Lecture capture for teachers

June 16, 2015 at 10:20 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The University of Southampton has invested in Panopto, an institutional lecture capture system that is hosted on a cluster of high-performance servers and integrated with our media servers. This level of investment is clearly unrealistic for schools and colleges, but there are all kinds of low-cost alternatives.

Lecture capture services
If a college intends to make widespread and frequent use of lecture capture, then systems like Panopto are available as hosted services – so there is no need to buy or manage any servers. A key issue to consider will be the upload bandwidth of the college’s internet connection, which must have the capacity to handle the video data being sent to the service. On the other hand, when learners access those lectures from outside the college, it will not use any of its bandwidth.

Video hosting
This issue of where the recorded lectures are hosted is a key consideration. Although they could be hosted on the college’s web servers this is not ideal as they are not designed to deliver lots of streaming video content, and the college’s internet connection will also probably be a bottleneck. It makes much more sense to host the videos using a commercial service such as YouTube or Vimeo, and many of the alternative below can publish videos directly to YouTube. The videos can be published as ‘private’, so that only people who know the URL can access them, but teachers should always be aware that social media means that any video is potentially public!

If a computer presentation (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi etc.) is central to the lecture, then a simple option is to record the PC screen and the teacher’s voice. The software needs to be installed on the PC and this often means using your laptop rather than the PC installed in the teaching room. Costs range from zero for the free open-source CamStudio to around £120 for an educational licence for Camtasia Studio.  Alternatively, there are low-cost online screen recorders such as Screencast-O-Matic that can be used on any computer. Google screen cam software to see similar software and services.

Good audio quality is essential, and the microphones built into laptops may not be adequate. A USB boundary mic will allow you to move around the classroom but will also pick up audience and environment noise. Wired tie-clip mics on long leads (4m) are cheap and work reasonably well. In your office or at home, a USB headset (£25) works really well.

Screencam software will also enable you to record the image from a webcam – as an alternative to the screen, as a picture-in-picture, or switching between the screen/webcam in the editor, depending on the capabilities of the software. You will of course have to position the webcam and ensure the lighting is good. Some webcams have really good microphones and can be used instead of a boundary mic, even if you choose not to record the video.

Flipped learning
It is probably more educationally effective for you to record short (up to 10 minute) videos that target specific learning outcomes and use these as self-study resources to support your face-to-face teaching activities. These recordings can be made at your desk, or more likely at home where it is quieter and you won’t be interrupted. You may want to script what you say to ensure you can record in one take (after a couple of practice run-throughs) and minimise any editing required. [More on flipped learning]

Both iPads and Android tablets have a wealth of apps that can be used to make educational videos, such as Explain Everything. [More alternatives]. These are best suited to recording videos for flipped learning rather than capturing live lectures. Alternatively, you can attach the tablet to a tripod and use it like a video camera if all you need to record is the teacher rather than a presentation.


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