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Lecture Capture

Winning Them Over

Looking for a way to bolster lecture capture enthusiasm on campus?

IN A 2008 SURVEY OF STUDENTS at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 82 percent of undergraduate respondents said they preferred courses with online lecture content, and 60 percent said they would even be willing to pay for lecture capture services.

No similar national survey has been done on student receptivity to lecture capture, but it’s probably safe to say that Wisconsin students are not ahead of the curve on this topic. These systems are catching on at colleges and universities across the country, and the enthusiasm isn’t limited to students. Higher ed administrators, as well as more and more faculty, are seeing the benefits of enabling students to review class material at their own pace and catch up on missed classes.

Yet campus IT leaders preparing to introduce lecture capture may want to tread lightly. Many early adopters have experienced faculty resistance and questions about policies ranging from copyright to accessibility for disabled students (see “Addressing Accessibility,” p. 40). “The only way you’re going to get buy-in from the academic side is if faculty perceive it is valuable to their teaching experience,” notes Marti Harris, a research director at Gartner. “If faculty see it as something that they are being forced to do, schools will have difficulty achieving a level of success.”

The trick is to have the technology, training, and policy pieces in place from the beginning, says Alan Greenberg, a senior analyst at Wainhouse Research. “There is a marketing component for the instructional technology people. You have to do training that explains how lecture capture is going to help students and what it’s going to mean to faculty, and you have to have the policies and procedures in place to support the users.

Colleges and universities that have gone down the lecture capture path have found four essential ingredients for bringing faculty on board with the program:

  1. Start slowly and gather results.
  2. Work out copyright issues up front.
  3. Minimize faculty involvement with the technology itself.
  4. Provide ongoing tech support.
If your campus is currently considering a lecture capture pilot or is in the early stages of deployment—or has made little progress because of faculty resistance— you may benefit from considering these practices that institutions have used to successfully implement lecture capture systems on their campuses.

1. Start Slowly and Gather Results

Anand Padmanabhan, chief information officer of New York University’s Stern School of Business, sees gradual introduction as key to lecture capture success. Stern started using Apreso (now Echo360) in early 2005 to capture lectures with a few faculty members who had expressed interest. “We then encouraged other faculty to come in, sample it, see the setup, and do a short lecture,” he explains.

Addressing Accessibility

LECTURE CAPTURE PRESENTS new challenges to universities charged with meeting federal and state accessibility mandates. The instructional technology team at Seattle Pacific University (WA) has long worked on disability issues, such as making websites accessible for low-vision students. “We know we need to accommodate students, even though we may have a limited budget for it,” says David Wicks, director of instructional technology services (ITS) and an assistant professor in the School of Education.

For instance, as more faculty begin using Camtasia Relay to record lectures and other course materials,Wicks knows SPU will have to offer a captioning solution for hearing-impaired students. “We may not have that many hearing-impaired students at any one time,” however, “so doing captioning for every course that uses lecture capture could be onerous and expensive.”

SPU has settled on a “just-in-time” model for providing closed-captioning. Faculty members inform ITS when a hearing-impaired student is in a class that involves lecture capture, and student workers are hired to transcribe those lectures. “It may just be audio over a PowerPoint presentation, and some students may just want a transcript,”Wicks explains, “while others would like us to go into Camtasia Studio and add the captions to the presentation.”

The College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Mediasite user, has found a different solution. For the past year, the engineering school has been using Caption- Sync, a captioning service from Automatic Sync Technologies. It takes about four hours for a CaptionSync transcriber to type up a one-hour lecture, according to Automatic Sync, and schools pay approximately $160 per media hour, with volume discounts available.

“There’s no way we could afford to do it for all recorded lectures,” says Dusty Smith, digital media manager for the Wisconsin engineering school. “But about 50 to 60 times in the past year, there were requests for captions on recorded lectures,” he says, adding that the process has worked well.

The latest Mediasite version, which automates the integration with CaptionSync, also provides search powered by the caption data. “That has the potential to be beneficial to a wider audience than just the hearing impaired,” Smith says. “You could search for a phrase or an equation and be taken to the point in the video where that is discussed.”

