lecture capture technology may not be inherently evil

I just saw a link [retweeted by David Porter](https://twitter.com/#!/dendroglyph/status/46318938635763712), pointing to [an interesting post by Mark Smithers](http://www.masmithers.com/2011/03/11/is-lecture-capture-the-worst-educational-technology/).

Mark’s post is a great read, on why lecture capture may not be what we think it is, nor do what we think it does.

But, I don’t think that necessarily makes the *technology* bad. Yes, it offers a tempting crutch to lazy instructors. Look! My lecture is available online! I’m totally innovative and engaging. Next slide.

I think the technology used in lecture capture could be more effectively used, if you don’t **just** lecture. And if students are given the ability to use the tools themselves, to create and share their own resources.

I’m involved with the process of gathering information about faculty requirements for a potential campus lecture capture/casting system. I’m not at all interested in providing the shiny crutch. I’m definitely interested in providing tools to easily create content and share it with students, faculty, and the community.

I think having the effective tools in place is a good start, and necessary before getting to the next step – the really interesting educational activities that can build on stuff you can do with the technology. This is where professional development for faculty members and instructors is key – showing them that there is more to this stuff than just extending and amplifying boring and ineffective teaching practices.

13 thoughts on “lecture capture technology may not be inherently evil”

  1. These days I would like some guidance on what to believe about any of this stuff. If we take our clue from the neo-liberal line of thought and the idea that the free market should decide; then why even bother commenting on it. If we wish to take some other stance, then it should be done as a school of thought that is consistent about many different aspects of society, culture, learning and so on. Outside of that we’re doing nothing but creating chaos and confusion amongst ourselves by putting out opinions behind which there is no weight… at least that’s the line of thought I am currently riding. I could spent hours arguing both sides, for fun. But in the end what would we achieve? Historically, it has been schools of thought which have prevailed. These days they seem to be very short in supply. Hence why I suggested to Jim that you guys sit down and write some sort of text to talk about your school and line of thought on the subject… that is consistent.
    Or at least aim in that direction and the blog be just a tool to air out undeveloped lines of thought.

    1. yeah… there isn’t a hidden sociopolitical agenda here. just investigating ways to document, publish, and share materials as part of a course.

  2. There’s always a sociopolitical agenda 😉

    More seriously, does anyone collect these software requirements and evaluation process documents anywhere? Googling is always a bit of a crapshoot, but every institution seems to reinvent the wheel all the time.

    Also, Ezra Klein (at the Washington Post) and Bill Gates do seem to think that putting students in front of online lectures is an awesome thing. Sigh.

    By the way, flavor of the month in my neck of the woods, because of ease of use, is Panopto.

    1. Gates’ breathless endorsement of Khan Academy drives me mental. It’s just content. It’s not an education. Sure, it could help, but it’d still be a piss-poor replacement for a good teacher.

      I agree about the hard-to-find requirements docs. Part of the process kind of requires hearing the requirements fresh from our own instructors, so we aren’t perceived as just cramming something down their throats. I’ll share what I’m able.

      We’re looking at a few options – one of which is Tegrity, which actually looks pretty darned impressive for a bunch of reasons aside from the straight “lecture casting” stuff. Some interesting collaboration and student capabilities…

  3. Lecture capture has provided one more nudge for me, to consider what it is that I intend lecture to be, how I intend to use it within the larger picture of course design. When my lectures are not merely transient items thrown out into a sleepy classroom, but become instead durable items available for re-use, a number of questions come up – how to I keep myself from becoming obsolete? – I need to consider seriously what it is beyond a recurring mouthpiece that I am, now that technology takes on that recurring mouthpiece role – now that my lectures become ‘products’, what is it that I really wish them to convey – what is better communicated by providing reading assignments, web resources, self-discovery in provocative assignments? How do my lectures best fit in with active classroom participation, &c.?

    What is it that lecture can be, when it is not merely the default, the easiest thing I can do when I walk into a classroom?

    Now all of these issues SHOULD have occurred to me independent of lecture capture – but hey, I’m a bit on the dense side, sometimes I need a slap upside the head to recognize the obvious. (I don’t think I’m alone in this).

    I find myself now creating captured lectures, rather than capturing live lecture in the classroom setting. Two-hour lectures become 20-minute created-for-use videos, or better still, collections of 5-minute clips, streamed on our Moodle LMS, to be viewed by students prior to class, and utilized as desired in review. Visuals are fine-honed to convey what visuals can best provide; and my face, and death-by-keynote/powerpoint slides, are no longer parts of the picture. This technology has forced me to reflect, and to design. Sometimes a guy needs a nudge, even a swift kick, for that.

    re technology –
    I use Camtasia (Mac) for both live capture and captured lecture creation. Love it.
    I use our Moodle LMS to host within courses, using html5 with fall-back to flash, of .mp4 & .ogv files, to accommodate all users, including iPad/iPod/iPhone. Camtasia spits out the .mp4, & .ogv files are converted using FireFogg.

