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Making Lecture Capture Work Lessons from the Pros

When asked about the impact of lecture capture technology on teaching and learning, James Craig, professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy at the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore, doesn't mince words.

"With lecture capture," claimed Craig, "students have more opportunity to learn and a greater level of performance because of it."

It’s a claim that makes some instructors a bit skeptical. How can students learn unless they are in the class where the instructor is "in command"?

Dispelling the myth

Lecture capture supports the in-class learning experience, said Craig. Since its implementation at UMB in 2006, lecture capture has been one of the primary ways students have received lectures in both dentistry and dental hygiene at the country's oldest dental college. And, for the most part, it has been a huge success for both students and teachers.

"The dental and dental hygiene curriculum is visually intensive," explained Craig, who is not only a professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy at UMB, but also an educational consultant in the use of technology in education. "In a typical instructional setting, slides are projected and students must try to associate what the instructor is saying with the image. It puts a lot of pressure on the student."

Lecture capture, Craig said, takes this pressure away. "With lecture capture, students can watch at their own rate, go anywhere in the presentation they wish, stop, start, and repeat. As one student said to me recently, ‘You’d have to be able to take shorthand to get everything if it weren’t for lecture capture.’"

Despite this obvious benefit, a number of university instructors remain hesitant. "I think the biggest fear for many teachers," said Jerry Overmyer, mathematics and science outreach coordinator at the College of Natural and Health Sciences, University of Northern Colorado (UNC), "is that lecture capture will replace them and make them irrelevant."

Yet, according to Overmyer, the exact opposite is true. "We are finding that lecture capture is allowing those teachers who used to do mostly traditional lecture in their classrooms be more engaged and personally understand the learning process of all their students," he said.

Craig agreed. "Outstanding lecturers will still draw students to their live performance even though it is being captured." They’re not going to be replaced.

Benefitting instructors

Kenneth Landreth, course director, MICB701 Immunity, Infection, and Disease, at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine in Morgantown, WV, sees at least three distinct advantages for instructors. "First, we are able to review lecture presentations in our own courses and across the curriculum to revise and validate that the material is presented correctly and consistently," he said. "A second advantage is that we can work with faculty to improve lecture presentations and to evaluate test questions on ‘high stakes’ examinations to be sure they are fairly constructed."

A third advantage according to Landreth is that they are able to re-purpose lectures each year to deliver a summer remedial course for students who fail a course during the regular term. "This allows us to deliver remedial lectures without having faculty deliver lectures a second time during the year," Landreth explains.

The WVU School of Medicine initiated lecture recording in 2004, following the 2003 Graylyn Conference on Technology Innovations in Medical Education. "We now record all lectures in the first and second year of the medical curriculum," said Landreth, "and post those recordings on course-specific pages on a password-protected educational web portal." Only those students enrolled in a course can access those recordings for lecture review.

Lecture capture also enables instructors to gain fresh perspective or new insight on their course materials, said Dan Canada, professor in the Department of Mathematics at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA. Canada calls this "reflective practice."

"When I review a lecture capture, I’m able to reflect on the experience in a different light, and invariably a new insight will come to me," he said. "There is always something new to discover even though the basic material for mathematics is fairly constant."

At other universities across the country, instructors are using what has become known as the "flipped" classroom model, where they capture their lectures and assign those lectures as homework. This frees up class time for discussion, clarification, amplification, and review and for interacting with students.

As UNC’s Overmyer explains, "What used to be classwork (the ‘lecture’) is done at home…and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class."

Benefitting students

Students report that using lecture capture has resulted in improved grades and academic performance. In an October 2011 survey of medical students at West Virginia University, 93 percent of respondents said they earn better grades with the aid of recorded lectures. A student survey at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Worcester, MA, found that 75 percent of respondents said that lecture capture has had a positive impact on their performance in class.

Part of the reason for this positive impact is the fact that with lecture capture students can review the material as many times as they need to in order to understand it. "That’s a big advantage for students," said Landreth. "They can review very dense, complex lecture material to insure their lecture notes are correct and to review particularly difficult material for examinations," he points out.

Another advantage, according to Landreth, is that students are able to "time-shift" learning and to stay current in the course when they miss lectures for personal or professional reasons. And, of course, lecture capture is a huge advantage for students who simply are not good note-takers.

Canada adds at that the benefits of lecture capture for students are similar to the benefits he experiences personally. "Another look at the material (in a different time) can bring a fresh perspective that previously was missed," he said.

To the critics who claim that lecture capture promotes a passive learning experience, Canada points out that a student can sit passively in a large-hall lecture as easily as he can watching a lecture. "If it’s just a matter of watching somebody explain a process, then no matter if it’s a live lecture or a recorded lecture capture, it seems like a pretty passive learning experience," Canada said.

Canada, whose students are prospective teachers, emphasizes the aspect of learning for teaching. "My students wear two hats: That of a math student (as they learn or re-learn the mathematics for themselves) and that of a math teacher (how will their own students relate to the material). "Ultimately, my intent in using lecture capture is to make it possible for my students to reflect on the practice [of] being a math teacher."

The bottom line on using lecture capture to improve teaching and learning may very well be summed up by Karen Mitchell, professor in the Department of Mathematics at Marshall University, Huntington, WV. Mitchell has been using lecture capture for about ten years. "I see lecture capture as another way for me to be able to follow my students home. I don’t know what time of the day they will be studying. But by having recorded resources that are available at any time, I can help my students be better prepared."

Lecture Capture: 3 Tips for First-Timers

Realizing the benefits of lecture capture means setting parameters that will ensure success. Here, then, are three tips for getting started from three professors who’ve been there

Determine an attendance policy. At the University of Maryland Dental School in Baltimore, MD, attendance is required for courses in clinical performance, where students get hands-on experience and learn to relate to patients. The dental school does not set a standard attendance policy for its general courses, Craig said. The didactic content (classroom lectures) is available 24/7 and students determine when and where to learn this content.

Implement active learning. For courses that will be recorded, develop and implement active learning exercises as part of the in-class instruction, advised Landreth, and include material from those active learning sessions on examinations. "Active learning exercises do not record well and require class attendance. The addition of more active learning exercises by our instructors increases active learning by students."

Try Everything! You can only learn through what works and what doesn’t, said Canada. He advised educators to jump in and not to worry about getting it right the first time. "It all leads to improvement if you’re a reflective practitioner," noted Canada. "The main thing about 'getting started' is just that: Get Started. It’s all pedagogically useful."

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