On Lecture Capture and Talking Heads… – Scott Anderson

Talking Head Machine
Image from Laputan Logic

At the end of last week, I attended a conference on blended learning (essentially integrating face-to-face and online activities in an instructionally sound way, though there’s debate about whether it entails a reduction of face-to-face time).

One presentation that stood out for me was one about lecture capture at Queen’s University, something we’ve been experimenting with here at Waterloo. Essentially they’re capturing live lectures on video using automated mechanisms and then making the video available to students online.

Some benefits include:
•    students can make up for a missed class
•    it may help understanding of material (difficult concepts can be reviewed repeatedly)
•    it may help students whose first language isn’t English (they can listen and watch repeatedly)
•    students may be less worried about missing something
•    students may listen in class and participate more

Some challenges include:
•    students may be more inclined to skip class
•    not seeing clearly what the Professor is doing if using a blackboard or whiteboard
•    not seeing clearly what the Prof may be referring to on the projected image (this could be resolved by use of a gyroscopic mouse)
•    not hearing questions or discussion (however, to me, this is a benefit to being in class)
•    providing captioning is an accessibility challenge that isn’t easily addressed

One concern is the potential for students to skip class if the lecture is available online. Profs at Queen’s didn’t notice a significant decline in attendance as a result, nor did they notice a significant difference in grades. Here at Waterloo, students reported that having the lecture available online was a factor in their decision to skip class, but Profs haven’t noticed a major decline in attendance as a result (see Holbrook and Dupont, 2010 – linked below).

Some Profs here at Waterloo capture their lectures using Profcast or Camtasia, but with those options, there is no video of the the Prof —  just audio and what is being presented on the computer (usually PowerPoint).

At Queen’s they found that students felt more engaged seeing the talking head (i.e. the Prof), so they have chosen to video the Professor as well. Queen’s built a custom system with a key component being Ncast Telepresenter to capture the lecture. The University of Saskatchewan is using Matterhorn, an open source alternative.

The Queen’s experience is similar to experiences at University of Saskatchewan and here at University of Waterloo. It seems that lecture capture is not a problem in terms of grades or attendance, but is it worth the effort? If it can be done quickly and easily, by all means, since students find them helpful.

Whether it is worth the time, effort, and money to video courses to capture a talking head when it may be cheaper and easier to do it without is open to debate. In the end, it depends whether there is added value to seeing the talking head and whether it is valuable enough to justify the added cost.

Holbrook, Jane and Dupont, Christine. (2010) “Making the Decision to provide Enhanced Podcasts to Post-Secondary Science Students”, Journal of Science Education and Technology. http://www.springerlink.com/content/10x4222n75157730/

Image:  “Mr Faber’s Amazing Talking Head”, from Laputan Logic. http://www.laputanlogic.com/articles/2004/04/19-0001.html


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Scott Anderson

As a CTE Faculty Liaison, Scott Anderson helps instructors in the Faculties of Arts and Environment integrate technology into their teaching through innovative learning activities. He also serves as guide for instructors to access other CTE resources. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence Scott worked as a consultant primarily with environmental organizations. He received his BSc from the University of Toronto. In his spare time, Scott enjoys playing ultimate frisbee recreationally and competitively.

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