According to Lee Witters, Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry, and Biological Sciences, “the life of a professor is the life of a teacher, and that teaching responsibility doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom.” Witters teaches introductory biology to some 200 students who range in experience from first-years to seniors, from students with 8th grade biology to biology majors. To help a group of diverse learners master a large body of facts, Witters captures his course lectures and posts them online.
Witters experimented with different lecture capture methods, ultimately settling on audio capture using an iPod with a microphone attachment. During lecture he places the iPod in his shirt pocket or on the lecture podium for recording, and after class downloads the file to his computer using iTunes. He posts each lecture on Blackboard, and also publishes a course podcast.
While course capture clearly benefits students who miss class, Witters has found that all students gain from access to the recordings, particularly when it comes time for review. Students can replay portions of a lecture until they “get” the materials. And students use the lecture recordings as a supplement to slides and lecture notes when studying for exams. Overall, the recordings have been “uniformly well-received.”
During class, Witters finds that students “lift their heads” from notetaking and take a more active part in class. And while he has not observed a change in attendance, Witters is generally “more interested in students learning the materials than actually appearing physically in front of me.” Lecture capture allows students who missed class to have access to the materials covered during lecture. “I’m a great believer in putting materials in the hands of students.”
Lee Witters, MD, is the Eugene W. Leonard 1921 Professor of Medicine & Biochemistry at Dartmouth Medical School and Professor of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College
About Lecture Capture
Audio recording is the easiest form of lecture capture. Using Apple’s iPod with a microphone attachment, you simply press record and stop, and then download the file using the familiar iTunes interface. There are other handheld voice recorders, including some that work with speech recognition software to generate text transcripts. It is also possible to record audio directly to a computer using a microphone and audio capture software.
While easy to create and listen to in their entirety, audio recordings are not ideal for a selective review of specific lecture materials. Recordings are linear, making it difficult to locate a segment on a particular topic. The addition of synchronized lecture slides allows viewers to easily locate and move to specific topics. With this type of lecture capture, audio is recorded from a microphone directly to the computer, while at the same time software captures what is displayed on screen. We are currently exploring options for embedding this technology into smart classrooms.
Video can also be used for lecture capture, although video recording generally requires a camera operator.
Lecture recordings are helpful only when used, and it is important to provide recordings in a format that works for students. For many students, this means files that can be downloaded and accessed on an iPod. A web page or Blackboard can be used to provide downloads, but one of the more convenient methods for accessing course lectures is via podcast. Not only do podcasts play nicely with iPods, but students can subscribe to receive automatic downloads every time a new lecture recording is available. And podcasts are easy to create. In fact, the new version of Blackboard, available summer term, sports a new tool for creating podcasts.