Publicly available University Lectures

For a while now I’ve been helping several of the academic staff in the Business School to record their lectures. We’ve used a variety of systems ranging from;

  • Camcorder recording and PowerPoint slides, produced with Microsoft Producer. This is an extremely labour-intensive method of matching slides to audio/video content, the download times are high, even on a good Internet connection, and the results are not particularly professional or easy to navigate.
  • Echo360 lecture capture. This is hugely successful (when the system is working). Set the camera and computer up, set the ‘box’ running and then publish the results. You can top-and-tail the recording and edit sections out if necessary, you don’t need to be a technical person to use but you will need the backing of your Institution to install and run the dedicated server. The result is good quality reproduction and delivery.

The method of production is, by and large, not the issue that we will always come up against. The major issues we come up against are;

  • “I don’t like watching myself” – Easy, don’t. It’s only the students that have to.
  • “I don’t want my materials copied and distributed across the ‘net” – Very difficult to police, unless it is all held on a secure network and streamed. If everyone did this, then there would be no social networks and no scope for learning from each others’ examples of good/best practice.
  • “I own the intellectual property of my lecture” – I’ll leave you all to argue this, but my opinion is that your employer owns the intellectual property, so go take it up with them. Look at the videos from University of New South Wales on YouTube, and what about the audio podcasts from Yale University on iTunesU … they have taken the bold and enviable step of making a lot of material public, and it has had no negative effect on their reputation or quality of courses. In fact, it has had the opposite effect; they are more respected because of their openness!

Jenny Weight comments that

“Nobody is employed to to do the work of publishing our content”.

I would counter this and say that there are mechanisms that can do this automatically and, with a little training, so even the most technically-challenged can produce and upload.

If you are worried about your material being publicly available, and use this as your excuse to ignore the advance of something like iTunesU, then why not make use of their ‘Internal iTunesU site’ …

“If you want to allow access only to members of your campus, you can host your own password-protected iTunes U site. This enables you to create and manage the content available on the site, while controlling who can access and download resources from it. “

I suspect that the issue of the material being available on the ‘net is just a cover for some to hide behind. They are not willing (or perhaps able) to change with the times, and so hide behind an excuse that is no longer valid. The wider the participation, the wider the learning environment.

I have written about Generation Y and Edupunks, changes like the above are being born from the need to engage the new learners in the world they already inhabit. They already live and breath the Internet, blogging, MP3, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook … therefore we must work on a coherent strategy to meet them there.

  • Lee Baker

    Thank you for bringing up this issue. As a postgraduate student at a Top 10 university in the UK, I was surprised that the quality of lectures in my school were not high as I had thought. The delivery can be very boring, while some lecturers’ voices are very difficult to understand, perhaps because they are not native speakers.

    All these things make me suspect that the real reason for many lecturers to protest is that they know their lectures are not good enough. So if the lectures are available online, people outside will have reasons to criticize them.