Opinion: Don’t let ideologues take lecture capture hostage

Breitbart said in April that he would 'go after' teachers and union members.

We all know there are ideologues out there willing to twist words, images, and video to suit whatever ugly purpose they promote. And a professor’s recorded lecture, manipulatively edited, can have a greater impact than printed words, simply because it can appear more real.

Lecture capture is worthy enough that we don’t want it taken hostage by anyone hoping to use the technology to wage political battles.

I don’t want to see it taken hostage by ideologues like Andrew Breitbart, proprietor of the conservative website BigGovernment.com, who recently improperly edited some web video to make it appear that a University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) lecturer was advocating violence as a labor union tactic.

Read more about lecture capture in higher education…

Recorded lectures take on new risk as blogger ‘goes after teachers’

Professor’s ‘yawn’ rant offers a lesson in viral video

Bloggers who improperly edit academic on-demand content like recorded lectures with an agenda like Breitbart’s need to have as many libel suits thrown at them as possible.

Besides pledging to go after a specific profession – education – which shows the extent to which he is a loose cannon, Breitbart is abusing and potentially retarding the adoption of an educational tool that has demonstrated value.

Fear of free speech can become contagious – and slow down adoption of this nascent teaching tool — as much as lies can become viral.  UMKC should be lauded for properly reviewing the Introduction to Labor Studies class, identifying Breitbart’s tactics of using statements out of context, and clearing its professors of supposed bias.

I admit my bias: lecture capture is a transformative educational tool. It is the first classroom technology since the projector and world wide web and interactive whiteboard and PC – all of which have been around for at least or more than 20 years – that promises to tangibly affect how instructors teach and how learners learn in both brick-and-mortar and online environments.

Recorded lectures: The good and the bad

As with any technology, lecture capture has its pros and cons, so let’s start with the pluses.

This stuff works. I wrote a meta-study two years ago looking at the accumulated research examining the efficacy of lecture capture and videoconferencing for education and overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Various studies already show grades improving, improved retention rates, and enhanced engagement with students (and this has been far easier to prove with lecture capture than traditionally has been the case with videoconferencing). More recently I surveyed more than 160 higher education practitioners and technology buyers, and four out of five see lecture capture as a competitive differentiator.

Visit any vendor website, let’s say Sonic Foundry or Echo360 or Tegrity, and you can find testimonial after testimonial, university study after study, discussing the benefits of lecture capture.

In the fall 2010 Tegrity Student Survey of 6,883 college age and adult higher education students, 64 percent reviewed recorded class sessions from six to well in excess of 20 times in a semester. A whopping 85 percent stated that having access to recorded lectures made study somewhat or much more effective than normal.

About a third indicated that lecture capture significantly increased their success in the course, and almost 46 percent said that it increased somewhat their success in the course. Seventy-three percent indicated that lecture capture significantly or somewhat improved their grade in the course.

The beauty of lecture capture is that it allows learners to revisit and review material and creates a feedback mechanism between instructor and learner.

I’ve seen some educators use it to have their students assemble material–for instance, to show how they would solve a math problem or explain a scientific matter–to great effect. I’ve been working with universities and statewide networks for years on adoption issues, and understand faculty fears about intellectual property.

But I’ve never seen its availability lead to eliminated faculty positions.  (By the way, that same fear existed when videoconferencing came along for distance learning in the 90s.)  If anything, I believe lecture capture enhances the educational process and connections between educators and students.

Much has been made about academic fears concerning the intellectual property and ownership of captured lectures, or the fact that wide variance exists between IT officials’ attitudes and faculty attitudes.

eCampus News as recently as September 2010 published the results of an Intercall survey that suggested that students might use availability of recorded lectures to skip class, and to “free up more time for napping and hanging out with friends.”

That same article quoted a CDW-Government survey that suggested that six in 10 IT staff support lecture capture technology, while only two in 10 instructors are in agreement.

Other negatives often cited are that some faculty are uncomfortable on camera; that faculty in some fields, such as medical education, fear that a procedure captured today may come back to haunt them years later if improperly performed by a graduate; or that students will skip class.

I have news for all of you: students do skip class, with or without technological alternatives.

The availability of lecture capture need not drive up absences if a simple thing called policy and protocol is established at the outset. And I have seen campuses where lecture capture actually drove classroom attendance, for the simple reason that captured lectures meant to support remote, distance learners were being used by local campus-based learners, and leading them to spend more time in class.

As to the other fears I mention above: policy, training, and support can help faculty overcome resistance to being on camera. And the same criteria exist whether education is delivered in person, in a textbook, or in an on demand, recorded fashion.

Thus how often do we see graduates or “injured parties” years later coming back to sue professors for something said or taught in the classroom?  You know the answer.

A compact exists between educator and learner.

Professor: “I’ll give you my all if you pay attention and work hard.”

Student: “I’ll give you my all if you help make this course interesting and help me reach my educational goals.”

Alan Greenberg is a senior analyst and partner and distance education and eLearning practice manager at Wainhouse Research. Author of the three-volume Distance Education and e-Learning Landscape and numerous other reports and articles, he covers web conferencing, interactive whiteboards, lecture capture, and visual technologies and consults to universities and statewide networks on technology adoption issues for Wainhouse Research.  Alan holds an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. from Hampshire College.  He can be reached at agreenberg@wainhouse.com.

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