Learning Before Class Strategies Part 2.5: Types of Video Lectures

A screen capture of a smartPhysics multimedia lesson

This is part 2.5 (the second half of part 2) of a series on pre-class learning strategies, which can be used as part of the flipped or inverted class. In this post I will discuss the different types of video lectures.

  • Part 1 focused on some common types of assignments/assessments that you can use.
  • Part 2 discussed the various types of resources you can provide your students for use in learning before class strategies.
  • Part 2.5 is this post
  • Part 3 will discuss some tips and some issues that I have come across trying to implement learning before class strategies.
  • I also had a quick update post that pointed to some recent articles/blog posts by others on the subject of pre-reading assignments.

Types of Video Lectures

In Part 2 of this series I used “video lecture” as a generic term to describe a lot of different audio+visual methods to get content into student hands. Note that the lines between some of these are pretty blurry (e.g., there’s no real practical difference between a whiteboard presentation  screencast and a video-recording of a chalk and talk).
  • Screencasts – These are recordings of your computer screen with your voice over top. Sometimes people narrate as they do something in a program (e.g., how to fit your data with a Gaussian in Gnuplot), narrate as they use the computer as a virtual whiteboard (e.g., Khan Academy) or even narrate a slide presentation that is being presented (sometimes with a talking head like Roger Freedman does).
  • Multimedia Presentations – You can think of these as a step beyond screencasts, with tools such as animation creating much tighter presentations than screencasts. The best example I have encountered is the collection of multimedia prelectures created by the folks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne which are also included as part of their smartPhysics package. They use the PER literature  and the findings of research on multimedia learning to put these together in a way that is intended to maximize what students can learn from a direct instruction format.
  • Pencasts – These are recordings of what you write on paper using a special kind of pen (LiveScribe) which simultaneously records audio while you are writing. Watching a pencast is like sitting down beside somebody writing something down in a notebook while they talk you through it. Except you can click on anything they have written and rewatch it. It’s also possible to download a pdf of completed notes. I generated a whole bunch of these for my 3rd-year quantum course last term and the students gave me pretty positive feedback on the format. I also asked my students to each turn in one of their solutions as a pencast. This is a great idea that came to me from Andy Rundquist. What’s great about it is that they can’t just copy the solution from the web or a buddy. They have to make sure they understand what they did in the question before they sit down to present it as a pencast.
  • Video Recordings – You can record demonstrations, targeted lectures, etc. There are also many resources on the web (see some of the links on this the Active Class post).

Random Notes

  • I am not an advocate of traditional lecture and moving direct instruction onto a computer screen doesn’t change the fact that it is direct instruction. Most of the learning before class strategies I have been discussing rely on some sort of direct instruction to communicate initial content and I think video lectures can be effective in setting up what happens in the classroom later if they target ideas that are accessible to a novice.
  • Following up on the last bullet. I have been using smartPhysics this year for my calc-based intro physics course and I think their multimedia presentations are very well done, but ultimately they are communicating content at the same level as a regular textbook (see Part 2 of this series for my discussion on the suitability of textbooks as a first-contact resource). I don’t think it is a good use of student time or good-will for them to be confronted with challenging derivations two minutes after being introduced to a new topic. These pre-lectures are editable (as in I can take some of the material out) through the smartPhysics system so this term I have been aggressively trimming down the presentations so that the students get more of an introductory overview of the chapter as opposed to a 20-minute run through of the entire chapter. There’s a post slowly writing itself on my experiences with smartPhysics.
  • I have a tablet PC as my laptop, which should make it great for doing the virtual whiteboard thing, but some combination of the computer’s fan and other issues with the audio hardware introduces too much background noise (even when I have tried an external mic). I have tried post-recording noise reduction on the audio track and it worked pretty well, but that makes the whole thing fairly unsuitable for quick and dirty screencasts. I imagine that when I teach a comp phys class I will probably make more use of them for “this is how you do x” types of screencasts on a computer without noise issues.


 Part 3 some day.

7 Comments on “Learning Before Class Strategies Part 2.5: Types of Video Lectures”

  1. bretbenesh says:

    Hi Joss,

    This is a little besides the point, but how to you get Livescribe pens in the hands of students? Do you have a bunch of them already? Do they purchase them?

  2. I like your use of video and livescribe. Check out my recent post about content capture strategies http://www.mypaperlessclassroom.org/2012/02/content-capture-matching-tool-with-need.html

  3. […] course structure to work they way I want it to and I have been writing about them a lot lately (see my most recent post in a longer series). My specific implementation is detailed under ‘Reading assignments and […]

  4. […] Part 2.5 is a continuation of part 2 and discusses the types of video lectures in a bit more detail […]

  5. […] Part 2.5 discusses the types of video lectures in a bit more detail (this post was getting long) […]

  6. […] bullet in the “Random Notes” section of this post I did on pre-class assignments (link). One of the very nice things about smartphysics is that everything (the regular homework, the […]

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