Bringing Hollywood to the Lecture Theatre

At the start of 2012, I began filming my first year biomechanics lectures. I didn’t really have a specific purpose for this. Instead, there were a few “loose” reasons:
– to provide the video to the students after so that they could recap in more detail
– to self-observe myself to allow me to reflect on my lecturing style
– to build a repository of lectures with the potential of going lecture free in the future

The main reason was “just because”…it was new; I didn’t know any other staff doing it, and I wanted to know what I could get out of it. If it completely failed and nothing was gained from it, this wouldn’t matter because it wasn’t causing a disruption to the lectures at the time.

Take one – screen capture

In that first year module, I opted to screen capture the lectures. There are many applications to allow you to do this, some cost, and some are free. I opted for using QuickTime’s screen capture capabilities for the main reason that it was already in my laptop. This would allow me to connect my laptop to the projector as a second screen, and record that second screen. The presenter view that is available in PowerPoint on the laptop was then still available to me.
For recording the sound, I tried two different approaches. There was no way I was going to stand by the laptop and use the laptop’s mic; I like to walk around in my lectures, so that wasn’t a possibility. First I used my iPhone with its voice recorder. I’d plug my hands free unit into the iPhone and just have the mic hang around my neck. This was good. It was simple and it worked. Although, because I had to record the audio separately, I would then combine the audio and video files together in iMovie afterwards. This was quite time consuming, with loading, processing, and exporting taking up to 2 hours in total for an hours lecture. Not ideal.
Our E-learning department then shared with me their roaming mic which I could plug into my laptop. This allowed me to record the screen and the audio using QuickTime, in one file. This was great, until in the second week of using this approach I had audio cut out and lost the audio file. Fortunately at that time, one of my students was recording the audio, so I got her copy of the audio file.
In the end, I stuck with the screen capture and the iPhone’s voice memo app. I liked the sound quality from this, and especially liked how it didn’t pick up any other noise, even when students were asking questions. So clarity was OK.
There were so many positives that were gained from starting this initiative last year. From the first lecture, I was conscious that I was recording, and consequently was focused on talking clearly and concisely. This improved my presentation style when transferring information (although this doesn’t mean students were “learning”). I was able to get the video up online for the students within 24 hours, and the feedback was great and immediate. Students liked being able to go back and watch the lecture again. They were not having to write in depth notes during the lecture, and so could sit back and listen, allowing them to maintain focus and keep up with the information. Upon watching my own lectures back, I learned so much about myself as a presenter; HOW I was presenting information, the “story” I was using, and the speed at which I was presenting information.
Despite all these positives, I wasn’t happy with the above approach. By using the QuickTime screen capture I was limited to recording at 2.2 frames per second. For text on the slides this was fine, but when playing back videos the quality was awful. Additionally, processing power of my laptop was being taken up when recording the screen, reducing the quality of playback of videos within the lecture. I like using videos, so the above wasn’t ideal.

Take two – getting on camera

After the Summer break, I decided to record my second year lectures using a camcorder, with the audio still being recorded using the iPhone voice memo app. This was immediately better. I was able to record in high definition, and also have myself on the video. So when I was demonstrating a movement, this would be seen in playback also.recording lecture
This was immediately better. HOWEVER, it provided a big video file; approx 4GB for a one hour lecture. This resulted in processing taking even longer on my laptop using iMovie; about 8 hours in total!!! Coincidentally (I don’t believe in fate), at the same time, there was a university email stating that we had a site licence for Adobe Premiere Pro. For those of you who don’t know what this it, it’s amazing!!! Is quite expensive, a little under £1000 for single licence, but the power of it, and simplicity of use, is far above iMovie. After learning how to use this, and finding the shortcuts I needed, I was able to get the processing of a lecture down to 15-20 mins, with exporting taking about 45-60 mins for an hour long lecture.

Self-observation and reflection

I try to watch all of my lectures back. Even if I just skim through them. I’ve found I learn so much about myself as a presenter. Specifically, mannerisms that I use, body movements and behaviours. Some of which are distracting (I immediately focus on stopping them), and some of them are beneficial to the presentation (I think?!!?). One of the most surprising things was I found myself mesmerised on one of my lectures. I ended up watching it all, and learning new things…which was a little weird.
If you haven’t tried recording your lectures, do so. Even if you don’t give the video to the students (although this would be a stupid thing), it is such an eye-opener for self-observation and reflection.

3 responses to “Bringing Hollywood to the Lecture Theatre

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