This early group worked with Stern’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, which did a study on the impact of lecture capture on classroom attendance (a chief concern of faculty is that students stop coming to class if the lecture is available online). The study found that students continued to attend classes where lectures were recorded. The Center also has found that most students used the recordings heavily during the midterm and finals time, and that students who speak English as their second language accessed the videos throughout the semester more than the other students.

Other technology leaders echo Padmanabhan’s suggestion to begin with a modest pilot project for a semester or two, and gather statistics on attendance. In 2005, Duke University (NC) piloted its DukeCapture service based on Lectopia, a lecture capture solution originally developed by the University of Western Australia and now owned by Echo360. Over the course of several months, Duke captured more than 200 lectures that were accessed more than 17,000 times, and allowed faculty to observe for themselves that students continued to attend class in their usual numbers.

To further bolster the case for lecture capture, some campuses have conducted internal studies that show improved student retention of course material. The University of Massachusetts-Lowell, for example, studied the impact of its EchoSystem lecture capture system on calculus students and found that students who had access to recorded lectures had a success rate (a grade of C or better) 11 percent higher than their peers, and received fewer Ds, Fs, or withdrawals. “Calculus 1 students overwhelmingly credited the ability to review EchoSystem lectures as playing a role in improving their understanding of calculus concepts,” Ron Brent, professor of mathematical sciences, said in a report on the study. “The data indicate that [online] lectures have played a part in better preparing students for Calculus 2, a prerequisite for succeeding in advanced engineering and other hard science majors.”

Some studies of faculty members indicate they are also seeing a benefit. An October 2009 survey by Wainhouse Research, sponsored by lecture capture vendor TechSmith, found that 75 percent of academics and administrators indicated their faculty finds value in lecture capture. In addition, 42 percent of the survey respondents said they perceived that learners’ grades and performance are improving due to the availability of lecture capture.

But even the lecture capture vendors admit that initial faculty concerns must be addressed head-on. “The technology has an intimate impact on the triangle of faculty, students, and staff,” says Sean Brown, vice president of education for Sonic Foundry, the creator of Mediasite. “Is it controversial and is there friction initially on campuses? Yes. We commonly find that in anticipation of lecture capture introduction, there is both excitement and trepidation.”

Brown points out that schools that have had the most success tend to involve faculty every step of the way. “During the evaluation period, they hold an open house and get faculty to record themselves in advance of any commitment to [implement the full system]. At NYU, once enough faculty members were familiar with Echo360, the next step was a late 2005 mandate from the dean that all courses within the core MBA program should be recorded. “Faculty rotate in and out of teaching core courses, and many wanted their lectures in other topics recorded,” Padmanabhan says, “so it spread that way.” He concludes: “We liked that this was a stepped process. We opened by demonstrating that it was doable and students wouldn’t skip classes. The next step was expanding to all core courses. Now we have 100 percent of students with access to recorded lectures.”

2. Work out Copyright Issues up Front

A common concern among faculty when lecture capture is first introduced on campus is: Who owns the material being captured? The answer varies from campus to campus and may even differ among colleges or departments on a single campus, Gartner’s Harris says. “It’s not some blanket policy statement the software provider can roll out,” she notes. “It involves developing an institutional policy.”

At Villanova University (PA), for instance, the policy is that the university owns the copyright to the electronic media used to deliver the course, but creators of reusable teaching and classroom materials, such as curriculum guides or problem sets, own those materials unless they are subject to a prior agreement governing their ownership. The university retains a “non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable license to use, display, copy, distribute, modify and prepare derivative works of such materials for internal University use.”

“Essentially this offers shared use by faculty and the university,” explains Sean O’Donnell, director of eLearning and graduate marketing at Villanova’s College of Engineering. “This is an amicable solution, because both can use it.”

At NYU, the lecture capture initiative utilized the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning to hold forums with faculty to work through rights policy issues. This same committee had already developed some policies around faculty content created for online purposes that had been approved by the university, so it decided to extend those policies to this new format of captured lectures.

In addition to faculty copyright, lecture capture must address the question of legal use of previously copyrighted materials. “If you are archiving material eternally, different rules may apply for use of text, image, and video than for the fair use of that piece of media one time in the classroom,” says Harris, “so digital rights management has to be addressed.”

