DVD. It was a process that we couldn’t afford and didn’t want to repeat.

“We wanted to ensure that the recording process could literally be a one- or two-click process. Within two or three clicks faculty should be able to start recording. We didn’t want them to have to do anything complicated or to need a technician to create or post recordings.”

After reviewing eight lecture-capture products, Ahmad chose one created by Pittsburgh-based Panopto. “It’s simple to use, and the students and faculty love it,” he said. “Recently, it took less than 15 minutes of training to teach a faculty member, and since then, they’ve been able to create wonderful lectures.”

Indeed, today’s advanced lecture capture technologies have removed many of the professional audio and video production tasks from lecture capture, while creating more professional looking productions.

The new technologies automatically process and store presentations as complete, full-featured lectures that students can use with laptops and as audio-only lectures compressed to fit the memories of handheld audio players.

Professional Production Minus the Professionals
Today’s systems will shoot video with the Web camera built into laptop computers, eliminating the cost of buying a camera and the technical problems connected with setting it up and operating it. Of course, the systems will also work with standalone cameras.

The new systems also handle postproduction tasks, like formatting a presentation screen. A video camera set in the back of the room will provide video of a professor or instructor wandering around at the head of a class while pointing to bullets on PowerPoint slides.

Today’s lecture capture technology will automatically format the materials into a professional looking presentation. A formatted screen might show the speaker’s head in a box next to another box displaying the presentation slides.

Slicing and Dicing
The new systems automatically slice and dice presentations for use with different kinds of playback equipment. Students can access, complete, a full-featured presentation by aiming a laptop browser at an online folder that stores the class lectures and other materials kept online.

For those that prefer a mobile file, the systems provide slimmed-down versions, cut into chapters, which will run on smartphones, iPods, or MP3 players for students who are on the move.

Slimmed-down presentations are key to ensuring that students will use the files, said Krysia Hudson, an instructor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. “Students don’t want to listen to a two-hour lecture all over again,” she said. “They want it condensed, in a format that they can access and use on the road, by cell phone or iPod.”

According to Hudson, who holds a degree in Informatics and has found herself assisting other instructors with lecture capture technology, the Nursing School started using PowerPoint to record lectures and PowerPoint slides about five years ago. Another program, Impatica for PowerPoint, scoops up the recorded presentation, compresses the massive original file, and optimizes it for streaming over the Internet. Hudson now uses Adobe Presenter to compress the original files.

Two years ago, the School of Nursing purchased a full-featured lecture-capture technology called Mediasite created by Madison, WI-based Sonic Foundry.

With Mediasite, a digital video camera set on a tripod in the back of the classroom captures video of the speaker and feeds it into a laptop. The laptop also connects to the server playing back the PowerPoint or other presentation program and records those materials.

An appliance-based system, Mediasite includes a recorder that receives the presentation materials from the laptop, organizes the materials into a screen presentation, and publishes them to a server. A player accesses the materials on the server and plays them back for students or others requesting the materials by way of a Web browser.

By and large, professors, instructors, and other speakers need only make the presentation, being careful to stay within the camera’s field of view. Hudson also recommends creating a visual background that doesn’t overwhelm the camera’s view of the speaker.

Hudson likes to provide students with more options. In addition to the materials recorded and formatted by Mediasite, she also makes MP3 recordings of the presenter, which students can save to an iPod and listen to while jogging, walking, or sitting anywhere. Students can also download a PDF file of PowerPoint slides to review with the MP3 audio recording.

The Hopkins School of Nursing faculty likes the technology, although few have time to learn the details. “It’s important to have staff support,” said Aschenbrenner. “We are training two people to use the technology now.”

Aschenbrenner also talked about the benefits to students and faculty, noting that lecture capture technology is ideal for students who cannot make it to class for one reason or another.

Another benefit: In the Hopkins School of Nursing, students regularly work in clinical rotations with nurse mentors in hospitals across Maryland, the U.S., and around the world. “They touch base with a faculty member every week to discuss a topic,” Aschenbrenner said. “We do this live, online.”

For students that make it to class but need review, instructors create short review presentations covering only the major points.

More Options
As lecture capture becomes an increasingly important component of course delivery, vendors are developing different ways to buy and use the technology.

For instance, Washington, DC-based Blackboard, Inc. recently announced that it would include the Echo360 lecture-capture system within its widely used platform. The Blackboard-Echo 360 system works with Webcam-enabled personal computers or standalone cameras to record, edit, and publish lectures, tutorials, learning modules, and course content to Blackboard.

Developed by Santa Clara, CA-based Tegrity, another lecture-capture option is Campus 2.0. A Web-based, subscription product, Campus 2.0 requires no specialized server software, recording software, or classroom recording equipment. The system reads the institution’s course catalog, student roster, and enrollment data from the course management system and student information system and uses the data to create accounts populated with the right courses and class recordings for each user.

With a few clicks, lecturers activate the system, which records, formats, and stores presentations on the Tegrity Website or in a learning platform such as Blackboard, WebCT, Sakai, Angel, Moodle, PeopleSoft/Oracle, SCT, and others.

In short, today’s lecture-capture technologies virtually run themselves, and all a teacher has to do is teach.