    1. in working with faculty and instructors through the TLC, we try to get them to see that face-to-face classroom time isn’t just for lecturing. There are lots of really interesting and powerful things they can work with students on, aside from just babbling from a podium and flipping shovelware slides. Whatever solution(s) we look at have to be able to support more interesting things than strictly lecturing, because good teaching is more than just lecturing (but good lectures can be extremely powerful as well).

      I like your framing of the process as being an actively planned one, and not just a secondary add-on where the captured materials are simpy side effects or effluent.

    2. Hi Will,

      Your approach is similar to one that I adopted with staff once where we provided facilities for desktop recording using Camtasia. I tried to get the academics to try to break up their traditional one hour lecture presentations into smaller, logical sub components that could be presented in a series of linked presentations of no more than ten to fifteen minutes. These could be separated by online or offline activities carried out by the student.

      Some staff were very open to the idea. Not least because they used a technology with which they were familiar (Powerpoint) and the technical side was looked after by someone else (my team). They were free to think about the content which was now liberated from the constraints of a one hour timetabled slot.

      Some staff were hesitant to to break up their lecture presentations and still wanted to present a one hour video of themselves talking. But you can’t win them all.



  4. Much of the above and my experiences leads me personally to trace the roots of the problem in the idea of industrial society and mass education and the teacher’s relationship with the masses as students. As that system progresses, it seems the need for the teacher drops out to some extent; we’ll wait and see.

    In comparison I guess we have the idea of nobility, and a few teachers educating a few students… which I guess is the ideal. Why can’t everyone be a rich prince being educated by Socrates himself? Let that simmer.

    Alternative model I guess is, gasp, Socialism but that’s been effectively disproven, right Bill? Workers of the world united to serve everyone, to compete with everyone, to be exploited equally, it seems like the Liberal dream come true. You wanted equal rights and freedom, okay, let’s equalize your freedom and rights with the Chinese worker; we’ll find a nice middle. Unfortunately, that’s doesn’t turn us “Westerners” on.

    I think the fear that now exists is one of job protection, and fearing that industrial society and mass education is moving away from the teacher and in effect destroying the profession. This is true. What can be done about it? Hmm. Problems run deep. Comments can’t go on forever.

  5. Hi D’Arcy,

    I think my concern is that without strong leadership, vision and staff development it is easy for some educational technologies, that may be intrinsically sound, to be subverted.

    I do think that there are probably some interesting things that can be done with lecture capture but it is very easy not to do them and most staff won’t. I do think that desktop capture using tools like Camtasia in a method similar to that described by Will actually offer far more interesting opportunities than straight lecture capture in the lecture theatre.

    Even then my experience when implementing desktop capture amongst academic staff was that there was a strong desire, despite strong guidance to the contrary, for staff to just want to record their entire one hour lecture from their desktop.



    1. Agreed. We need to provide excellent leadership, showing the opportunities and possibilities. We also have to brace ourselves for the fact that not everyone will see, or accept those opportunities. We can’t opt not to provide a service, because some (many?) will misuse it. If we do that, we should yank all projectors from classrooms, to stop instructors from inflicting bullet point shovelware powerpoints on students. And kill our webservers because some people will create crappy websites and online courses…

  6. The funny thing about that piece is that it didn’t seem to mention the biggest problem with campus-wide lecture-casting solution, which is that they are largely superfluous and once again institutionally entrenching a technology that can largely be done just fine with a laptop and built in webcam. Oh, I know – “that wont be enough quality,” “that’s too hard,” blah blah. Because nobody watches youtube vids made with built in webcams, right?

    Lecturecasting is exactly “educational exhaust” (to use Wiley’s new turn of phrase); treat it as such, by basically providing a place for instructors to put there videos (or just pointing them to blip.tv or whatever) and it’s no great sin, and regardless of the subtle pedagogical points people try to make, can still be helpful for students who miss class or those not enrolled. But spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement a campus-wide strategy and infrastructure and embed it as a then immutable part of the institution – THIS is the mistake. Just like we should have called bullshit on “enterprise” LMS when they came along (“oh, you mean putting my syllabus online with a discussion forum? umm, yeah, thanks, I’ll keep using my ~personal unix server account, thanks”) we should deflate this term for what it really is (“oh, you mean turning on my webcam while I’m talking and sharing my slides? Sure, where do you want em?”) and move on.

    1. The stuff we’re looking at is basically making it easy to do a webcam/screenrecording session, with a bunch of tools to make that actually useful (searchable, annotatable, etc…) rather than just opaque binary media files.

      It’s not a magic bullet, but a really good technology can be combined with some interesting educational activities to result in something that’s useful and engaging.

  7. DISCLOSURE. I do work for Echo360.

    Based on our growing customer base, I would certainly agree that lecture or learning capture is on the rise. Being in this space for the past 6 1/2 years. Yes, I’ve been around talking “lecture capture” when Faculty would say. “Ah, that’s not a good tool for me”, and quite honestly, it’s not for everyone..

    However. The growing numbers say otherwise……

    One common theme rings true with lecture recording technology…..


    if you agree….please check out echo360.com.

    No other lecture/learning capture technology can match the automated and reliability of this solution.


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