This may mean getting the college legal office involved up front, before any real implementation takes place. Schools also are taking advantage of free and copyright-cleared materials to ensure that their archived lectures are not violating the law. (See “Sharing Content,” above.)

Once policies are in place, it’s important to have them readily available to faculty. Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia has developed a strong online FAQ to answer lecture capture policy questions:

The bottom line, according to Brown from Sonic Foundry, is that these policy questions need to be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. Schools that have successful lecture capture implementations, he says, “use policies, communities, and culture to guide them in making stakeholders happy.”

3. Minimize Faculty Tech Involvement

In a 2009 Educause session, one IT director complained that professors at his campus were reluctant to help with the introduction of a lecture capture solution. The professors, he said, weren’t even willing to push a button when they came into class.

Villanova’s O’Donnell has confronted that issue himself, and has come up with this solution: “Separate subject-matter experts from technologists,” he advises, “and never the twain shall meet.”

To avoid faculty members’ having to deal with any setup or post-production chores, the college uses revenue from its distance education programs to hire graduate students to handle those tasks.

“The same way I don’t want my tech staff teaching algebra, I don’t want the professors spending their time on the technology stuff,” O’Donnell says.

“There is a clear definition of roles. If all they taught with was a piece of chalk before, that’s all they have to do now.”

The key hurdle is making the technology unobtrusive, suggests Mike Fardon, vice president of education for vendor Echo360. “Faculty members feel tension as they are about to begin a lecture, and engaging with technology is just one more thing to deal with,” he observes. “When you want to scale something like this, and make it available to students in a learning management system, it is important that all the steps be automated.”

Automation is important to IT staff as well. “The overhead in IT can creep up on you if your staff has to go into each classroom on the day of the lectures and program them,” says NYU’s Padmanabhan. “With Echo360, we can schedule the whole semester up front, so the recording is sent to the professor afterward and they can drop it into Blackboard automatically. All these steps are automated.”

Another way to introduce lecture capture without burdening faculty with media-production chores is to integrate it with tools they already use. Drexel University (PA) has integrated Tech- Smith’s Camtasia Relay lecture capture software into its homegrown “DragonDrop” mediapublishing system, which enables faculty to record their lectures and then seamlessly push the files into the DragonDrop system, where they are encoded and produced in various file formats for students and employees to use on demand.

Michael Scheuermann, of Drexel’s Office of Information Resources and Technology, comments that the integration of the two sytems “has absolutely made lecturers more readily accept the concept of recording, because we have turned it into a one-step process.”

4. Provide Ongoing Tech Support

Lecture capture is catching on fast at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After a few pilot projects in the spring of 2009, the university signed a fourcampus master agreement to use Tegrity Campus to record, store, and index faculty lectures. After a “wild dash” to get ready to deploy campuswide by late August 2009, 80 faculty members signed up to use lecture capture in the first semester, reports MU IT Director Kevin Bailey. Tegrity measured 7,000 students logging in to watch course material in one week alone.

This kind of intensive usage requires commensurate support. MU’s instructional technology staff credits Tegrity’s ease of use for the quick uptake, but the seamless and continued use of the system almost certainly is due to the IT staff’s availability to help whenever it is needed. MU Digital Media Technologist Boden Lyon says that spending just 10 minutes explaining the system to faculty often is enough, but if they are at all uncomfortable with it, she will attend one of their classes. “We are willing to do handholding, but it only has to be a little bit of handholding,” she says.

MU also has created online instructional videos. A special Tegrity e-mail address is checked two or three times a day and messages are responded to immediately. Plans are in the works to survey both students and lecturers, and to create a faculty Tegrity users group. All of the above has helped generate high usage levels and subdue the critics, says Danna Vessel, director of educational technology at MU.

One faculty member, initially skeptical of the system, became a convert when a student who had been out sick watched all the lectures she missed and kept up with her coursework. “The professor told the IT group: ‘I have drunk the Tegrity Kool-Aid,’” Vessel recalls. “We thought that was pretty funny.”


CaptionSync (automated captioning service):

Creative Commons:





Camtasia Relay:

Tegrity Campus:

University of Massachusetts-Lowell study on impact of lecture capture:

University of Wisconsin-Madison survey of students on lecture capture:

Wainhouse Research white paper on “The New Imperative for Lecture Capture Solutions in Higher Education”: =10752

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