Online learning official: Video lectures help students ‘review, review, review’

Moloney said more UMass Lowell classrooms will have lecture capture systems soon.
Moloney said more UMass Lowell classrooms will have lecture capture systems soon.

Jacqueline Moloney wants college students to do less transcribing and more listening.

Moloney, executive vice chancellor and head of online learning at the University of Massachusetts Lowell campus, has overseen an effort to make lecture capture technology a standard feature in the university’s classrooms, along with a host of other technologies that can be tailored to fit instructors’ preferences.

Along with a suite of other technologies—digital document cameras and interactive LCD touch screens among them—about one-third of UMass Lowell’s classrooms have been equipped with lecture capture programs that, Moloney said, let students “review, review, review” by rewinding the video lectures and hashing over complex concepts.

Furiously jotting down every key point that instructors make, she said, isn’t for everyone.

“I personally love to take notes,” said Moloney, who has headed UMass Lowell’s online learning program since it launched in 1996. “But with lecture capture, we find that students are able to focus and listen to what faculty members are explaining, versus having to scribble down every single word.”

She added: “You lose a lot of what the faculty is trying to teach you when you focus more on transcribing. With , students don’t feel nearly the pressure to take down every word.”

(Next page: How UMass Lowell is using video lectures—and what students say about this)

University officials plan to expand lecture capture to more classrooms after an internal survey showed that 96 percent of student respondents wanted lecture capture brought to more classrooms, and 88 percent said the technology—UMass Lowell uses a system made by Virginia-based Echo360—was easy to use.

Nine in 10 UMass Lowell students agreed that video lectures posted online helped them learn the class material.

And larger studies show that UMass Lowell respondents are among many students lobbying for widespread use of lecture capture technology nationwide.

Introductory psychology students at the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia who watched a lecture podcast available from the iTunes University online video library scored an average of 71 percent on their exam, one study found.

Students who sat through the 30-minute classroom lecture scored an average of 62 percent, according to the study, titled “iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?”

Students who watched the video lecture and took notes, according to the 2009 research, scored an average of 15 points higher than their peers who did not.

The SUNY Fredonia study includes good news for professors worried that lecture-capture technology might make them expendable. More than 90 percent of Fredonia students said they preferred “traditional lectures with computer-based learning as a supplement for revising” their notes.

Moloney said reassuring instructors that recording and posting video lectures won’t be the death knell for in-person lessons was part of the process for integrating lecture capture at UMass Lowell.

There are still ways to ensure students come to class, she said, including the use of clickers that are distributed to each student in a lecture hall. The students use the devices to answer a series of questions that provide feedback to the instructor about which lessons were understood and which topics need more explaining.

Students who miss live lectures and don’t enter their answers on a clicker, Moloney said, would have their attendance and participation grades docked by instructors.

“We can reinforce and incentivize students to attend classes,” she said. “We need to make sure that the lecture is a meaningful experience for students. … And if they want to get the most out of their educational experience, they will participate.”

Higher-education officials have been largely unresponsive to student preference for video lectures. Research released in September by audio, internet, and video conferencing provider InterCall showed that 26 percent of students said their professor “sometimes” broadcasted class sessions over the internet, and 44 percent said their instructors “rarely” or “never” used the technology.

Twenty-three percent of respondents said their professors “often” provided video lectures, and only 7 percent said they “always” had the online lecture option available.

Universities could encourage faculty members to use lecture capture programs, Moloney said, by ensuring that their video lectures won’t be shared on publicly accessible web sites available for anyone to download.

“It’s really their intellectual property,” she said. “We want to show that this is a new frontier, and a very exciting time.”

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