Recording, and podcasting, the Lecture

I have been recording my lectures this semester, and posting them as podcasts (that is, students can subscribe to them, and have them automatically downloaded). They have been reasonably well received. By that, I mean that many students listen to them, and take advantage of the opportunity to have the lecture available to them to go over again as necessary until they feel they have grasped the material.

In addition, I have been taking the time to record the solutions to the homework questions as tutorials. Once the homework is turned in, I make available an online “screencast”, or video, that not only gives the students the answers to the homework, but explains how the answer is determined. I hope to solve a couple problems with this. First, by providing yet another avenue for the students to learn the material, I am hoping that the information, the “learnings,” that they get will stay with them a bit longer. But also, I am hoping this meets the needs of the students to understand what they might have done wrong, and still free up class time to move forward. I suspect we have all experienced that time in class when we didn’t quite get an answer, and we ask to go over something, and we are the only one who didn’t “get” it. Often, these questions can be answered through the screen-cast. The bottom line is I want to make the material available to those who need it, when they need it, and free up the time for other activities for those who don’t.

So far this has been working out well for me. I have run into a few glitches, however. I have been recording my classes using my 60 gb iPod Photo, a Griffin iTalk, and a lapel microphone purchased at Radio Shack. Overall, it has worked well. I have found that the recording has a bit of background noise, and is a bit faint, so in my audio editing program (I use Adobe Audition) I increase the amplitude of the file, and perform some simple noise reduction. These are fairly simple tasks, and I hope some day to spend the time to see if I can make a simple script to do this “pre-processing” for me. Occasionally I have had a software glitch that seems to create a repeating loop. I haven’t been able to isolate the problem, but it seems that it is introduced with some of the processing. I have been able to work around this, and usually have clean audio.

The latest problem is a bit more disturbing. I recorded my lectures on Monday, for both of my classes. When I went to listen and edit my audio, I found that there were serious defects in the files. I am thinking it may be a result of my battery dying in the lapel microphone, but that is what has me concerned. There is no indicator to to tip me off as to when the battery is “too low.” Thankfully, I process these files the day after my lectures (usually) so I can catch any problems soon after they occur, but fot those students that have come to rely on the recorded lectures to re-enforce the learning, losing the lecture can be quite disconcerting. Obviously, I need to set up a regular routine for replacing the batteries. (Assuming my initial assumption is correct–otherwise, I have a more serious hardware issue!)

The Inventory and Supply Chain guy in me though is asking the other questions: When is the appropriate time to replace the battery? I don’t want to replace them too early, since that means I have essentially wasted the capacity of the battery, and have wasted money. On the other hand, I want to eliminate the problem of losing whole lectures because of technology failures.

Perhaps, if anyone is interested in reading more about what I am trying to do with podcasts, I will write more. Let me know what you think. Would you like to be able to listen to the lectures on your own time? Would it be helpful to have on-demand tutorials explaining what the correct answers were to homework problems? More importantly, what other ways would you like to see this sort of technology used to enhance your education?

The Prof…