Queen’s News Centre: Videotaped lectures get high marks (19 July 2010)

As posted in Queen’s News Centre, 19 July 2010:

Students and professors involved in testing classroom technology that video-captured and posted lectures to a shared website report the pilot project was a success.

Jonathan Rose (Political Studies) and Wayne Snedden and Dan Lefebvre (Biology) used the system in their large first-year courses as a supplement to their live lectures, and for one section of Biology 102, as part of a hybrid design that replaced the in-class lecture.

The system was installed in Queen’s largest lecture theatre, Biosciences 1101, and includes cameras that track the professor’s movements and integrate any slides, audio or video that is shown to students.

One of Dr. Rose’s two weekly 300-student POLS 110 lectures was captured, as were two 450-student sections of BIO 102, taught by Professors Snedden and Lefebvre. All students then had web access to the lectures, as did the students of a third and smaller BIO 102 section who didn’t attend class.

End-of-term student surveys and faculty feedback suggest having the lectures available on the web is a valuable teaching tool. More than 83% of students who used the video as a supplement rated it as extremely useful or useful. When commenting on what they liked best about the courses, almost half the students endorsed the videos. Hits to the website show the lectures were well viewed (especially in the days and hours prior to exams!) Average marks in all of the classes didn’t change.

“The most significant positive aspect is that the students said they listened and participated more in class and worried less about missing something,” says Andy Leger, Educational Developer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, who spearheaded the project. “That alone makes this worth doing.”

Dr. Rose was pleasantly surprised there was no noticeable drop in attendance.

“They were keen and receptive to new ways of learning from a lecture,” he says. “It changed the behaviour of students in a large class. Instead of furiously writing down everything that was said, they had the opportunity to listen, absorb and take fewer notes. The video-capture became a safety net for them. It was a great result.”

He plans to use the technology again.

“There is virtually no downside,” says Dr. Rose. “The reality is some students learn better when they are studying the slide material and seeing and hearing a person speaking. The video-capture also recognizes students have varying times of day when they learn best. A Monday 8:30 a.m. lecture may not always be the best time.”

81% of the survey respondents in the section of BIO 102 that only accessed pre-recorded lectures said it was a “great” or “useful” way to learn the material. The top benefits were the flexibility of watching on demand on their computers, being able to start, stop and fast-forward the lecture and being able to watch the lecture repeatedly. These students also had tutorials with TAs, study groups and regular “Prof Q and A” sessions.

They said the disadvantages of not being in class were the ability to procrastinate and not always being able to see what the professor was doing or pointing at, or hear questions from students in class or any discussion.

“It took me a couple of lectures to start repeating questions I got in class,” says Dr. Snedden. “But I’m pretty positive on the technology. It’s just another resource for students with practically no impact on the instructor.”

The system is also going to be used this coming year in Geography and Applied Science and a second system is being installed in Walter Light 205.

“From my perspective, there will never be no live component to a course with how we are proposing to use this technology,” says Dr. Leger. “We are just exploring complementary ways of offering course content to students to help them learn.”

Adds Dr. Snedden: “In terms of potential uses, I could imagine recording a mock lecture or taping a quick 20-minute elaboration of a concept or a case study that I could tell the students to watch. It’s a powerful tool.”

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