Lecture Capture | Feature

Video Tutorials To Support Instruction

Screencasting software has allowed Full Sail University to develop and revise online video tutorials for its distance learning and traditional students.

When Full Sail University of Winter Park, FL, launched its distance education program in 2007, the institution started looking for a quick and easy way to capture video and audio and then edit those components and prep them for online streaming. Already using lecture capture to handle audio files, the school turned to its existing vendor to explore other tools.

On the faculty's wish list was a program that would allow them to receive real-time feedback on media pieces in the online environment and also let students create machinimas (for the generation of computer animation) in Second Life for digital storytelling assignments. The tool had to allow students to create screen captures, edit them, and render them without the need for a standalone video editing system.

"We were already using ScreenFlow for other activities, so when we went online we implemented the company's screencasting software program," said Eric Rosenfeld, program director, Digital Arts & Design and Graphic Design. "We liked it because our material changes frequently, and we didn't want to have to dump it into Final Cut or another editor and then recompress it and re-export it."

Rosenfeld said the screencasting program blends well with the fast-paced media and entertainment instruction that Full Sail specializes in. It's particularly effective for bridging the gap between students who take distance education courses. "We're able to deliver instruction to a lot of students who can't rearrange their schedules to come on campus," said Rosenfeld, "but who still need the information."

Creating Video Tutorials
Using the screencasting software, faculty members can create video tutorials, gather feedback from students, and create instructional videos for both online and campus classes. Rosenfeld said he uses the technology to make his Adobe Photoshop classes "more personal and a lot more interesting." A hour-long, on-campus demonstration, for example, can be boiled down to a five-minute video training session.

"We'll create a longer example with the screencasting program and then embed shorter videos into an interactive PDF," said Rosenfeld, "so that the students can see the videos as well as the text and image support. That allows us to give a lot more information about the videos all in a single, contained capsule."

Rosenfeld can also do quick screen captures and then encapsulate the graphics into a PDF and make it available to students. That helps him achieve one of his primary goals as an educator: observe areas where students are having problems and react quickly to address the issues.

"We can update the information promptly," he explained, "by, say, adding video to a PDF when students get stuck on a specific topic area."

As part of Full Sail's computer graphics and design course, for example, students are expected to complete vector self-portraits of themselves. Using two- or three-color computer-generated graphics, those students rely on a series of outside resources to complete their self-portraits. When the lesson isn't resonating with its pupils, Rosenfeld can "make a connection" using the video tutorials that are generated through the screencasting software.

Connecting with Students
The software also helps create connections with distance education students whom instructors don't have the opportunity to meet and interact with on a daily basis. "Students who have never been on campus before recognize us from our video tutorials," Rosenfeld said. "The technology helps us make connections that e-mail and online chat can't facilitate."

Since taking his department's curriculum online, Rosenfeld said he's been challenged by the need to keep the content fresh, relevant and accurate. "There's a constant need for revision because online instruction is an ever-changing target," he said. "However, when you use online video, you can fall into the habit of reusing a clip over and over again, or just putting Band-Aids on it instead of redoing it."

Rosenfeld said the screencasting software helps him tackle that challenge, although taking the impetus to remove old content and replace it is a daily job. "Technology only goes so far," said Rosenfeld. "As a faculty member, you have to be willing to pull it down off of the Web, and reshoot or recapture it, in order to keep everything updated."

With Full Sail's screencasting software fully implemented and in use across campus, Rosenfeld is now looking to expand the university's use of a Web-based design collaboration tool that's engineered around the needs of creative professionals. Known as ConceptShare, the service allows design instructors to share their print, Web, and video projects, make changes to those projects, and participate in online, group critique sessions.

"We've been using ConceptShare for a while with our online graphics program," said Rosenfeld, "and now we're looking to expand it across other degree programs, and across the rest of the campus."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

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