Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

Streaming Socrates

John Partridge saw an opportunity to free up some class time for discussion by posting lecture material on-line for viewing prior to his Philosophy 101 class.

What was it?

Short videos delivered over the web, in which John delivered 3 or 4 minute mini-lectures of specific lecture material, for students to view outside of normal lecture time.

Screenshot of Video Lecture by Prof. John Partridge

And why did he do that?

  • so that students can access lecture content outside the classroom whenever they want, and as many times as they need
  • so that there was more time for discussion in class, as well as motivation and direction for students preparing for upcoming course content

In the future, John will tweak these original purposes ˜ see What would he do differently next time, below.

And did it work?

John was generally pleased with the results, and plans to continue to add to the collection of mini-lectures so that he eventually has a repertoire from which to draw.

The built-in camera worked fine (see the "tech nitty gritty" below), and he quickly developed a good workflow that meant that video production was not too time-consuming.

John notes that the students did well on the sections of the exam that were covered in the video broadcasts. The viewing rate was good; for example, 26 out of 30 students viewed the video lecture on Hume. However, no students mentioned the video in their evaluations, so it is difficult to determine student reactions to the videos.

What would he do differently next time?

The audio levels were a little low on the video; next year, we'll definitely figure out a way to make his words crystal-clear ˜ probably by using an external microphone.

As mentioned, John originally thought of the video as a way of preparing the students prior to class, to allow for more discussion time. He now sees that the video can serve other purposes, including:

  • a way to deliver new content after lecture
  • a way of addressing students with different learning styles or issues. For example, a student with English as a second language could repeat video lectures, taking in the lecture content at their own pace while getting the language of philosophical discourse "into their ear"
  • at a more general level, the videos are a way to deliver the lecture outside the confines of the lecture-hall

The technological nitty-gritty

John shot and edited the video himself on his Macbook, using the built-in video camera, and editing using iMovie. Both the equipment and the software were included with the laptop.

Once edited, John saved the movie as a Quicktime video and uploaded it to his Blackboard site, where students could view it via streaming video.

Posting the video on Blackboard meant that the video was only viewable by his students.

Tips, tricks, and "lessons learned"

  • Keep it brief ˜ video podcasts are not as effective for longer-format lectures. 4 ˆ 7 minutes seemed to work best for John
  • On a related point, write and rehearse your lecture. It doesn't have to be a "perfect" performance (in fact, some spontaneity can make the video more engaging), but keeping the lecture tight and focussed takes some preparation
  • Prioritize audio quality over image quality. Low levels and tinny sound are more distracting than grainy image (this is something the Faculty Liaisons will be working on next year!)

Interested in doing a video lecture?

Ask John about his experiences, and contact your Technology Liaison.

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