Lecture Capture | Feature

Best Practices in Lecture Capture

When John DeAngelo joined the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in 2011, a university-wide committee gave him one of his marching orders: Buy, install, and manage a lecture capture system. Following a bad start with a different brand of technology, this director of Educational Technology Services (ETS) recommended the school switch to Sonic Foundry's Mediasite, which he'd had experience with in his former position as associate dean for IT in Temple University's Fox School of Business in Philadelphia. This was the fourth lecture capture system DeAngelo had used in nearly as many years.

In the intervening months, the institution has webcasted more than 2,000 class lectures and special presentations and events, some for live streaming to viewers at other campus locations and others for recorded viewing. Along the way DeAngelo has gained more than a few insights about how to achieve the most effective lecture capture. Here he shares the crucial points.

Don't Assume Class Attendance will Drop

UCSF is a unique school. Unlike the other institutions in the massive U California system, this one is strictly a graduate school with a comparatively tiny 2,940 enrolled students, and its entire focus is health sciences. That latter point may be why lecture capture is proving so popular on campus, says DeAngelo. "Everything in medicine is dense." It may be that the topic is complex. It may be that the presenter is a fast talker. But in either case, "The students need to go back and review critical concepts--especially quantitative concepts."

The density of the subject matter may also be why the university hasn't seen much reduction in class attendance. Notes DeAngelo, "We see no evidence of any significant fall-off. Maybe because the subject matter is so dense, they need more exposure to it."

Plus, according to user statistics, rather than skipping around in the recorded lecture during their viewing, students are watching "pretty much the whole damn thing." On top of that, he added, "They watch it more than once. It's not as scattershot as we thought it was going to be."

Prime the Faculty

At Temple U rollout of lecture capture was positioned as a test. The university rolled it out with a group of beta users. "We got them to be the spokespersons for capture. Not me," DeAngelo says. "They want to hear other faculty talking about its value."

So that's what he expected at UCSF too, but he was pleasantly surprised. "There was a readiness factor here. It's like, people were waiting for this. They all jumped on. I could not have foreseen the rapidity that this caught on here. I was prepared to have to do a lot more selling." For example, whereas faculty at Temple had questions about intellectual property--who owns the lecture recording and can the whole world see it?--"here it just was not."

DeAngelo's approach in either kind of atmosphere is to get buy-in from everyone and let people know what's happening "every step of the way." He's also learned over the years to not present anything as a fait accompli. "I present everything as a pilot... We're all adventurers together when you do a pilot. And you're not saying, 'It's done, it's over.' You're saying, 'We're going to learn together.'"

Keep It Simple

With the lecture capture system used at UCSF, there's really very little for the faculty to do. Once they've scheduled the course for recording, they simply show up on time and the rest is handled for them by ETS, usually from a remote location.

Scheduling at the university can be done in two ways. The faculty can put a request in the campus' classroom scheduling application from CollegeNET and indicate that they want lecture capture too, DeAngelo explains. They also have to specify whether the recording will be made available publicly or privately and whether it will be audio only or audio and video, along with other such details. Or a faculty member can come to ETS as late as 24 hours in advance and request a class capture.

In either case, an ETS staff person will put together an automated process that starts the recording at the scheduled time, processes the recording for viewing, and places an RSS feed with a link to the recording into the individual instructor's learning management system course.

Get Two Things Right

The basic rule of lecture capture, above all, is to make sure the audio is right. "If you can't hear what's going on, it's worthless. Audio is critical, even more important than video," says DeAngelo. That means the microphone system in the room needs to be able to record even if the instructor strays away from the lectern. For that reason he recommends the use of a lavalier mic worn on a collar so "you'll hear them wherever they go."

But because video is important too, DeAngelo recommends "reasonably good lighting." "You don't want to see someone walking around in the dark."

Ask Faculty to Watch Their Own Captures

DeAngelo is amazed at how many faculty members never seem to be interested in watching their recorded lectures--not even once. "They just assume the students access it. They don't care. They know what they said. They don't watch it," he says. That could be a mistake because doing so will can help make them improve their delivery styles. "Then they can see firsthand, do they have nervous tics? Do they pace back and forth? Are they outside the range of the camera? Do they speak too low? Little things like that."

