SHOW & TELL: ONLINE LECTURE OPTIONS

John Fritz (fritz@umbc.edu) & Bob Armstrong (rarmstro@umbc.edu)

Instructional Technology & New Media

 

For anyone considering some form of online lecture or presentation, the problem is trying to replicate the “presence” you take for granted in a face-to-face (F2F) setting. There are many options, but you need to understand their pros & cons to choose wisely.

 

Key Terms & Concepts

 

Š       File size: How big will the resulting file be for your end users? You can record audio narration in PowerPoint, but the large file size will be difficult for your online users to view and/or download.

 

Š       File formats (good resource: http://all-streaming-media.com)

o      Quicktime

o      RealMedia & RealAudio

o      Window Media

o      Flash

o      MP3

 

Š       Stream vs. Download vs. Podcast: If you want users to view (but not have) your presentation, you likely want to stream it by providing a link that displays the presentation, usually on some form of a web page that users view on a computer with active Internet connection. A straight file download lets users “take it” with them, but still requires a computer. A podcast can be viewed and listened to on a computer OR an MP3 player like an iPod, but MP3 player screens are so small, most people treat podcasts like “radio.”

 

Š       Production: Ease of use vs. flexibility & dependency: Getting someone to tape & publish whatever you present or say in class is definitely the easiest means of production, but you may have to plan (and pay) accordingly. Screen capture tools like Camtasia let you record and publish whenever the spirit moves you, but may take some time to learn.

 

Š       Synchronous (real-time) vs Asynchronous (not in real-time): A live online chat using Horizon Wimba can feel more natural, but how many voices can you manage at one time. Canned presentations may be less authentic, but are easier to publish and distribute online.

 

Š       Narrated Presentations vs. Screen Captures (or “screencasts”): Do you just want to add voice to an existing presentation or be able to capture and narrate anything you can see on your computer screen? You can do both in a more or less “linear” fashion where hit “record” and speak over what you present or display and then eventually produce. You can mix and match presentations and captures, but then this introduces more advanced editing needs.

 

Solutions for Recording & Editing

 

Recorded Audio in PowerPoint

 

Great because it's free, but student pays the cost in file size download. Just ask Carolyn Seaman in information systems who has gone this route for her online IS grad classes, and is refining her approach. Carolyn's done a LOT of advance work recording her lectures, and gets good reviews from students, but also is looking for a better way to reduce file size. Last we talked to her, she seemed to be leaning toward Camtasia or (possibly) Wimba's "Live Classroom," which we've been piloting all year.

 

Wimba "Live Classroom" Archive

 

Great because the file is "streamed" which means it's quick & easy for students to view, and you can record anything (including PowerPoint or anything on your screen). But it can only be played back in the Wimba environment, which may be a turnoff for some faculty who invest a lot of time into the online lecture process. The expert to consult is Marie Deverneil in MLL.

 

Profcast (www.profcast.com)

 

This is a new tool ($30) that seems be banking a lot on lectures as podcasts in general, and Apple's new iTunesU specifically. There's a lot of merit to considering online lectures more as radio broadcasts, particularly if portable, repeatable playback by students is a desirable pedagogical strategy. They're probably not watching videos (let alone talking head lectures) when they're working out or commuting, but maybe they can do these and other activities while listening to your lecture. Downside: Mac-only.

 

Snapkast (www.snapkast.com)

 

This seems to be exactly like ProfCast, but it works for the PC ($30).

 

Camtasia (www.techsmith.com)

 

OIT likes this for both narrated screen captures and powerpoints and the ease of producing as flash files, which are ideal for Blackboard and any other Web delivery. But this is a PC-only solution, and a very good alternative is Macromedia Captivate, which works on both PC and Mac. We find Captivate to be more full featured than Camtasia, which takes a little more time to master and figure out when you’re in a hurry. But we just haven't put enough time into Captivate. Academic price: $179 (but get the bundle with SnagIt for a total of $199). Tip: you can download and use a 30-day trial version.

 

Note: Jing, is a free (for now) screencast capture tool made by TechSmith.com, which also makes Camtasia. If you just want to make short (5 minute) "quick & dirty" narrated screen captures and "mini-presentations," this is a great tool.

Here's an example from the Maryland Blackboard Users Group (MDBUG) Conference

 

Adobe Captivate (www.adobe.com/captivate)

 

This product used to be called RoboDemo and has been a staple for online tutorials and training for many years. It's nice that it works on both Mac and PC, but it takes a little longer to distinguish the essential features from the desirable ones (compared to Camtasia). One plus about Captivate is that you can easily annotate screen captures with text labels and callouts (or bubbles). Captivate will even do a lot of this automatically.

 

Publishing

 

However you create your online video or lecture, you should seriously think about publishing it on UMBC’s new iTunesU server (http://itunes.umbc.edu). This works just like the regular iTunes your students use all the time, but is dedicated for academic content posted by colleges and universities. For now, UMBC’s iTunesU does not require the use of UMBC’s userid & password, but we expect to have that implemented by Fall 2007 (while still retaining a “public” UMBC iTunesU version that anyone can access). After we have the “authenticated” UMBC iTunesU available, we will be able to “map” or synchronize your iTunesU lectures with your UMBC Blackboard course and student enrollment.