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Drexel Puts Course Capture To Work on Desktops

Audio and even video capture of lectures is becoming more common on college campuses, which post the material to their Web sites so that students can revisit a lecture after the fact.

But Drexel University in Philadelphia, long known as a technology powerhouse, is using the university's academic capture product in another way. There, instructors are far more likely to produce recordings from their desktops, including individual commentaries to a student from a professor. Staff members also are using rich media recording software, a product from TechSmith called Camtasia Studio, in new ways, such as creating online training videos for new hires.

Desktop Production
Drexel does use Camtasia as a conventional classroom capture product, in which a professor records lecture content live, then posts it online for viewing later through Blackboard or a professor's individual Web site. However, where Camtasia really shines at the university is in what Drexel's director of academic technology innovation, John Morris, calls "individual capture." Most Drexel instructors who are taking advantage of Camtasia, he said, are using it at their desktops.

Using Camtasia Studio, instructors can create in class video presentations that show a recording of the computer screen while playing an accompanying voice narration. When a PC, tablet PC, or interactive electronic whiteboard is used, Camtasia automatically captures any interaction with the screen as well, along with Web sites visited, imported video from digital camcorders, or any other screen material displayed. Instructors can edit the content before posting it online as Flash or streaming media files. Students can then view the material at their convenience; it can also be used for distance-learning courses.

But on their desktops, Drexel professors are using Camtasia in a more unusual way: to create their own desktop-created tutorials or other presentations for students. A humanities professor at Drexel, for example, is using Camtasia to record the process as he marks up a student paper. By using a tablet PC and Camtasia to create a video that captures his redlining of a student's paper online, along with verbal comments, Professor Scott Warnock is able to comment much more extensively on a student's work than he would be able to via written comments. Warnock said he estimates that using Camtasia in this way might cut grading time by as much as a third, while giving instructors time to provide clearer, more detailed feedback. (Here's an example of Warnock providing written and audio feedback while marking up a student's paper and recording the process in a Camtasia video.)

Using just a Web browser and Apple's free QuickTime video player, the student recipient can view the personal video commentary as many times as desired, and at any time.

Once a desktop commentary is captured, Camtasia can be used to save the material in a variety of multimedia formats, including for MP3 players and streaming audio.

Instructional Support
The university also uses Camtasia for short tutorials on a range of support services topics, according to Janice Biros, associate vice president of instructional technology support at Drexel, such as registration instructions for freshman. The HR department has also started to use Camtasia to record and post audio and video recordings for new employee orientation.

Creating content in Camtasia by recording a lecture or desktop session is one side of the equation, but publishing that content is another, often time-consuming and intimidating one. To address that, Drexel has a created a sophisticated system that alleviates the need of professors and staff to handle the publishing side. Using a so-called digital drop box, users can almost instantly have a rich media file, such as a recording done in Camtasia, encoded and published. They do that by simply leaving the file at an online location that will then publish multimedia recordings, in any desired format, without further interaction from the instructor.

"It makes Camtasia that much more valuable," Morris said. "It reduces the overhead of taking that last step and putting [the content] out there on the Web." A large number of faculty, even those that don't use Camtasia, are taking advantage of the drop box, which recently won an innovation award from Campus Technology.

Drexel handles training for faculty and staff by requiring initial users--anyone who requests a license, essential--to attend an introductory training session on the product. That's done partly to help control support calls by new users, according to Mike Scheuermann, director of Drexel's online learning group.

That's followed by an intermediate two-hour hands-on training, which includes a CD that Scheuermann has made, with various media files in which users construct a project, combine projects, use the storyboard, make transitions, encode files, and more.

Using Camtasia, whether for classroom lecture capture or desktop sessions, helps fulfill students' expectation of a high-level technology experience at Drexel. "Students today are not satisfied with going to class and hearing it once, and that's it," Biros says. "They demand re-read and re-use and re-listen to whenever they would like. That's how they work with other resources on the Internet, and that's what they're demanding from professors."

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About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at [email protected].

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