September 23, 2007

Why capture lectures?

Rick Nigol strikes again. I've really enjoyed several of his recent posts to the Breakthrough Briefing newsletter, though I wonder why there's not an RSS feed of it--sure seems more like a blog than a newsletter.

Anyway, his recent post was about the marketing of products to capture lecture presentations and stream them via a web browser. As he points out, the result is usually not very impressive. He also writes, and I quote:
"Most lectures are bad in person, but they are even worse when replayed later online. You cannot really see the lecturer (window very small), the sound quality is crappy, many of the graphics used are difficult to read, and you cannot interact with anyone or anything. Everything about it reinforces the impression that you are not there and not part of it.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of products such as Accordant and Echo 360 (a.k.a Apreso). They are expensive (about $8-12,000) and serve only one room. Thousands of dollars are invested in a special box for one room to record what is basically the weakest form of instruction, teacher-centered lecture. But lectures can be interactive, you say? A good presenter will engage his/her audience in a conversation or activity? Okay, so how do these systems deal with audio or video from anyone other than the presenter? I don't think they do. There is a fixed camera in the back of the room and sound coming from the presenter's microphone. Imagine watching a replay and being frustrated by what was actually a good presentation that included participation from the audience, only you couldn't hear or see that stuff!

Unfortunately, about the only justifications I can imagine for such systems are to "make-up" a missed class or to package existing lectures for delivery in a distance learning program. This is way too much money to spend on students who aren't in class (there are cheaper ways to get them the information and wiser ways to spend instructional technology dollars), and there are much more effective ways to teach in an online environment than simply recording traditional teacher-centered lectures and delivering them online (as Rick also points out in his post).

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