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Lecture Capture in Action

Michigan university makes a big investment in lecture capture in the classroom and online

Two years ago David Chard began getting requests from professors who had heard about the benefits of lecture capture technology, or the recording and post-processing of a lecture or presentation for viewing at a later date. "Some of our faculty were looking for a way to record their classroom sessions," said Chard, senior telecom engineer at Houghton, MI-based Michigan Technological University, "and make them available to students who missed class due to illness or other circumstances."

After investigating the lecture capture technology available on the market at the time, Chard set up a pilot program using Echo360 to capture class lectures and convert them into podcasts, streaming video, rich media, and other formats for playback at a later date. Installed about 18 months ago, the system records video and audio, then projects the images onto a computer projection screen.

Chard said Michigan Technological University has yet to come up with a way to measure student use of the lecture capture system. Instead, the institution has funneled most of its resources into making the technology seamless for the instructors. "We have limited resources," said Chard, who pointed out that the technology itself is expensive and not available campus-wide.

"It's a significant investment, namely in terms of the software licensing," Chard explained. "We haven't been able to deploy it to as many classrooms as we would like." The investment was funded through a one-time inter-university grant and the school's classroom maintenance account. Currently, Chard said, the university is evaluating the benefits of taking the lecture capture system campus-wide. "We want to continue the service," he said, "but it's a question of just how much of the campus we can cover."

Faculty members are utilizing lecture capture in various ways. For example, one is using the system to give students a "preview" of her upcoming classes, which meet twice weekly. "Every week she creates 30-minute mini-lectures to brief students on what they will be learning the following week," said Chard, "and distributes them to students in advance of those classes."

Students come to class more prepared, said Chard, and ready to apply what they learned from the 30-minute lectures. "In this instance, lecture capture doesn't replace the lecture itself," he said, "but it allows the instructor to use class time much more effectively."

Another faculty member teaching graduate-level mathematics used the system in conjunction with a document camera (used to help students follow along with the theory of specific problems). A world traveler who didn't have much time to prepare for classroom teaching every fall, the instructor has used lecture capture to create several lessons in advance. "We installed the lecture capture software on his table PC," said Chard, "which allowed him to seamlessly add text and publish the lecture while sitting in his office."

Michigan Technological University's online classes warrant a completely different lecture capture system, according to Chard, whose team uses Sonic Foundry's Mediasite in the virtual environment. A "fairly more expensive product than Echo360," said Chard, the system is operated and supported by the school's staff and more tightly monitored than the classroom version.

Chard said the institution's online classes warrant such a system because lectures are retained and reused for longer than they are in the traditional classroom. "We do try to control the environment of our online learning, and with traditional classrooms the files are usually deleted at the end of the semester," said Chard. "In the online environment, we keep the material for several years and just update it when needed."

Institutions that are looking to add lecture capture to their technological arsenals should pay attention to the costs associated with the systems, said Chard, including the physical equipment, the software licensing fees and the resources required to support it on campus. "This product scaled well, and didn't require any additional staff," said Chard, "but we do have to pay the [ongoing] licensing fees."

Also be sure to create an environment that makes it easy for instructors to use the system, Chard advised. Provide training and demonstrations, for example, and set up a scheduling system that requires little intervention on the instructors' part. "Our top priority during implementation was making the lecture capture seamless," said Chard, "and inviting for our faculty to use."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].

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