On the recording of lectures

I’ve been using Camtasia, a tablet PC (old style laptop one) and dictaphone to record lectures for about 4 or 5 years. I forget how long. I started by recording audio only, but after getting the tablet PC have moved to full screen capture. I upload processed versions of these captures to my modules. Processing is really topping and tailing with a small amount of editing if we’ve been doing lots of problem solving or if a situation has arisen that warrants it.  I generally make the recordings available to those who have attended or who have been absent with good cause and its not unknown for me to set selective release to those people who were there. I’m never happy enough with how a session has gone to contemplate using the lecture capture the following year as a flipped session. Also, I think short recordings are better than long recordings for flipping. I ensure my screencasts are produced with a table of contents (from the powerpoint titles) and a controller to allow pause, fast forward and rewind. The annotated notes may also be downloaded.

I’m starting to question the wisdom of lecture capture however. At first I believed it was a viable solution to the ‘problems’ with traditional lecturing – too much information, sage on a stage, and very passive. I felt that for complex topics, students would welcome the opportunity to revisit the explanations give, or supplement the notes they took with more detail, and that those who couldn’t write as fast or who were absent could catch up. For complex topics, I’d rather create a specific screencast but I struggle to find the time to create those resources, and I really hate recording things in my office. So the lecture capture seemed a good trade off.

But the passive nature is starting to really really bother me. Sitting re-watching lectures as if they were some kind of educational box set is not revising. It sure as hell isn’t learning.  And despite my seemingly formidable knowledge of many TV box sets that I have watched repeatedly, I suspect that my students generally lack the stamina or time to watch my lectures enough to really memorise the content! Yes I know, I could be flipping or some hybrid version, greater interactivity… I should also be doing 50,000 other things as well and converting some courses to more interactive versions is not high enough on the priority list at this time.  But at a time where more and more institutions around the country investigate or continue to use lecture capture technology as standard, these are questions worth asking because a great deal of lecturing is still conventional and now being captured. And lecture capture is, by all accounts, very very popular with students.

Sitting re-watching lectures is not revision. It’s learning the lecture which, at best, is an outline of the material designed to be complimented by trying examples, reading around the topic, and challenging, consolidating and improving subject knowledge. Yes it’s great when you can re-watch that complex derivation, or watch the mechanism being drawn more closely to really see the specifics, but you have to go beyond. Our intended learning outcomes are designed to define what 40%, the barest of passes is. Maybe it would be better to consider the lecture in the same light – learn the lecture, get 40%. Have knowledge of multiple concepts in isolation but fail to build a framework of understanding where they are interlinked, complementary and amenable to tackling complex problems.

So that’s my line this coming semester: learn the lectures and you might got 40% if you do a half way decent job of it. Attend the problem classes and try the problem sheets, and you’ll head towards 60% but if you want to break 70%, if you want to head into 1st class, do more.Do every example you can find. Read the recommended reading and start to develop a deeper understanding. Take responsibility – your learning comes down to your effort, not my effort in a short series of lectures. I’ll be trying to convey a sense of a fairly complex topic in a non-ideal room while you all struggle to wake up or struggle to stay away depending on which side of noon the class is. If we acknowledge the non-ideality of the situation, we might get somewhere. And I’ll keep recording for now.


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