Lecture Capture at OU

Today’s post is a guest post by Kevin Blake, part of the OU IT Learning Spaces team.

Not exactly sure what lecture capture is? Don’t worry. Put simply, lecture capture is the process of recording a lecture and delivering that recording to students. The requirements for lecture capture are two-fold: a piece of hardware/software that captures a video of the instructor and a way to deliver this video to students.  This is a pretty basic definition which encompasses a broad range of possibilities so let’s get into the specifics!

Lecture Capture in its Simplest Form

In today’s world we are surrounded by video recording devices – our smartphones! In its simplest form, a lecture can be captured using an iPhone or other smartphone. Setting up one of these devices in the classroom as you deliver your lecture is an easy way to quickly and efficiently capture content. Once complete, the lecture can be uploaded to an internet video service such as iTunes U or YouTube and distributed to students via the web link.  It doesn’t get any easier than this (as a side note, this is also pretty much free to implement).

There are however some limitations to this method:

  • The video and audio quality will be poor.
  • The video will not capture details like PowerPoint slides or writing on chalk boards and white boards.
  • Editing is fairly difficult unless you know what you’re doing.

Starting out in Lecture Capture

So you’ve tried the iPhone video feature and it’s just not cutting it. Or you’re just starting out and looking for something more comprehensive. There are a few basics you’ll need to get started:

  1. Basic hardware requirements include a computer, microphone and/or a webcam depending on the presentation. Webcams should have at least a 640×480 ratio and 15fps (frames per second) capability for overall quality and reassurance. My personal favorites are the Logitech cameras.
  2. For microphones, it would be best to have a headset configuration for individual recordings or an external USB microphone for classroom settings. I like Blue Microphone for price and quality. Built-in systems are not recommended for general purpose recordings.
  3. A login to YouTube or iTunes U. The format you decide to distribute your video in is very important. A typical format such as .wmv or .mpg will need to be downloaded before the student can view the content.  Further complicating the delivery is the computer platform that the student is using (PC vs. Mac).  Not all formats work on all platforms.  If you would like your students to stream instead of download the video, you will need a service like iTunes U or YouTube to aid in that delivery. iTunes U and YouTube will encode your video for streaming on their servers.  Students can start watching the lecture in only a few seconds whereas downloading a video file from another system may take hours.
  4. One of the programs listed below.

Recording your Lecture

For high quality audio and video, the best way to capture your lecture is to download and install special software on your computer. There are a few good, inexpensive programs available.

Sceenr – $19 (Free to try and unlimited users for individual account)
This program is easy to use and is PC/Apple friendly. Files are generated in an .m4v format for fast distribution. http://www.screenr.com/

ProfCast – $59.95 (Powerful tool and easy to use)
ProfCast is a versatile, powerful, yet very simple to use tool for recording lectures including PowerPoint and/or Keynote slides for creating enhanced podcasts. Works well with both PC/Apple. http://www.profcast.com/public/index.php

Camstudio – FREE
Probably the best little recording program for simply recording the instructor’s computer screen and audio.  Camstudio uses simple controls and learning how to use it is quick and easy.  Keep in mind that it records and makes an .avi file and is PC only.  In order to edit the file or add titles you will need to use another program. http://camstudio.org/

Camtasia – FREE trial (Pro Version is $99.00)
This elegant piece of software is easy to use once you’ve put in the time to learn the basics.  It is distributed by TechSmith and is a good step if you are thinking about seriously integrating all of your content into a distributed format. This is the industry standard for lecture capture in the educational community. http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html

Audacity – FREE
Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing audio only. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and other operating systems. Don’t forget to download LAME encoder! http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

My personal recommendation is Camtasia which is a program we use frequently in IT.

Using the Software

After downloading and installing one of the programs above, open up your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Record yourself talking through the slides for a few minutes and (here is the important part), PAUSE and VIEW the lecture sample.  Viewing your performance is extremely important when you are starting out.  It is sort of like recording your golf swing.  You won’t get better until you see what you need to work on.  But with time and some practice you will become a lecture capture pro!

Want help capturing your next lecture? Contact OU IT at 325-4409 and we can help identify the best solution for you.

What programs are you using for lecture capture? Do you have feedback for us on the programs listed above? Leave a comment or email itfeedback@ou.edu.

Jeremy Hessman