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Lecture Capture | Features

5 Classroom Design Strategies for Lecture Capture

Ready or not, schools are being forced to offer online or hybrid classes. AV Specialist Michael David Leiboff shares five tips to help colleges and universities prepare their classrooms for the lecture capture needs of today and tomorrow.

The ever-increasing need to create effective video-based knowledge resources is becoming more and more apparent. By following the five recommendations below, educational institutions can effectively accommodate lecture capture technology by "future-proofing" their academic support organization and physical plant infrastructure.

1) Effective classroom design should consider the growing need to accommodate increasing levels of video capture.
Naturally, not every new classroom will be appropriate for this kind of activity, but more and more, space planners should give careful consideration to how well a space could accommodate video origination. The key characteristics include adequate lighting, good acoustics, and room geometries that can provide good sight lines for video cameras.

The immediate goal should not be to buy lots of video cameras and microphones because the need to increase content creation will likely build over time. However, as institutions renovate and build new learning facilities, video capture will increasingly become the norm. This suggests that appropriate infrastructure provisions such as power and conduit should be built into classrooms, even if equipment is not initially installed. In this way, future flexibility will be preserved.

2) Video origination should be considered for integration into a larger number of classrooms and conference rooms.
Going forward, this video captured content could well serve as the bulk of online program material. The more ubiquitously this can be accomplished, the easier it will be to leverage faculty's in-class activities to support online learning programs.

3) Personal capture will become an increasingly important factor in content creation.
It has been shown that Khan Academy's model of short, simple, video modules lasting three to 10 minutes each can be extremely effective in conveying information. These modules comprise short video segments where an instructor talks to the camera and, using an accompanying writing surface such as a whiteboard, paper pad, or tablet, presents the material being covered. The production values need not be broadcast quality in order to be effective. Increasingly, forward looking faculty see this as a simple and effective way for them to create supplementary material, even in cases where there is no formal online component to their class.

This trend suggests the need to create spaces hospitable to personal video capture. While faculty offices could be sufficient, slightly better recording facilities should be considered. These spaces might be thought of as mini video rooms--small spaces with good lighting, acoustics, and perhaps even a green screen where short video segments could be recorded. These rooms need not be necessarily dedicated to this purpose. A departmental conference room could easily be appropriately configured.

4) Minimal but adequate video postproduction skills will become increasingly necessary.
Each institution will need to establish standards for the quality of the videos created by its faculty. Indeed, production quality of online material may become yet another measure of how academic institutions are differentiated. As a result, faculty will need training and technical support for postproduction of recorded content to the expected base level of quality. Keep in mind that these are precisely the kind of skills many of today's media savvy students already have, and their skills could be inexpensively acquired as paid interns.

Additionally, most vendors of lecture capture systems have already recognized the need for both personal capture and postproduction capabilities, and have begun to offer add on product modules to accomplish this.

5) Curriculum development and faculty training will be required to create effective online material.
Academic institutions everywhere are working hard to understand how to evolve their pedagogy and curriculum to facilitate active learning methods and present information online. This by itself is a huge task. However, as this teaching and learning evolution takes place, faculty will need help in re-engineering their courses, as well as developing the skills necessary to communicate and engage students more effectively. While it may be true that the camera is unforgiving to a mediocre presentation, increasingly, so are students. More faculty development efforts must be made.

Extra Credit

The evolution of video recording classroom lectures has been, until recently, moving at a snail's pace. Below, Michael David Leiboff details the evolution of lecture capture.

Early Days
In the early days of television, public broadcasting stations would distribute live classroom presentations to students watching at home. The production values were high, though the presentation fairly simplistic. When VHS tape-based recording became available, an increasing number of classroom recordings were made. These "home video" vintage recordings were largely of low visual and audio quality. Ironically, while the number of classes that were recorded increased, the number of viewings of recordings dropped on a percentage basis, owing largely to the inconvenience of gaining access to the necessary viewing facilities.

With the advent of personal computing and digital transmission, access to the material became easier. However, in the 1980s and 90s, only some of the elements of a robust video delivery system were in place. The first so-called "user friendly" video capture solutions began to appear around 1991, though they were cumbersome to operate and required a fair amount of technically trained support personnel.

The stumbling blocks toward widespread adoption to lecture capture were twofold: solutions would only succeed if virtually no alteration of the faculty's classroom routine was required and the recordings needed to be available and easily accessible within hours, not days.

Computer-Based Appliances
Eventually, products in the form of computer-based video capture appliances came to market. These solutions were effective in combining high quality images of the presenter alongside PowerPoint images that were used as visual aids to support the lecture. These appliances could compress the video recording data to a compact form that could be delivered via networked computers and, later, over the Internet. With the availability of these devices, the first hurdle toward successful integration of recorded video into an effective academic tool had been overcome. As a result, after 2007, on-demand reordered lectures have become more commonplace, and in some instances serve alongside textbooks as a portable content delivery system.

Today, lecture capture is a hot topic, owing in part to the explosion of massively open online courses (MOOCs), which have captured the imagination of college and university faculty and administrators, politicians, and students looking for alternatives to paying exorbitant tuitions and the opportunity to take classes on demand.

Tomorrow's Lecture Capture
The future of lecture capture will bring dramatic improvements in two key areas. First, the automated creation of searchable metadata will benefit from developments in voice and optical character recognition. Comments made by the presenter, together with words from visual support materials, will be recognized and time stamped, allowing very accurate targeting and access of precise moments in the lecture. Second, benefiting from the trend toward students bringing their own devices (BYOD), lectures will be available anytime and anywhere via tablets and smartphones.

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