Lecture Capture | Feature

Classroom Capture in One Easy Step

Cornwall-Lebanon School District in Lebanon, PA, had been using a media presentation capture system for three years before making the move into lecture capture in 2010. "We were using CourseCast district-wide for everything but lecture capture," said Jason Murray, technology coordinator for the district, referring to Panopto's media capture solution.

What Is Lecture Capture?
Lecture capture is a fairly vibrant topic in education right now, though mainly in colleges and universities at the moment. In K-12, adoption has been somewhat slower, but it's growing as teachers and education leaders have begun looking for solutions to help reinforce what students are being taught in the classroom. (An informal poll by THE Journal in November showed that half of K-12 schools are not equipped at all for lecture capture. Of the remainder of the respondents, more than half indicated that just 1 percent to 25 percent of their classrooms have some kind of lecture capture capability.)

Lecture capture typically involves recording video and audio and capturing computer presentations in a classroom or other learning environment; sometimes performing light editing (adding chapters or titles or other helpful elements); and encoding and uploading the finished media to a server that can be accessed by students. There are many variations on this, including audio-only captures and simple screen captures (to allow students to review PowerPoint presentations and other visual materials a teacher might have used during the day). Turnkey lecture capture systems, like CourseCast and many others, can automate a lot of the work--to the point where in some cases recording a classroom session is literally a one-step process: clicking the record button.

Some teachers are even recording their presentations in advance so that students can watch a lesson before class to be prepared to ask relevant questions during classroom review. (See our article on one such teacher in "The Backwards Class.")

Adapting the Technology
Before integrating lecture capture into the mix, Cornwall-Lebanon's administrators used the technology to create audio and video podcasts, which in turn were distributed to the staff. "We developed a lot of how-to videos for our staff with this system," said Murray. Among those videos is a weekly podcast called the "Tuesday Techcast," created to brief employees district-wide on technology-oriented news, tips, and trends of relevance to the schools.

A few months ago, Cornwall-Lebanon took its foray into media capture a step further by implementing lecture capture in every one of its K-12 classrooms. The delay between initial implementation and the lecture capture rollout was based on the fact that the district had yet to develop or offer online or "hybrid" courses.

"When we started venturing toward the distance learning space, we decided it was time to roll out lecture capture," Murray said. The district is currently working on its first batch of online course content, and will integrate those online courses with its Moodle open source course management system.

Using Lecture Capture with Students
Murray said the district has seen positive results and few challenges from its media capture rollout, even at the elementary school level. There, he said, pupils spend time in a technology-equipped student center where they read poems and short stories and act out skits. A simple press of the "record" button allows the students to capture their activities on the computer. Teachers can access the files at a later time to review the work, provide feedback, and create grades for it.

"We're talking about third and fourth graders doing all of this on their own; it's pretty neat," said Murray. The system also allows users to follow along with the recordings using a mouse and integrates with PowerPoint presentations. The latter comes in handy when, say, the district's superintendent needs to give a public address. "We've used the media capture software in a lot of different, unique ways."

Adoption Among Teachers
The system is automated and handles all of the encoding, screen capture, uploading and e-mailing of the final product. Because of this, Murray said, the IT team has dealt with "virtually no technical issues at all." Teachers usually don't need much convincing to begin using it in their own classrooms, said Murray, especially once they see one or two final products that were developed by other instructors.

"Once they see how easy it is to use, there's really no issue," Murray said. Students also like the program, but have yet to completely put down their own pencils and papers in favor of using it. "Where students used to write down poems or act out skits in class, they're now doing the same activity in front of the camera," he said.

Those activities take place in the schools' "hybrid classrooms" (or student centers), where teachers work with small groups of pupils, who use individual workstations to create their recordings. Teachers then view the final products themselves and share them with students, parents, teachers, and other interested parties. Murray said care is taken not to broadcast the videos "to the world" and added he doesn't know of any that have been pushed out to the public yet.

Before students can use the media capture system, their parents must sign a permission slip approving the activity. The district, which retains a list of parents who don't want their children in any pictures or videotapes, is also "careful about letting those students get too close to the videotaping activities," said Murray. "Most of the time, the audience for these videos is made up parents. It's not totally public, like a blog would be."

With a few years of experience with media capture under its belt, Cornwall-Lebanon will begin stepping up its use of lecture capture this year as it rolls out online class options for students. "That's our next big push," said Murray. The district has mobilized a committee to investigate viable options for that push and is looking to offer both pure online courses and "hybrid" classes that will incorporate classroom learning and distance education.

"We're envisioning one classroom of students using computers to complete three different courses, like C++, Visual Basic, and Java, all in one room, with one teacher," said Murray. "We don't know how that model will work yet, but it's something we'd like to try."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].