Lecturing - stupidest profession?
ONE thing could revolutionise education. Force teachers, trainers, and especially lecturers, to record their efforts. Suppose that a movie was only shown once, your local newspaper read out once a day in the local square, a novelist reads his book only once to an invited audience. That’s live lectures for you. It’s that stupid. Put aside the hopeless nature of the lecture as a teaching method (I actually don’t see the need for live lectures at all), why don’t lecturers record their lectures?
What do they fear? Don’t they want their audiences to learn by being allowed to view it again and reflect? It basically shows a complete lack of professionalism and lack of awareness of the psychology of learning.
Good news is that I’ve seen a flurry of activity around recording of lectures. There’s lots of systems around and lots of debate around the best method. I’m simply in favour of anything, no matter how simple, on the principle that anything is better than nothing. Students are already using mobiles devices to record lectures – phones, iPODS and laptops.
Marco Zennaro, of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, showed me a superb system that videos the lecturer as well as taking stills of the blackboard every 15 seconds. It took some time for lecturers to accept the system but they now have 100% use. Students love it. The use of the recorded lectures is way beyond that of the live lecture in terms of learning time and they’ve distributed lectures worldwide.
The key is to keep costs low and automate as much as possible. With plummeting costs for cameras and computer controlled stills capture, this has become dirt cheap. A good system can be had for just a few hundred dollars. I like their EyeA system because it will capture, people, PowerPoint, chalkboard, overhead projection, slides, laser pointing – you name it, this will record it. A 150 Mb lecture plus stills can be zipped and an entire conference will fit on one DVD or put online. It’s that simple. These guys really practise what they preach as they are world leaders in distributing mathematics and physics to the developing world.
In a student survey of five Diploma courses, they had a 70% response. All but one (he hadn’t watched any of the recordings) found the system useful . The advantages noted by students were:
Original lecture went too fast
Revision for exams
Clarification of difficult handwriting
English was student’s second language
Recap after losing notes
Avoid writing notes (focus on lecture)
See lecture after missing it through illness
Relax when tired of reading
Students are watching 13 hours a week on average, completely revolutionising the traditional teaching and learning model. There’s also the possibility of monitoring and improving the quality of the lectures themselves.
So the advantages are mind numbingly obvious. You can stop, rewind and repeat. You can watch them at any time. You can watch them at any place. You can take notes second time round. You can stop and drill down on a point through research, then resume. You can move through the course at your own pace.
A note on distribution
A server is used to automatically store and distribute lectures, in ZIP files, but as worldwide demand has been so great they allow content to be set up on proxy servers and even sent hard discs by plane to places in Africa, where it’s cheaper to fly the data than download it.
DVD distribution has been very successful in the US. Colleges such as Aiken College record to DVD then allow the lectures to be checked out of the library. It’s not just that students want to see them again, at their own pace. Some students miss lectures through reasons such as illness. Others like to watch the lecture, then take notes, as it’s difficult to do both first time round.