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VStream: Best practices for recording lectures

The key to recording lectures well is to structure the face-to-face lecture clearly, linking each lecture to the last and linking each current lecture to a future one.

By chunking the lecture into segments and using ‘signposts’ to signal points where you move to new content, summarise, ask questions, introduce scenarios to be solved and so on, this also makes your live lecture easier to review later.

Bearing this in mind, however, it is important to emphasise to students how viewing a recording will miss important parts of the lecture including the opportunity to interact with staff and other students. Lecture recordings are another form of teaching a specific cohort of students and should not be used to create a perpetual resource (see the VStream Copyright page for more on this subject).

The main goal of providing recorded lectures is to engage students in blended learning experiences that facilitate a flexible self-paced mode of learning and review that supplements rather than replaces the need to attend the face-to-face lecture.

Key points

  • Lecture capture technology that allows students to view lectures on-line after the lecture, can improve course retention rates as well as student grades;
  • Using visual information such as lecture capture as an additional channel or mode of teaching can aid the retention of verbal information and help improve course retention rates, as well as student grades, according to the literature;
  • Mayer’s principles of learning (see Kadirire in Key Sources below) include the notion that learning is improved when pictures and related words are presented at the same time or next to each other on the screen;
  • Research found that recorded lectures can be used to revise for examinations or to focus on complex issues missed in a lecture, and this actually helps students to achieve better results
  • Learning requires visual as well as auditory stimulus, particularly when technology is being used, in order to promote cognitive processing. A video review of material can enable improved communication of lecture material;
  • When having your lecture recorded, ask yourself how the digital recording might enhance the student learning experience. What do you want them to learn, to do, to read or prepare? When do you want them to look at the lecture – and for how long?
  • The greatest increase in the effectiveness of your recorded lecture will come from the pedagogical techniques you employ in order to integrate interactivity and involve students actively in the face-to-face lecture;
  • Your teaching approach will increase or affect the likelihood that students will access the recorded lectures. The availability of lectures in recorded form may change students' learning behaviours as well as their expectations about the use of lecture time. Ideally you will make changes in the lecture delivery to accommodate students who will access the lecture recording either as a replacement for the live lecture or, more probably, as a supplement to it;
  • Research suggests that recording traditional lectures adds relatively little pedagogical value to the student learning experience. Therefore add pedagogical value by ‘seeding’ the face- to-face lecture with student tasks or activities, or follow-up questions for discussion and research, so that students can benefit from reviewing your lecture recording and use it to add depth to the reflections that they are already making in the live lecture;
  • Rich Media viewing allows students to use text searching (a feature being added soon) of the video thumbnails to find keywords (on a PowerPoint slide commonly) and have the video automatically cue to those places where the keyword appears. With this in mind, write a keyword at the top of each PowerPoint slide (keep this keyword in the same place on each slide for consistency) to guide students in their note-taking, discussion and reflection, both in the live lecture and also when they come to review the lecture;
  • Do not expect students to routinely view your 50 minute recorded lecture as a whole. Always anticipate that students will dip into the lecture so provide signposts and cues in the live lecture to assist this. The students in the live lecture will find this valuable as well. Add textual keywords and other textual and verbal ‘signposts’ in the live lecture, in order to help students to cue to particular parts of the recorded lecture. Use PowerPoint Title slides (usually only used for the first PowerPoint slide) at other points in the lecture to chunk the lecture material into parts. One part could be teaching a new concept, followed by a discussion or reflection or problem-solving activity related to this;
  • Divide the live lecture into chunks so that when reviewing the recorded lecture students can access thumbnails of the distinctive parts. To do this easily, both use a verbal cue to students AND also indicate on the PowerPoint slides ‘end of part 2’ or ‘Part 3, the...’) so that students can click the PowerPoint slide thumbnail to access that portion of the lecture;
  • Give verbal cues (and reinforce these cues on Power Point Title slides placed between other groups of slides) that you have reached the end of part of the lecture and invite a minute’s reflection, questioning, or discussion among other students of an aspect that you have just completed teaching. This will translate well in the reviewed recording so that students can go from chunk to chunk through points of the lecture. Chunking the lecture with the lecture recording in mind will also encourage students to spend more concentrated time reviewing and pausing key parts of the lecture rather than having to motivate themselves to watch the full lecture recording with no clear purpose in mind;
  • Use functional keywords such as ‘Sum up’, ‘Now think...’, ‘Now apply... ‘Questions ...’, ‘What you need to do next...’ as ‘signposts’ that indicate points during or near the end of the lecture etc. Students will appreciate the clear structure and will find it easier to do a text search for those portions of the recorded lecture. For example a cue such as ‘Now apply...’ can be used to motivate students to pause the recording and reflect on examples etc. of the particular concept or framework or formula being discussed;
  • Number your PowerPoint slides and other lecture ‘pieces’ (e.g. on document camera or sympodium) to help students to cue to specific parts of the recorded lecture more easily;
  • Incorporate activities or verbal questions/directions at points in the lecture so that students reviewing the recorded lecture can stop or pause, reflect, look up a textbook or do an Internet search etc. Add these directions, suggestions, questions for reflection etc. to make the recorded lecture more interactive. Remember that this is also adding value to the live lecture as it prompts students to pay attention, to focus and to reflect;
  • Tell students how best to learn from a recorded lecture. Advise students when to pause, stop the recording and reflect. If you have added such cues in the live lecture and on the PowerPoint slides then this will help the review process considerably. Reasons for students to review your lecture include adding to their notes, refreshing their understanding on explanations of complex material and undertaking the follow-up suggested for particular phases of the lecture or material;
  • Consider setting up a ‘post lecture discussion forum’ in Blackboard and ask students to add to the discussion after every lecture by offering feedback, querying points they didn't understand, offering further reflections, examples etc. Ask students to refer to a specific lecture by name, number or date so that as the course progresses students can read earlier discussions pertaining to particular lectures and go back to review the recorded video of these. The discussion forum serves as an interactive learning tool for students who cannot attend the live lecture at all and will also be helpful for students who did attend the lecture. The discussion forum can be a device for continuing or applying the learning for a particular lecture and can be incorporated into the cues and directions given during the lecture. For example, the lecturer can tell students to stop the recording after slide 10 and try to think of an example, theory, issue etc. and then to state this briefly in the discussion forum. To keep discussion forum posts short, challenge students to make comments on lecture themes or problems using no more than 30 words etc.
  • After the lecture has been recorded, create audio and video frequently asked questions about the lecture that the students can access afterwards for revision purposes or to consolidate their knowledge of the subject in question;
  • Recorded lectures can also be used as pre-lecture activities that can help to reduce significantly the time needed to introduce new concepts in the lecture itself (or tutorial), giving the opportunity to devote time to additional activities that deepen student understanding of the course;
  • On-line discussions (in Blackboard) can be integrated with lecture recordings to provide opportunities for individual and collaborative problem-solving activities arising out of the live lecture. Do this by signalling in the lecture that students reviewing the recording should now pause, open the Blackboard discussion forum and post some response to what they have just encountered in the recording;
  • When providing lecture recordings based on the live lecture, add areas in the lecture where students have to do something with the lecture recording other than just view it. Alternatively, suggest to students what they should actively do when reviewing lecture recordings and how they might know that they have gained value from the time spent in reviewing the material. For example, enhanced notes and new examples of a particular phenomenon might be expected or desirable outcomes;
  • Always identify the learning outcomes that the material relates to and give advice to students on how to take notes and navigate the recorded lecture. Suggest a minimum time- frame for the review – 30 minutes for example. Don’t expect students to just watch the 50 minute lecture from beginning to end;
  • Ideally there should be a follow up activity which relates to the digitally recorded content so that students are required to engage with the material in a manner that is constructively aligned with the learning intentions and course assessment. In other words, rich media must be fully embedded in course design rather than ‘added on’ to an existing paper as an optional extra;
  • Gather feedback from students at the end of the lecture to identify issues and concepts not well understood. Students can then be directed to the sections of the lecture recording where these issues are dealt with. Use the feedback opportunity to guide students in how they can best make use of the recording of this particular lecture. Students are easily distracted in non-campus settings so give directions on how they can best make use of the time to review a recorded lecture;
  • Lecture capture is a beneficial tool for self-reflection so ask students to think of questions before they view a recording – and to think of questions as they view the recording.

