5 tips for delivering better lecture captures

If technology is only as powerful as the person wielding it, it should go without saying that lecture capture tech can do incredible things for university professors.

Sure, there have been some fabulous advances in educational technology over the years. From the calculator to the laser pen to the overhead projector, classrooms keep evolving. But lecture capturing is so much more than just a cutting-edge modern gadget; it's a modern teaching lifestyle that fosters more active learning.

Lecture capture systems are electronic setups that can record a professor's entire lecture in full detail. They're meant to be recorded and shared pre-class so that students can get an early jump on concepts and thus spend actual class time performing more hands-on tasks. They're also a fabulous tool for after class to help reinforce the day's lessons.

St. John Fisher College first tried lecture capture four years ago. "There was demand from the faculty to try out the technology," says Mike Allington, the director of technology support services at St. John Fisher’s Office of Information Technology. "They thought it was another way to deliver content to students and gave students the opportunity to review material before exams."

The technology might be quite advanced but even so there are plenty of things that can (and will) go wrong with lecture capture sessions if you're not careful. What follows are a number of key tips and takeaways from experienced education professionals to help you get the most out of your recorded lectures.

1. Keep it short and sweet

One of the biggest mistakes most newcomers to lecture capture make is simply not paying close enough attention to the amount of content that's being recorded. Most professors end up cramming too much content into each session. Information is good, but too much of it can ultimately backfire.

"Instructors need to be aware of the amount of content that's in each recorded lecture," says Dr. Robert Malinowski, director for the Center for Academic Technologies at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. "There is a tendency to put too much content online, but it can quickly add up and become overwhelming to the students. Dividing lectures into smaller chunks of 10 minutes or so can be much more effective and allow for easier review.

2. Explain the purpose of lecture capture

Both students and faculty may think lecture capture is simply a recording of your lesson—a stand-in for actually attending class physically or mentally. But that's far from the truth. It should be used as an enhancement, not a replacement.

If he were starting over, Allington says he would want to see more training given to faculty to help them understand “the purpose of lecture capture.” He also notes that “explaining to students that lecture capture is not a replacement for class-time” is important, emphasizing that it is “designed to help students review the content after class."

3. Don't lose the interaction

Your recorded lessons can be a valuable tool as either preparation or follow-up review. But students need to realize that the most important part of learning is still to be had in the classroom.

"I think a hybrid approach is most effective," admits Malinowski. "Pre-recording some materials is useful, since it gives students the flexibility to go through the materials at their own pace.  Adding synchronous interaction (chat, web conference, etc.) is also useful though."

Allington agrees: "Student participation in a class is still very important," he adds. "If a student just watches a lecture capture instead of attending class, their grades will suffer."

4. Be natural, not perfect

Lecture captures are a tool, not Oscar-worthy productions. Focus on getting your key information across in an understandable way. In other words, concentrate on the content, not the production value.

"Lecture capture is not designed to be perfect," says Allington. "If you look at any of the universities that post their lectures online for free, you can see that the lecture is captured, but it is not as slick as a professionally recorded and edited event. It is okay that there are imperfections in the recording and content—it is supposed to be used as a tool to review the lecture, not replace it."

5. Make adjustments

While there are certainly advantages to recording your lectures, there are also a number of shortcomings to keep in mind. There are natural interactive moments and gestures that educators take for granted. In a lecture capture, however, many of these can fall by the wayside if you're not paying attention.

"The lack of a laser pointer, hand gestures and body language can be limiting," says Malinowski. "Some of these issues can be overcome using a mouse pointer and other tools, such as a tablet monitor that you can digitally draw on."

Ready to get started?

Lecture capture may not be for everyone but as more and more universities roll the technology out for their faculties, it's certainly something that educators need to be prepared to use. Just like teaching itself, consider lecture capture to be a learning experience. Try different approaches and grow with the program until you're finally happy with the results you've captured.


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Higher Ed Technology