Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Recording lectures: creating discussion space

I think we are always being asked to do more with less: and that certainly is true of the public sector, and of lecturers.

There is so much squeeze: trim semester delivery to allow for a summer semester; cut out tutorials so we can load more lectures into the timetable; deliver more classes so we can enrol more EFTS (equivalent full time students); get our marking done in zip time so we can push results through to our academic committees faster; and cut, trim, squeeze, fast, faster, fastest.

However, one thing that I think is a unique selling point in the 'dirty boots brigade' - the Polytechnic sector - is discussion.

Having smaller classes enables us to make the learning real by taking the time to talk about it. We can apply the theory to real life situations, using local examples - cases - we have experienced. With these local examples, we give our regional second chance learners an understanding of how theory is not scary, high-brow or waffle-y (read more here and here).

But when we cut-trim-squeeze-fast-faster-fastest, we tend to cut out discussion, not lectures. For good learning, I think that is the wrong place to cut.

So, to make room for more discussion, what I have done is to record all my lectures. Then my students watch the lectures online before class, and we do all the activity, connection, conversation and discussion when we come together in class.

When I first proposed recording lectures six years ago, my institution thought I needed expensive equipment and software. With IT interference, it became a daunting project with loads of learning. It was something I needed to do on campus with the assistance of others. Unfortunately, I tended to do all my thinking - finding my mental space - at home.

I decided instead to go low-tech. I sourced and now use only freeware to record from home. While I can't do whizzy-do picture in picture, soft fades, or splashy captions, I can get rough-cut clips quickly up to Moodle for students to access: which was all I needed.

To do what I have done, either watch the video below, or read the brief instructions below (which includes download links).

To do what I have done, you need the following:

  • Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Pro freeware (download here)
  • Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Screen Capture freeware (download here)
  • Anvsoft Syncios format conversion freeware (download here)
  • Microsoft MovieMaker freeware (download here
  • Lecture PowerPoints, slide clicker, and all other lecture resources needed to record
  • YouTube account (or sign up)
  • PC with either a good directional microphone, or a headset/earbuds with mic, and two screens (this is so you can presenter mode on one screen, and read your notes on the other screen - but you could get by with one screen and have a print out of your script, but it is MUCH harder to get the screen capture right).
  • Install all software.
  • Animate your PowerPoints, or if using tables, use outline shapes to highlight what will be talked about as the screencast progresses to help the students focus on the right area of the screen.
  • Pop a rough script into the PowerPoint notes section. 
  • Practice a run-through in presenter mode. Adjust any glitches.
  • Test your mic (system tray | sound settings).
  • Launch Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Screen Capture (the icon with the red button).
  • Check that the mic allocated is correct.
  • Adjust the screen capture size by dragging the window outline.
  • Open all browser web links and other materials needed. 
  • When ready, hit the record button.
  • When a line/transition gets fluffed, pause and repeat it correctly (edit later).
  • Stop the recording. Click 'encode'.
  • This launches Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 Pro freeware. Click encode to wmv.
  • Open Syncios | video converter | Add, navigate to your file | Convert. Check the save location. Yay! A raw screencast ready to edit.
  • Open MovieMaker.
  • Drop in your mp4.
  • Edit out all the bits you don't want using the Video Tools menu (this will take the most time!).
  • When done, save your video to your desired output.
  • Note where that file is saved to.
  • Open YouTube. Click upload.
  • Upload your screencast, link and share.

Hopefully that helps free us all up to focus on discussion.


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