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Lecture Capture Shouldn’t Be Frustrating: How Hardware Can Make Life Easier for Educators

By Epiphan Video

In the day and age of blended learning and flipped classrooms, the expectation for captured lectures to become available online as soon as possible is practically standard. This may, however, present additional workload for many educators. If the lecture capture system isn’t set up to be efficient, figuring out how it works and performing manual like recording, uploading, and sharing lectures may take up a lot of teachers’ valuable time. We also see teachers being reluctant to use lecture capture systems because they aren’t sure whether it will work at all.  

Ideally, teachers and instructors shouldn’t have to waste their time troubleshooting complicated lecture capture equipment and battling inefficient workflows. They should spend their time teaching. Coming into a classroom, a lecture hall, or an auditorium, they should be free to focus on the demonstration, lecture, or seminar they are about to do, and not on how to record it. Teachers should expect to come in, press a single button, and be completely certain that their lecture has begun streaming and/or recording and will end up in the right place.

How do we make educators’ lives easier? How do we approach the process of building an efficient lecture capture workflow, keeping in mind how unique each school’s case might be? We’ve looked into today’s best practices for lecture capture and management to come up with the answers. Here are the most important points to remember:

1) Keep workflows simple

2) Automate as much as possible

3) Use reliable equipment

4) Collect input from students and faculty

1) Keep workflows simple

Designing the entire lecture capture life cycle with ease of use in mind should be a top priority. Again, lecturers shouldn’t have to spend hours figuring out how the technology works. Here are some of the ways to keep workflows simple:

  • Make recordings very easy to find. Store all digital materials in one place in a uniform fashion. Use dedicated secure storage (using a CMS like Kaltura, for instance). A good structure and organization is more than half the battle for efficiency.
  • Upload files to a server instead of transferring around on thumb drives (easy to misplace).
  • Use clear and user-friendly interfaces. Implement foolproof design where possible (e.g. start/stop lecture capture with a single push of a button).
  • Minimize the teacher’s interaction with capture equipment and AV gear.
  • Schedule automatic lecture capture in advance. Practice the “set-and-forget” doctrine as much as possible.
  • Limit post production editing time by capturing picture-in-picture layouts from the get-go.

2) Automate as much as possible

Delegating as much as possible to machine automation will help save a lot of time. Scheduling automatic lecture capture is a good example. Using something like the Kaltura scheduling feature with the Pearl Mini encoder (a lecture capture, recording, and streaming device), a teacher or assistant could set up automatic lecture recording during a specific time window for an entire semester. Pearl Mini also allows for remote recording monitoring, just to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Another example of time-saving automation is setting up your files to automatically upload to a centralized repository instead of manually uploading to a server or transferring files on thumb drives. Automatic upload of files to a networked location is available with Epiphan Pearl as well.

Other examples of ways to automate processes include: using automatic closed captioning, having AV equipment always ready to go (permanent setup), using advanced lecture-tracking cameras, and automated metadata tagging.

how to make lecture capture hardware easier for educators3) Use reliable equipment

No matter how eloquent the workflow design is, none of that will matter if you use flaky equipment. Starting from the cameras, to capture hardware or software, to the CMS and LMS services, make sure every item has proven itself during tests. Imagine a lecturer having to figure out why the camera isn’t working in the middle of the lecture. Never underestimate the importance of good audio: similar microphones can behave differently in different rooms. Invest in good microphones and test the setup beforehand. Here are some more tips on reliability:

  • If you are using a multi-camera setup in your classroom, make sure your capture hardware can handle the load. That is, it can reliably record and/or stream two or more video sources in HD without losing quality or crashing.
  • Knowing that your lecture is in fact being recorded and seeing what the output looks like can provide real piece of mind. Using equipment with a confidence monitor can help achieve this.
  • Having remote access to your hardware devices in case you do need remote troubleshooting could be very beneficial.
  • Going back to using the holistic approach: it is also a good idea to pick out integratable systems because their elements have been specifically designed to work together.

Look for a hardware encoder like Epiphan Pearl Mini to get all of these features in one package.

4) Collect input from students and faculty

Building a successful lecture capture, distribution, and management system is a process, a marathon. Both teachers and students are participants in this process, which is why two-way communication is very important. Asking the students as well as teachers for feedback is strongly encouraged. Often times it turns out that the teachers, the administrators, and the AV staff have completely different sets of priorities.

It may turn out that from the technical side, all lecture capture operations are running perfectly fine, however, from a pedagogical perspective, the system is not as effective as it could be, or perhaps teachers are spending way too much time on a specific aspect of creating new video material for students, or the students need the media to be easily available on a wider variety of devices. Blended and active learning environments are moving forward and evolving very quickly, and talking to the students and teachers is one of the ways to stay ahead. Having everyone on the same page certainly helps as well.

Conclusion

In addition to all of the above tips, always keep in mind that creating a functional lecture capture system requires a holistic approach. The different pieces should integrate with each other easily: the AV equipment should work well with the capture hardware or software, the capture software should work seamlessly with the video platform, and the video platform should fit well with the existing LMS. This is something to look for during the research and development phase.

Scalability is also something to keep in mind. Perhaps today, only a few teachers at your school record lectures in their classrooms (occasionally), uploading them to something like YouTube. However, as the positive effects of blended learning become more and more evident, and as more and more teachers start capturing new learning materials, your organization will need to figure out a way to manage and maintain all that infrastructure in a consistent and uniform fashion. This is where highly flexible video platforms like Kaltura can really help.

In the end, there is no one “correct” lecture capture configuration or setup, no one-size-fits-all solution. Starting out small, receiving feedback, and building up as you go is a solid strategy. Strive for simple, seamless, automated workflows and employ reliable and easily integratable hardware like Epiphan Pearl Mini to help you out.

Read more:

5 Hidden Benefits of Lecture Capture

Epiphan Video builds some of the world’s most reliable AV communication solutions for education, healthcare, live event production, manufacturing, security and transportation.

Epiphan’s Pearl family of hardware encoders (Pearl-2 and Pearl Mini) provides the easiest way to capture, record, and stream lectures. Manage your streaming, recording and live switching in one place with this all-in-one video encoder and live video production system.

Want to learn more about making lecture capture hardware easier for educators?

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