Video Lecturettes

Last Tuesday we had a Tech N Talk brown bag discussion on video lectures… or rather a version of video lectures that two professors have been experimenting with in their classes. This is not the typical set a camera up at the back of a classroom, tape a full class lecture, and then post it somewhere (like iTunes U — which we don’t have… yet). Instead, Tim Barker (Astronomy) and John Partridge (Philosophy) are creating short videos to supplement their classes… not video lectures… something smaller. Lecturettes?

Barker often thinks of content after the class is over that would help his students, sometimes information that he would like them to have before the class meets again or that would help them complete an assignment. So, rather than typing it out in an email, he decided to try creating video messages for his class. He hooks a web cam up to his Windows-based laptop and places it in front of a chalk board in his office, and then records. The software he uses (I need to check with him… I think it came with the camera he purchased) was cheap, fast, easy to use and had an “upload to YouTube” button built in. So, he was able to post his material and get it out to his students quickly.

Partridge used his Macbook, a USB microphone, and iMovie for the first time last semester to record four short supplemental lectures for student. The first one was an introduction to materials on his Blackboard site, and his others contained background information to materials his students were reading and discussing in class. He posted his “vodcasts” to the Blackboard forums for his students to view between classes. This was material he would have had to cover at some point and by having it in video form, he was able to win back some class time for discussion (as opposed to solid lecture).

Both professors’ work demonstrates how far the technology has come over the past few years. Barker said he tried something similar several years ago and was frustrated with how much work it took. Partridge discovered how easy it was to do after posting videos of his kid up on YouTube for his relatives. Both faculty members needed very little support — a fact that amazes me, because it used to be that you needed to work in a video lab or at least on a souped up machine to create digital video.

While making the videos and posting them was relatively easy, I don’t think that either professor was happy with where they ended up publishing them. Barker put his on YouTube, because it was easy to do. But he really only wanted his students to see it, and therefore didn’t take advantage of any of the social features there — nor did he want to. What’s funny is that YouTube forces you to be social anyway, by posting “related videos.” Since Barker’s work was not labeled in a meaningful way and he didn’t password protect it, he had some strange “related” things (and “things” is a good description of them) in his side bar. Patridge discovered that Blackboard (at least our basic version of it) was a little clunky for video, and we Academic Technology folks are a little concerned about videos taking up too much space on that server. So, the search for where to put our digital stuff goes on. Perhaps Moodle (which we are piloting this semester) has a plugin? Perhaps iTunes U? We’d better start searching…

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