Also consider....

  • Making the recorded lectures required viewing and then use the classroom time for more interactivity, such as using classroom response systems (clickers or Blackboard Choice activity), student collaboration in small groups and practical work
  • Plan how you will manage activities, such as playing copyrighted materials, incorporating discussions (using Blackboard) or for those not attending the live lecture
  • You may experience a drop in student attendance. Setting expectations for students who attend the live lecture, the nature of the lecture structure and delivery itself and factors such as how you allow for student engagement during the lecture, will all lead to changes in attendance patterns
  • Expect a range of learning behaviours from your students. Some will view the whole recording while others will watch portions only. While many students will be happy that you are meeting their needs for flexibility, many of them will think they can learn just as well using the lecture recording as they might in face-to-face lectures
  • Students may ask more questions as a result of being able to review the lecture recording and being able to think more deeply about the material you presented. This could indicate students engaging more with the material and is a welcome result of the complementary nature of the live lecture and the recorded one;
  • When students ask questions, always repeat the question clearly – and repeat their responses clearly, so that this can be clearly captured on the recording;
  • Indicate PowerPoint slide changes when moving through such a presentation. Quote page numbers of texts or research article authors etc. with students’ review of the lecture in mind. Describe what you are drawing or sketching with the sympodium or document camera. Imagine the soundtrack of the lecture without visuals (students may choose only to listen to an mp3 version of your lecture), and try to recreate the lecture experience aurally;
  • Only say what you are willing to have recorded and be aware of your spontaneous comments or personal anecdotes in lectures, especially remarks that might be misinterpreted or cause offence
  • Work on your vocal variety, much as a radio announcer would do. Read aloud for one minute a day to work on vocal range and expression so that your tone conveys as much information to students as possible;
  • Consider highlighting particular points or details of your PowerPoint slides using the sympodium pens. For instance, to draw students’ attention to a part of an image, use the shape tool to draw a circle around that item;
  • The volume of the microphone input and lecture space speakers may need to be increased so that recordings are not marred by the volume being too low. You need to think of the audience that will review your lecture recordings as well as the live audience
  • Use large font and graphics on your projected material. If you're using slides make sure the text or images on your slides are big enough so that students will be able to see them on the video;
  • Watch one of your own lecture recordings to see if there are any small improvements you could make. Be self-critical and try to make small changes that might make your presentation more effective;
  • If you choose not to record a lecture, it is important that you let the students know that the recordings will not be available and any reasons for your decision (such as copyright restrictions applying to showing a video in the lecture);
  • Evaluate the use and effectiveness of lecture capture during and at the end of your course. Use the Blackboard Feedback tool to elicit such feedback.

Acknowledgements and sources


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Credit and Acknowledgement