Next-gen lecture-capture can transform classrooms

The University of Cincinnati is among those using an active learning platform to engage students

Some faculty at the University of Cincinnati have been using lecture capture technology since 2009, but the capabilities of the old technology are just a shadow of what faculty can do now. Instead of just documenting what happens in the classroom, faculty are now using next-generation, interactive tools that increase student engagement and bring new resources to both students and educators.

Nelson Vincent, vice president for technology and chief information officer at the University of Cincinnati, said the exploding technology use on campuses today can historically be drawn back to student demand. At the University of Cincinnati, it’s more than that.

“We’re not only responsive to the needs of today’s students and faculty,” Vincent said, “but we’re focusing on meeting their future, long-term needs by thinking strategically about how to infuse high-quality video technology with proven instructional pedagogy and engagement features to ensure that our students and faculty have the tools and support to provide the best teaching and learning experience, both in and beyond the classroom.”

Modern lecture capture at the university is done through an “active learning platform” built by Echo360. Faculty can poll students in class or before, incorporating responses into the day’s lecture. They can post questions to discussion boards before class and use interactive slides that require student responses. During a lecture, students can flag confusing content, ask questions and take notes that will be incorporated into a study guide that is automatically populated based on their notes time-stamped against lecture slides. And of course, the traditional lecture capture itself can help students prepare for exams or make up missed time.

The University of Cincinnati debuted the new system last summer with a few “e-Learning Champions,” in three of its 14 colleges. Now there are 81 devices in use across all of the colleges, and expansion is happening organically as faculty decide they want access to the tools.

At Indian River State College, a community college in Florida, the student body demographics have contributed to high demand for the interactive tools. Two-thirds of students also work while taking classes, and they need around-the-clock access to course content to fit in studying between other commitments. In a prepared statement, Vice President of Institutional Technology and CIO Paul O’Brien said it is these students who have driven adoption of the new technology.

“Students are telling us they’ve changed courses because they wanted to take the class with an instructor who was using Echo360 to incorporate video into learning and facilitate interaction with faculty, peers and content,” O’Brien said.

As with many of the technology advances on campuses today, using the active learning platform brings added benefits because of data analytics. Usage data can help faculty assess student engagement, and at the University of Cincinnati, some are even converting this metric into the participation portion of a student’s grade.

Tina Meagher, senior video strategist at the university, said one faculty member has been using lecture capture for more than seven years and has only now begun to track how students watch video and look at interactive slides. Because most students weren’t watching videos to their completion, this faculty member started making the videos shorter and adding elements of interactivity in between them.

The University of Cincinnati has been offering training for faculty members interested in learning how to incorporate the new tools into their own classes. A high priority will be bringing faculty on board who teach massive lectures for mostly freshmen and sophomores in the UC Great Gateway initiative. These courses traditionally have high rates of failure, dropouts and withdrawals. Even with smaller supplementary sessions to the large lecture, faculty find it hard to engage students.

Meagher hopes the active learning platform can promote that engagement.

“These are the classes that they need to move on to the different areas in UC and the different colleges,” Meagher said. “It’s important from a timeline perspective that these students actually pass these classes because they’re the foundation.”

The university also plans to advance the way it uses data analytics produced by the platform. As faculty and administrators learn the ropes, the analytics have mostly been used descriptively — to find out what is happening. Soon, though, Meagher would like to see the data used prescriptively — to identify whether certain students are struggling and offer an early opportunity for intervention.

So far, UC has about 5,500 students using the platform and it expects that number to double by the fall semester. The university’s total enrollment is about 44,000 and one goal of the institution is to create media fluent students. The active learning platform is one more way to make that happen.

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