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Making Time With Lecture Capture

Stand-and-deliver pedagogy has a bad rap these days, but technology can preserve what’s best about lectures and make room for other kinds of instruction.

Pity the poor lecture, which has been much maligned of late by progressive educators. We need to move from the "sage on the stage" to the "guide on the side," say education reformers who want learning to be more authentic and engaged.

I am all for student engagement, and by that I don’t mean entertainment. Engagement means investment--investment in the process and in the outcome. And it's all too true that lecture-based instruction can foster incredible passivity. Just look at the back row of any lecture auditorium and count the number of sleeping students to understand what passive "learning" looks like in the extreme.

But lectures aren't ipso facto bad pedagogy. Sometimes lectures are the most efficient way to communicate certain kinds of information. The argument that students can read the information rather than have to sit through a lecture is a good one--if reading is the most expeditious form of intake for a student. But many students learn better by listening. Furthermore, a good lecture isn't static like a book. Any lecturer worth her salt will embellish, go off on a useful tangent, add humor to punctuate a point--none of which you'll find in a textbook.

Besides, I sometimes like to listen to a sage on the stage. When I was in college, I found some professors inspiring. The breadth of their erudition, their articulateness, their command of a (yes, say it) stage--all of that made me want to learn more, be a better student, engage more deeply in the ideas the lecturer exposed me to.

So, for me, the problem with lecturing is not that it exists, but that in many courses it's the only pedagogy used--and that is a missed opportunity.

Our cover story this month looks at the effect of lecture capture technology on the person behind the camera--the instructor. Not surprisingly, some instructors are horrified when they see themselves on camera and don't want to use it anymore. But many more see the exposure, if you will, as an opportunity to improve their performance.

And while the main use of the technology is to make lectures available to students who miss class or for review, a growing number of professors prerecord their lectures for students to view on their own time, so that they can use class time for more engaging activities like discussion. They are able, through the use of lecture capture, to transform a lecture hall into an interactive learning environment.

In essence, what is actually being captured is time, that most valuable and elusive instructional asset. A professor who prerecords a lecture gives herself time to plan how to use class time to engage students in actively participating in their learning. Now that's progressive.

About the Author

Therese Mageau is the former editorial director of THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at therese@educationworksconsulting.com.

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