Frequently, what instructors will discover when they do watch themselves is that whatever they're doing at the blackboard (yes, UCSF still has them) can't be read in the recording. "A lot of doctors are still used to writing on a whiteboard or blackboard," DeAngelo says. Substitutes, such as a digital pen, an interactive whiteboard or podium, or even an iPad haven't caught on yet for this purpose, which leaves lecture capture viewers at a disadvantage. "When we say to [faculty], 'Students want to see what you're writing, and they can't see it on a blackboard,' they encourage us to shoot the board. But the resolution isn't very high. It's difficult to see."

At Temple U, the university used remote sensors in the ceiling that could shift the view of the cameras in the room to capture what was written on the board. But there, instructors used whiteboards, which provides better contrast than blackboards. So this summer, UCSF is changing out its blackboards for whiteboards.

One area where UCSF instructors have excelled is in their use of clickers to maintain student engagement. Those activities are captured in the recorded lectures. The viewer can see the question being posed, as fed to Mediasite by the educator's computer display, and then the viewer can see the responses as well, superimposed over the slide being shown to students.

Be Aware of Privacy Issues

Whereas faculty at UCSF aren't particularly concerned about the intellectual property aspects of their lectures, they're highly sensitized to privacy and confidentiality concerns. "Nobody cared about those issues in the previous school. The subject was never raised," DeAngelo observes. "It means everything here."

That caught him off guard. As an institution that focuses on health sciences, UCSF is driven by HIPAA concerns. For example, if a doctor is giving a lecture and mentions a specific patient by name, that's a breach of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Others who have worked in medical settings have had to guide DeAngelo around possible landmines. For example, signs are now up in all of the classrooms where lecture capture takes place announcing, "There are electronic devices in this room. This is a public space. You should not assume privacy in here. You could be recorded at any time."

To avoid conflicts, some instructors have gotten into the practice of discussing cases in the first part of the class and scheduling lecture capture to start 15 minutes into class. Or when private meetings are held in the classrooms, the meeting organizers will request that EST shut down the cameras for that period.

Occasionally, however, when somebody says something inappropriate that's recorded, he or she will come back to ETS and ask for a deletion, a hard request to fulfill. "This is our quick and dirty system," DeAngelo explains. "We don't want to advertise the fact that you can do editing. It's not easy. It takes a lot of time."

To address that problem, in the refresh of lecture capture taking place this fall, the university will move to Mediasite 6 and implement a new control system that gives faculty the ability to "hit a privacy or pause button." When a case comes up, DeAngelo says, "they can just push a button on the control panel and remember--hopefully--to put it back on whenever they resume the lecture. It'll be cut out of the middle automatically when it's delivered to their course."

A Route to the Flipped Classroom

An interesting phenomenon has been happening, particularly among those instructors who do make a point of watching their own lectures: a desire to move to the "flipped classroom." "They often come back to us and say, 'I don't want to capture my class lecture. I want to structure things outside the lecture, so that I can have students watch in advance of my lecture,'" DeAngelo notes.

The faculty requests were significant enough to push ETS to convert one of the lecture capture classrooms into a kind of "mini studio." By next spring the campus hopes to have it set up to do interviews, webinars, or "whatever else" faculty want to try.

That meshes nicely with the university's decision to join Coursera. Launched in April 2012, Coursera is the group effort of handful of institutions—including Stanford University, Princeton, U Michigan, and U Pennsylvania—to offer freely available online courses to anybody who wants to join in—like iTunes U except with a commitment. In mid-July the founders announced that it was growing to 17 the number of institutions that would deliver online sessions, including UCSF. The San Francisco school will begin offering classes in January 2013 in three subject areas: clinical problem solving, contraception, and nutrition. The school said that within 24 hours of that announcement 2,500 people had signed up to take the new courses.

In some cases, DeAngelo explains, the lectures will be recorded through Mediasite. In other cases the studio setup will be used to record a lecture as "pure video," to be edited and sliced into eight- and 10-minute segments to post online.

In either case, the idea of freeing up the classroom to "let students ask questions about this very dense material or about the human aspects of medicine" is an important trend in healthcare education. As DeAngelo declares. "Increasingly, that's where things will be going. Lecture capture can play a very, very large role in that, because it makes it so easy to do."

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