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The face of 21st century education | Part 2

26 Sep

There is ongoing debate about whether institutions should record lectures and often this brings into question attendance rates. Technology is not the enemy of student attendance. It can be used to enhance lectures, create extra academic resources, and increase flexibility for students with competing priorities.

Online lectures

Remember morning lectures? You studied late and you’re barely awake. It takes you an hour to get to campus each morning and you haven’t had time to eat. This professor is hard to follow and in the morning rush, you forgot your notepad. How’s your concentration?

Now imagine you’re watching the lecture you missed on your laptop while eating breakfast. A little confused by the last statement your professor made, you rewind and listen again. She begins speaking about something you know well, you forward that part. Before writing a few insightful notes, you pause the recording.

Online lectures can be produced in a variety of formats, such as screencasts, podcasts and live recordings of

in-class lectures.

The online lecture doesn’t need to replace the in-person experience for on-campus students. It can act as an extra resource for revision and students are able to listen when in class, rather than franticly take notes.

Technology allows not only for recording lectures, but for live-streaming and online lessons. There are universities that offer fully online lab courses where students join lectures, take part in online activities, and conduct lab work online or with pre-packaged wet lab kits.

The best of both worlds

Many students will miss lectures occasionally due to academic or personal conflicts and it’s not uncommon for two lectures to be held at the same time. Allowing for these situations by posting lectures online shows students their learning is more important than bums in seats.

Studies on the introduction of recorded lectures the effect on student attendance are inconclusive. SFU Geography student, Paul Hillsdon says it best, “When a professor’s lectures are nothing more than an oral repetition of the textbook, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be replaced by an online class”. Why wouldn’t students skip the lecture and watch it later if there is no added benefit to being there in person?

Leading factors in deciding whether to attend include the professor’s clarity, ability to hold students’ attention, and impending assessment deadlines for other courses.

To force attendance, professors can hold pop quizzes and count attendance as assessment.

To earn attendance, professors can show examples, give demonstrations, clearly communicate ideas, and hold discussions.

Most importantly, professors should ask their students for feedback and constantly look for ways to improve.

“There’s no interactivity in an online lecture,” I hear you say. Many traditional lectures leave out interaction altogether. I experienced no interactivity in any of my lectures throughout my entire undergrad degree. However, I’ve had some instructors during my master’s who have encourage interactivity with supplemental activities and online discussions.

You’re doing it wrong

I’m studying an online master’s degree and one of my instructors for last semester used Echo360’s EchoSystem. With lecture capture technology, my instructor recorded her laptop screen and voice as she delivered her lecture to the on-campus students, then uploaded it for the online students. I never once felt separated from the learning experience others received.

My instructor for this semester uploads incredibly dull, static, PowerPoint slides, with very little elaboration in the notes section. He refuses to record his on-campus lectures, saying, “Everyone has a different style of teaching.” This instructor is not concerned with becoming a better educator or improving the learning outcomes of his students. His course is “student-centered” in the way that all of his online students are self-taught.

Today’s students expect a higher level of technological integration in their courses and many universities are embracing innovative teaching tools. Uploading PowerPoint slides is not effective, especially when those slides require verbal explanation.

Success stories are everywhere

Monash University uses EchoSystem to record lectures, which are available for the entire semester through download, rich media streaming, and m4v and mp3 files. Many universities and colleges around the world use this system.

Following the success of the 2004–2005 Duke iPod First-Year Experience, Duke University developed

DukeCapture, an automated lecture recording solution. The system involves a simple process – once the instructor turns off the microphone the audio and video files are automatically compressed and uploaded to the server. The instructor is sent an email with a link to the files, which is shared on the course site for students. Instructors can also choose to make the lecture accessible as a download or streaming file.

Get with the program

Discussion around online lectures and supplemental course content is at a point where we can focus on how to effectively use the technology and not whether to implement it. As with any teaching method, careful planning is needed and the technology must be appropriate for the learning objectives of specific programs. We should not ignore the added value to both the learning and classroom experience, and challenge educators to step outside of their comfort zone.

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