PiLC 2

I’ve come to the end of the recording phase of the PiLC lecture capture project, and will move next semester into gathering and analysing the research data, most of it coming from the students.

The recordings work out as follows:

  • Chemistry (1st year u/g): 5 lectures @ 1 hour each
  • Media and Communications (Masters module): 6 lectures @ 2 hours each

All lectures were captured with Adobe Connect and simple audio (mp3). In addition, the final session in both were also captured with OpenEYA.

As I said in my earlier post, OpenEYA seemed to have a glitch with the microphone. I kept in touch with the Science Dissemination Team at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics – they developed the software – and we established it was a clash with the latest version of Linux’s Ubuntu (v. 11.10).

They managed to release an updated version of OpenEYA several weeks ago, and I was able to trial it for the last two lectures. It worked brilliantly.

All I used was a very old notebook running Ubuntu, two HD webcams, and a Samson CO3U microphone. Ubuntu was very stable, and the processing of an hour of recording caused no problems.

What I hadn’t realised was that, once OpenEYA has compiled the final zip archive containing all the audio and video files, the whole thing can then be uploaded to Blackboard and unpackaged in the same way as an Adobe Presenter or Captivate archive, as it’s also Flash. And the end result in terms of user experience is excellent.

For me, three things spring to mind at this stage of the project.

First, if I were looking to introduce campus-wide lecture capture from scratch, I would give the Linux/OpenEYA option very serious consideration.

Second, lecture capture is about compromise, as you can’t anticipate differing lecture styles. My colleague in Chemistry doesn’t stay still for more  than a few seconds, so having a camera on him is pointless.

Third, and moving on from this, I feel that complicated capture is probably unnecessary. In most cases, an mp3 recording to accompany the PowerPoint slides uploaded to the VLE will be enough.

However, this final assumption and others will be investigated when we return after the break.

Simon Kear

Senior Learning Technologist

PiLC 1

With my colleague Denise Sweeney of the Academic Practice Unit here at Leicester, I was recently awarded a small sum of money to run an internal project called Pilot  in Lecture Capture (PiLC).

My interest in this area comes directly from my membership of the ViTAL SIG  and the excellent one-day conference on lecture capture (LC) organised by ALT in June 2011. Returning inspired, I was surprised to find there were no facilities for LC here at Leicester. Talking with colleagues in AV, it was clear there was a need for more institutional information about this simple use of technology.

PiLC looks at two LC technologies: Adobe Connect (the 2007 version) and OpenEYA. Leicester has a Connect server, although this technology is greatly underutilised on campus. OpenEYA is an open source LC platform developed for the International Centre for Theoretical Physics that runs on Linux.

Screenshot of captured Connect lecture

Connect allows you to record a full screen capture (i.e. whatever is happening on the lecture theatre PC) and webcam (if used). It’s simple and stable, and the link to the recording can be added to a Blackboard course site.

Screenshot of captured OpenEYA lecture

OpenEYA can also do screen capture, but its real strength lies in being able to direct a webcam onto a traditional blackboard (which physicists love), taking a snapshot (jpg) every few seconds and then using the Java-driven zoom applet to focus on specific parts of the image.

This recording shows the LC strengths of OpenEYA (it works best in Internet Explorer).  Move along a few minutes and try the zoom – it’s amazing.

Two academics kindly agreed to take part in PiLC, but I could’ve have recruited many more, such is the interest in LC. I have started capturing 5 postgraduate lectures in Media and Communication (40 students) and 5 undergraduate lectures in Chemistry (100 students).

Thus far, I have used only Connect as OpenEYA on my laptop seems to have a glitch with the external mic. The developers are working with me to resolve this. One avenue might be that the software needs upgrading to work with the new version of the Linux OS, Ubuntu 11.10. (If anyone else has encountered this problem, please get in touch.)

As I’m already in the theatre recording through Connect, I also capture the audio on a small digital voice recorder, which I then edit and upload to Blackboard as an independent podcast. Simple audio recording is the easiest LC technology, and important for any institution like ours considering an iTunes U presence. (Please see the comprehensive work of my colleague Terese Bird on this topic.)

The second part of PiLC will happen in semester 2. This involves using focus groups, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews to ask the students what they thought of the captured lectures, how they used them, and so on. The two lecturers will also be interviewed about how LC affected their courses (better marks, lower attendance levels, etc.). Denise will take the lead in this part of the project.

So why lecture capture in the first place? Well, my reasoning – which is far from original – is that anything that benefits the student learning experience is important for a university, especially in the new HE world of very high fees. And if that university continues to use the traditional lecture as the mainstay of its teaching programme, how can it justify NOT making those lectures available throughout the length of a student’s course. Once the lecturer has finished and left the theatre, that learning resource leaves with her.

The technology is simple and not a barrier, although clearly other barriers exist (e.g. cost). I’ve seen no evidence that attendance levels at lectures will fall.

Simon Kear

Senior Learning Technologist

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