Lecture capture helps Plett reach students

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of occasional features provided by the UCCS Teaching and Learning Center to encourage faculty to share ideas about teaching strategies that engage students and enhance learning. Faculty members are encouraged to share their ideas by contacting the TLC at 255-4872 or tlc@uccs.edu. Free coffee vouchers are available to get the discussion started.

Q – Tell me about yourself.  Name, Department, Years at UCCS

A – Gregory Plett, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, at UCCS for nearly thirteen years.

Q – What is your teaching philosophy?

A – I desire to provide balanced teaching to address distinctions in how different students perceive (how they take things in: for example, via sensing/feeling versus via thinking abstractly) and process (how they make new ideas part of themselves: for example, via watching versus via doing). All learning types are addressed if the instructor is able to answer four questions: why? what? how? and what if?

The why? learner requires an instructor who is a motivator; the what? learner requires the instructor to be an organized expert; the how? learner requires a coach; and the what if? learner requires an adviser. The why? question is answered by case studies and motivational examples; the what? question is answered by formal lectures and demonstrations; the how? question is addressed by homework problems and guided laboratory exercises; and the what if? question is addressed by open-ended problems and course projects. I attempt to mix these four elements into every course I teach, and as much as possible, into each major section of every course.

Q – What is lecture capture, and how does it fit into this overall teaching philosophy?

A – Lecture capture (or lecture recording) is recording and post-processing of a lecture or presentation for later viewing. It addresses a number of issues, one being that the average professor speaks about 120 words per minute, and the average student is able to write only about 20 words per minute. A lot of explanation can get lost, and I find this to be especially critical in the highly technical courses I tend to teach.

Professor Mark Wickert and I pioneered lecture capture capability in the ECE Department starting in 2007.  We have similar lecturing styles: we both prepare and make available fully typeset point-form lecture materials to the students prior to class. The notes include examples, derivations, figures, and program code for the students to try at a later date. These materials alleviate, to a large extent, the need for a student to spend all their attention scribbling notes of their own. They can spend the lecture time understanding the major concepts and writing down some individualized comments to themselves that help them to understand the concepts better. But, sometimes an especially complex issue requires a great deal of thought to work through — more than the few minutes spent in lecture can realistically be expected to allow. Lecture capture enables students to replay portions of the lecture that they may have struggled to understand in class, and many report that this capability is very valuable to them. Lecture capture, as I use it at this point, really addresses the why? and what? learner the best.

I’ve found that lecture capture also has a very important side benefit. It enables asynchronous and remote delivery of content. This is very valuable for a small department like ours that desires to offer comprehensive graduate programs with rich specialty depth areas. We don’t have the faculty resources that we need to be able to teach on a regular basis all the courses that really should be included in a focus area.  With lecture capture, I have to teach the class live only once. It is then archived on DVD and students are able to enroll in the course asynchronously from the normal schedule of classes by viewing the pre-recorded lectures and completing the required coursework and examinations. This way, for example, Scott Trimboli and I are able to offer eight graduate-level courses in control systems. We’re hoping to grow this offering to ten courses within the next few years, which is more than many big universities are able to offer.

A third benefit, which is very important for our demographic, is that lecture capture accommodates the working student who needs to travel from time-to-time for his or her job. It’s no longer a catastrophe when the employer requires business travel that wasn’t anticipated when the student signed up to take the course.  The student simply downloads the missed lecture and listens to it at his or her leisure, perhaps even on an iPod on the airplane. We’ve been able to retain a number of students who otherwise would have been forced to drop a course.

Q – Did students miss class knowing that they could listen to your lecture online? If so, how did you respond?

A – I have found that this really depends on the level of the student. Graduate students understand the value of attending class, being able to ask questions in real time, and having a connection with the instructor.  Many freshman students haven’t figured this out yet. They think that they will listen to the lecture at a later date but they rarely follow through, and when they do follow through, they don’t have the immediate opportunity to ask questions, and many are still too intimidated by faculty to show up to office hours to ask their questions.

I learned very quickly not to post lectures of my freshman classes. I make them available only to students who request them specifically, if there is good reason to allow it. I have found my sophomore students to be much more mature and generally post the lectures for those courses online.

Q – How did the students respond?

A – There’s really no downside to lecture capture from the student perspective. If they don’t need it, they don’t use it. It isn’t required. If they do need it, it’s available. I’ve only ever received positive comments.

I haven’t conducted a before/after study on whether lecture capture facilitates student learning (and probably don’t have a large enough sample size to get statistically meaningful results), but anecdotal evidence is that it really can help. And, I’ve been able to conduct seven asynchronous course offerings since I started recording lectures in 2007, which represent opportunities that the students would not otherwise have had to study those particular subject areas. My opinion is that lecture capture is a big win for the students.

Q – What do you want to do next?

A – I love creating and working through how to explain things so I’m always thinking of new courses that I would like to offer (I’ve developed and taught more than one distinct course per year, on average, since coming to UCCS). Some of the courses that I would like to teach are in my research specialty area. This would enable bringing new graduate students up to speed very efficiently so that they could quickly start contributing to research project goals without the need for vast amounts of time spent in individual tutoring. However, it is unlikely that we could find the enrollment in our own college to justify offering such a course live even once. So, I’m thinking about trying to find a larger partner university to team with to offer some of these courses together. Bob Kressin in the ECE Department has had very good success pioneering the Cisco TelePresence system for live class meetings to deliver a for-credit freshman robotics course jointly held for students at UCCS and at Otero Junior College. I’d like to try that out.

Visit his online demo at: http://mocha-java.uccs.edu/lectureCapture.html

— Sharon Stevens, Teaching and Learning Center

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