21st Century Classroom

7 Best Practices for Deploying Lecture Capture Campuswide

Technology leaders from universities with large lecture capture implementations share their advice for rolling out the technology at scale.

Today's students increasingly expect ubiquitous lecture capture so they can review lectures to improve their understanding of the material or catch up on a class they missed. "Lecture capture in general is becoming very quickly an expectation of students," said Chris Edwards, assistant vice president at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.

To meet this demand, colleges and universities are scaling up their lecture capture deployments to more classrooms and providing faculty the option of recording lectures outside of the classroom. "We are seeing an uptick in both use of lecture capture, need for lecture capture, and also video content creation by faculty outside the lecture hall," said John Harford, manager of Collaboration Technology and Digital Education at Yale University.

Campus Technology spoke with administrators and technology leadership at numerous universities with large-scale lecture capture implementations to identify best practices for campuswide deployments.

1) Automate the Recording Process to Make It Effortless

The University of Massachusetts Lowell has an opt-in policy for lecture capture. Faculty log in to a website and select which of their courses they want to record. The Department of Instructional Technology then schedules the lecture capture appliance to record the lectures for that course automatically, and creates a link in Blackboard or on a website where students can go to retrieve the lectures for viewing. "Faculty don't have to remember to hit the play button; they don't have to do any post publishing after the fact; and it just makes it much easier for a larger scale deployment," said Mike Lucas, senior director of Instructional Technology at UMass Lowell.

The university uses Echo360 lecture capture appliances and some Sonic Foundry Mediasite appliances. While lecture capture appliances are "not cheap," according to Lucas, they reduce the complexity for faculty and staff. "We're weighing it against going into a room to fix a computer issue because of drivers not working and it's not seeing a camera and it's not seeing a document camera," said Lucas. "With the appliance, it basically runs 24/7, and for the most part it's pretty rock solid."

The University of California, San Francisco uses Sonic Foundry Mediasite appliances with CollegeNET 25Live scheduling software to automate the lecture capture process. "For us the best practice is to not have the instructor physically involved in the process," said John DeAngelo, assistant vice chancellor for educational technology services at the university.

2) Focus on Implementation in Large-Capacity Classrooms

Campuses with large-scale deployments generally focus on lecture halls first and gradually expand to smaller classrooms. For those that have a mix of appliance-based and software-based systems, they tend to place the appliances in the large lecture halls, where they can get a bigger bang for their buck, and use the lower-cost lecture capture software in smaller rooms.

"You have to think about which rooms are really good candidates for lecture capture, and those are typically middle and large classrooms. We focused our efforts on the classrooms that are what we consider the large gateway classrooms," said Edwards. At the University of Cincinnati, those are classes such as chemistry, physics and calculus, which typically take place in lecture halls, have large enrollments and tend to have a higher DFW (drop, fail, withdrawal) rate. "If students don't make their way through these particular courses then it could result in a change in their career direction," said Edwards. "We saw Echo360 as part of a holistic strategy to address DFW rates, so that's where we targeted."

According to Lucas, installing lecture capture appliances and high-definition cameras in the large lecture halls at UMass Lowell has helped reduce DFWs in high-enrollment classes such as Calculus 1. "We have had very good luck as far as student success and student satisfaction," he said. "[Students'] ability to go back and look at the Calculus 1 lectures has helped us out with reducing the DFWs."

3) Establish Relationships with Leadership and Early Adopters

Rather than trying to work directly with faculty to promote adoption, Lucas began by developing relationships with department chairs in a few key departments and asking to present the technology at departmental meetings. Those meetings led to faculty members in the nursing, engineering and biology departments trying it out. Once he had some data from those initial deployments, Lucas approached the deans of the various colleges in an effort to scale the deployment up to the enterprise level. "All of the deans were basically on board already because they had seen the numbers; they had talked to their faculty; and this was something that they thought was going to help the students," said Lucas. "So we went from six to 60 in the course of one summer."

The University of Cincinnati began its implementation by identifying the colleges, IT professionals, instructional design professionals and faculty members who had "that innovator, early adopter mindset," said Edwards. "Just because you can raise your hand doesn't make you an early adopter. There are some very specific characteristics: the willingness to work through the early bumps and bruises that often accompany an implementation early on, being willing to provide feedback, to participate in assessment plans, to share your experiences with the larger university community." The success of the pilot project with those early adopters eased the adoption of lecture capture technology by other faculty members.

4) Ensure High-Quality Audio Recording

Good-quality audio recording is the most critical component of lecture capture, according to both Lucas and DeAngelo. Lucas ranks the presentation materials as the second most important component of the lecture capture, with video of the instructors themselves coming last.

"Audio is the critical lynchpin in capture," said DeAngelo. "You might be able to get by if you don't see the instructor, of if they step outside the viewing angle of the camera, but if you can't hear them, the capture is wasted. It's critical that they pay attention to audio."

5) Offer Flexibility for Instructors to Record Lectures Anywhere/Anytime

For faculty who are interested in creating flipped classrooms or implementing an active learning approach, Harford recommends providing faculty with the ability to record lectures however they want. "I want them to be able to either use the capture system or to use their own method of capture and just upload it to the capture system," he said. That way, faculty can record lectures from the comfort of their office, home or somewhere else.

The University of Cincinnati allows faculty to record their lectures anywhere on campus using Echo360's personal capture platform for recording, "which allows staff members to do lecture capture ad hoc or on their laptop in any room on campus," said Edwards.

6) Ensure Adequate Storage and Processing on Servers

Captured lectures typically include about an hour's worth of two video streams — one of the instructor and one of the presentation materials — resulting in large video files, which require a significant amount of storage space. Each lecture capture also has to be processed before students can view it, which requires a significant amount of processing power.

"We were burning through about a terabyte of content every 4 weeks, so we had to realize that what have for servers when we started this out is not going to cut it once we deploy it to 50 percent of the classrooms on campus," said Lucas. UMass Lowell had to scale up its storage and processing to meet the demand.

If he was starting the process today, Lucas said he would go to a cloud-based environment. "We did not have that option when we began this, but if I was to begin it now, I would go to the cloud," he said. "And we're migrating to the cloud also. We have an investment in the data center, but we want to get out of the data center business like every other university."

UCSF tries to limit the number of recordings to conserve storage space. "We try to get people to only record those things that they absolutely need to record," said DeAngelo. "After three or four years, we'll go back and review based on usage patterns and ask persons to either delete them or to move them to another server, their own server for example. But storage does become an issue after multiple years of recording."

7) Engage with Other Colleges and Universities

As with any major technology implementation, it's important to partner and communicate with peers at other colleges and universities to find out about their successes and challenges. "We've been communicating with other schools that are in a similar situation as ours, and then schools that aren't," said Harford. "How do they get through the hoops of various departments and shared spaces and non-shared spaces and funding? What's their approach? Is it more centralized, or is it more dispersed? I don't have the answers to that, but I'm always reaching out to the community to find out what others are doing."

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