Rewinding Classes

A pilot Classroom Capture project paves the way to revolutionizing courses and supporting student success.


Jane Noll, director of Introductory Psychology and coordinator of undergraduate affairs, was one of the USF faculty involved in the pilot program. Photo: Aimee Blodgett | USF News


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 5, 2012) – Among the many tools made available to support student success at the University of South Florida, Classroom Capture is finding its place.


Sometimes called “class capture” or “lecture capture,” the service fits perfectly in a world of countless apps, podcasts and myriad internet services made available for 24/7 access from all kinds of devices – mobile or otherwise.


The pilot phase at USF, conducted during the past year, has concluded. A newly-released study and evaluation indicate a majority of students and faculty used the service and was satisfied with what it had to offer.


Eleven faculty members took part. They recorded 10 lectures each and made them available online to listen to and download – audio only, or audio with some visual content.


More than 1,700 students were able to revisit classes electronically in participating courses given at five of USF’s colleges – Education, Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Behavioral and Community Sciences and Business.


Classroom Capture’s arrival is right on time. Students are choosing where to attend college based on being able to plug into the most and the best computer-based offerings. It’s to be expected. This generation can barely imagine a time without computers. Those born after 1993 cannot remember life without mobile connectivity, let alone life without computers.


Some of their professors are all too familiar with the pre-electronic device era but Classroom Capture is so easy to use, even they are being won over to its benefits.


Jane Noll, director of Introductory Psychology and coordinator of undergraduate affairs, teaches a large survey course, Introduction to the Science of Psychology, with more than 200 students. She was worried at first.


“As with any new technology, I wondered ‘how much time is this going to take?’” she said. “And I thought students might think they wouldn’t have to come to class.”


Her worst fears were not realized.


“It is very easy to use, it’s not intrusive and doesn’t change what I do at all,” she said. “I’ve been keeping track of attendance and there hasn’t been a problem at all.”


As she pointed out, “It’s very common to fear new technology. There were professors who were afraid of Power Point at first.”


What Noll and other professors like about Classroom Capture is that they have full control over when and how to use it. Lectures - intended for the sole use of their students – are available on Blackboard and in the password protected area of USF on iTunes U.   


With the audio recording apparatus there’s also a document camera that allows them to project images in class. They’re able to upload Power Point slides and other materials for use in class as well, things they might have handed out in the past. The audio captured in class is accompanied by this material once it becomes a downloadable podcast.


“When I point to something in class, I just use the cursor and it shows up in the recording,” Noll said.


One other benefit is not having to use class time for matters the instructor would prefer to relegate to the Classroom Capture domain where students can access it anywhere, at any time, via their laptops, computers or smart phones. 


The USF Classroom Capture Committee, chaired by College of Education Dean Colleen S. Kennedy, recommended that participation be completely voluntary.  Unauthorized use of the material is strictly forbidden. There is to be no posting of the material without written permission to do so. Nothing in Classroom Capture is to be used to evaluate or judge faculty. 


Unavoidable absences or delays, headaches, worries, you name it, all kinds of distractions can interfere with getting the most from the classes professors painstakingly and carefully prepare for their students. 


“Our commitment to student success dictated that we add this tool to our collection of services that support ways to deliver and retain knowledge,” Kennedy said. “This is an important enhancement that has strong research behind it.”


Studies have shown increased retention and improved test preparation with Classroom Capture. Surveyed students said they are ready to use it.


“Naturally Classroom Capture will help students who miss class, but we have no intention of replacing in-class or real-time online instruction,” Kennedy said. “The value is in making it possible for students to review what was covered in class – to truly master the material.”


Classroom Capture already is being used at universities across the country. The public is largely familiar with the collection of courses at Yale, MIT, Harvard, UCLA and lectures and courses already available on iTunes, not to mention what’s available on YouTube. Plus there are hundreds of free online courses available from the nation’s top universities.


Up to this point, USF has used lecture capture technology to support special projects. This is the first time it’s being used on this scale at USF.


There are plenty of software and hardware options on the market. USF uses Panopto. The logistics are relatively simple. This system enables content to be recorded and published to their course in Blackboard within seconds – without the expensive and complex post-production processes.


“The basic technical necessities to implement course capture already exist in the majority of USF’s classrooms,” said Beth Jordan, a doctoral student in the College of Education who assisted Kennedy in coordinating the work of the committee.  “One can even record using nothing but a laptop with a built-in microphone and a quick software download.”


As Classroom Capture is growing in use nationally, a number of issues – ownership of the material, how to record, archive and store it, how long to make it available and to whom – have been raised.


“We have developed an Acceptable Use Policy building on one in use at Indiana University that we obtained permission from them to modify,” said Kennedy. 


The USF Classroom Capture Committee has developed several guidelines for consideration by the university and included them as recommendations in their report.


The project’s orientation subcommittee, working with the Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence, Information Technology, staff from the iteach lounge in the College of Education and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, created support materials and conducted orientation sessions to support the faculty participants. Following demonstrations on use of the software as well as background information and details on the pilot study, they were ready. 


A survey evaluation was given at the end of the pilot to gather data regarding ease of use, technical adequacy, student and faculty perceptions, and efficacy. The USF Classroom Capture Committee issued a report May 22 that will be presented to Provost Ralph Wilcox and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee June 6. If all goes as well as expected, expansion is likely.


Umar Ahmed, a freshman in Noll’s class used Classroom Capture “four or five times” throughout the semester, “whether it was related to studying or trying to catch up on a day I missed,” he said. “I would listen to a lecture I attended before a test and fast forward to parts that I wasn't too familiar with,” Ahmed said. “It helped with understanding because it came from Professor Noll who is excellent at explaining.”


The political science major from Palm Harbor added that what kept him coming to class was the ability to ask questions and get immediate answers, something he would have to wait to do otherwise.  Having immediate access to lectures also cut down on the need to email the professor and teaching assistants and wait for responses.


His classmate freshman Marrisa Lord, a nursing major from Seminole, used the service three or four times and found it quite valuable and “would love to have this available for all of my classes.”


I noticed an improvement from my first exam grade, when I didn't use it, to my second exam grade, when I used it as a study tool,” she said. “If you aren't able to copy all of the notes fast enough or didn't fully understand one of the concepts, Classroom Capture was a wonderful resource. I loved it.”


The day will come when surfing through and around recorded classes will be something students take for granted. The mention of a philosopher or musician in a history class can lead from one discipline to another and multiple lectures on the same topic can illuminate a subject in ways that build on methods already familiar to this generation of students. But nothing takes the place of attending classes – whether on campus or on line.


“Whether recorded or not, students will make the best use of their time by attending and paying attention in class where they can interact, ask questions and get real-time feedback,” Kennedy said. “Classroom Capture is available to help reinforce and complement that knowledge, not take its place. Just as phones and computing have become mobile and distance learning is no longer a novelty, it makes sense that something close to instant replay should be available to educators, not just televised sports.”


For a research university, Classroom Capture presents an interesting project to measure and analyze. Doctoral students, Scot Rademaker and Tyler Hicks in collaboration with Jordan, conducted the pilot study and prepared the evaluation report. The resulting data analysis and the evaluation report will provide the basis for submitting a manuscript for publication. 


“What we learn from this will allow us to further refine and enhance how we use Classroom Capture,” Jordan said.


Just in time for the fall semester.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.