Lecture capture: Opting (out) to enhance student experience and other Opencast Conference Highlights

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Why use lecture capture? What are the limitations? How do you do on the fly editing? This post looks at some of these issues, advice and novel solutions universities using the open source lecture capture system, Opencast shared at the annual Opencast Conference, at the University of Manchester, which I attended the first day of, last month.

Professor Richard Reece, Associate Vice President for Teaching, Learning and Students, discussed why lecture capture is important to the University of Manchester, which is typical of most institutions, i.e. as a revision aid, to support different learning styles, students with English as an additional language and students with educational differences. The recording of lectures is not a replacement for lectures.

Professor Reece did cite the difficulties with capturing the whiteboard, chalkboards and high levels of interactivity etc without being intrusive and issues around ethics and sensitive data, so not all teaching activities could be captured. He recognised this and wanted to ‘celebrate alternative teaching styles’.

The reason that Manchester investigated an institutional system like Opencast was that prior to lecture capture, some lecturers were recording lectures and finding ways of distributing recordings online or on physical media. After a successful 2011 pilot with 10 lecture theatres, the system was rolled out to most teaching spaces. Cameras are not installed in many rooms as the slides and audio were the important things for the students to use for revision. Initially a manual on/off button was installed for each room, however this was automated so minimal user intervention was needed. Some rooms have dual projection, where one screen is lecture capture, whilst the other is not.

A bold move by Professor Reece was to introduce an opt-out policy for lecture capture and this was passed via the Senate of the University. This was a ‘divisive policy’ according to Professor Reece, but only 26% of staff have opted out after initial objections from a small minority of staff. There is now also an academic steering group set up for lecture capture.

The University finds the system used heavily just before examinations with 1.2 million downloads of lecture captures over an average term. However with no digital rights management (DRM) on any files, students could be sharing the videos, so the statistics might be higher.

Using QR Codes for on the fly editing

Professor Reece and James Perrin (IT Services, University of Manchester) showcased the use QR Codes to do on the fly editing. This was achieved by making the word pause into a QR Code, which the Opencast system via a QR code reader would pause the recording when this QR Code appears on a slide, on a visualiser or is captured by the installed camera. The system scans all these video feedbacks continuously. When the QR code disappears, a second later the recording resumes. The system was developed in-house by the University.

The lecturer puts this pause QR Code on the first and last slide and on any slide in the middle for a break. This has many benefits of not recording any discussions before, during or after lectures and automatically edits the recording. This is used heavily by the staff. The team have also developed a QR code for mute and for cutting up recordings for small clips for revision.

Other interesting talks during the day included

For a full list of recordings from the conference, please see the Opencast Youtube List

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