Classroom Capture: Lecture Recording System Draws Devotees at Temple

TUCAPTURE's on the fly archiving of audio and video integrates with Apreso, Blackboard. Next up: handwriting capture.

By Linda L. Briggs

If lectures are recorded during class and then offered online, will attendance drop as students attend class virtually instead of in person? That's still a big question in higher education, as it becomes more and more common to augment in class courses with an online component.

According to data from Temple University outside Philadelphia, virtual offerings actually increase student attendance. Temple is using a campus-wide academic capture system with great success.

TUCAPTURE, as Temple's system is called, uses Anystream's Apreso lecture capture software system to automatically record audio, video, and even handwriting during lectures, seminars, or virtually any presentation. The content is then immediately and automatically made available online.

Temple, long known as a technology leader, has captured more than 300,000 minutes of the audio portion of lectures over the last several years, along with some video, and is now moving toward capturing handwriting as well, according to Dr. David R. Feeney, director of digital education at Temple.

The capture system works unobtrusively: Once a Temple instructor elects to participate, lecture contents all semester long are automatically recorded by classroom equipment based on a timer in Apreso that contains the class start and end times each day. No additional participation from the instructor is required. Just a few minutes after a class ends, Feeney says, the contents are posted to Temple's Blackboard course management system and can be made available as webcasts and podcasts as well, depending on the instructor's preferences. "The time from end of capture to full audience sampling is about five minutes," Feeney says. "Before a student can leave class and walk to a computer, we've simultaneously webcast it, podcast it, and cast [the contents] to Blackboard."

The popularity of the system is such that 96 percent of faculty who sign on to use the capture system return to use it again, Feeney says. "Each year, the number of faculty [using the system] has increased."

Extensive use surveys Temple has conducted over the past few years indicate the system's approval ratings: 80 percent of students and faculty say TUCAPTURE improved student learning; 73 percent say it improved classroom teaching; and 63 percent say it helped with exam preparation.

Refuting the notion that making recordings of classes available can negatively impact attendance, 85 percent of students said that their attendance was the same or greater when TUCAPTURE was in place. A whopping 95 percent of students said they prefer courses with TUCAPTURE versus those without.

In student surveys, handwriting has been the most-requested additional component for capture after audio and video, according to Feeney, so efforts to add that component are underway. Using the TUCAPTURE system and Apreso, handwriting can be captured directly from an instructor's notebook computer screen.

Although 23 classrooms at Temple are set up with equipment in place for audio capture, part of the beauty of the TUCAPTURE system is that it can work anywhere that an instructor has a computer running the Apreso software and a microphone. An inexpensive wired mic connected to the computer will work fine, Feeney says, though an instructor may prefer a wireless version for more mobility. The instructor simply begins the software as class begins, and the lecture components, including handwriting, are recorded and posted automatically. That helps Feeney's group because classrooms with equipment in place to capture lectures are increasingly popular at Temple these days. "We can't set up rooms fast enough," Feeney says.

The system has even been used to capture vendor presentations about new products under consideration. Interested parties can then view the presentation at their leisure; everyone need not be present for the initial meeting.

Feeney, who says he coined the term "academic capture system" to describe the breadth and depth of what the TUCAPTURE system does, is an enthusiastic proponent of the system's low cost and high return value. The Apreso system cost Temple a fraction of comparable capture systems they reviewed originally, he says, and has required no new personnel. Because of the simplicity of the system and the low cost of the Apreso software, he estimates that system costs are less than 10 percent of comparable capture systems.

Temple's cost per captured minute will go down 50 percent this year, the university's third, Feeney says, as productivity increases and hardware costs continue to fall.

"Our system is not really new in terms of concept," Feeney admits. Rather, he says that the capture system as it's being used at Temple is dramatically cheaper, faster, and higher volume than anywhere else. As the school continues to capture thousands of minutes of lecture content every week, Feeney says, "It remains to be seen what we'll do with this growing number of assets."

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Linda L. Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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