High-Touch or Automated Classroom Capture?

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By: Steve Vonder Haar

Creating video content takes a lot more effort than just flipping on a camera.

After all, it seemingly takes a small army to make the videos we watch as couch potatoes in our living rooms. Technicians need to get equipment in place. The lighting needs to be just right. Audio inputs have to be managed. And once you have good video captured, you need other professionals to edit it all together.

Little wonder that some folks can get overwhelmed with the idea of producing video when they’re doing their day jobs. When Wainhouse Research surveyed 1,512 executives in the fourth quarter of 2015, only 24% of respondents said that they strongly agreed with the statement “When considering the skills needed to produce video good enough to share with others at work, I possess the capability for creating this video.”

And academics are even more leery of video production. Out of the participating survey respondents from the education segment, only 17% agreed with the idea that they have sufficient skills for creating video.

Given these survey results, it’s not surprising that many educators remain at odds regarding the best strategy for capturing video of classroom lectures. On one side, you have individuals espousing the benefits of giving classroom instructors wide latitude in determining when and how their lectures are captured for later replay. On the other side, you have those touting the advantages of using systems that automate the process of capturing lectures through programming that launches recordings in lecture halls at specific, scheduled times.

Neither side is wrong in this debate. There are upsides and downsides to each approach. Where you sit on the subject likely depends on how much trust you put in individual presenters to make the right decisions when using the video capture systems.  And there are pragmatic, educational drivers in play: video can become an essential element of instruction, key to how a curriculum is designed and how an instructor interacts with students, and how they interact with one another.

If you find an instructor willing to learn how to best use the systems that capture classroom video, the resulting content will be of higher quality (this will matter to some programs, will not to others). When instructors initiate lecture capture themselves, it is likely that they will begin their presentations in short order. And when the recording is active, familiarity with the system will help some presenters be more cognizant of the need to speak into microphones and keep themselves in the frame of a video camera.

Human nature does play a significant role, however. No matter how skilled an instructor is in producing video, it should be expected that some harried teachers will simply forget sometimes to activate the recording gear. With just one absent-minded moment, valuable content can be lost.

Lecture capture appliances that automate the scheduling of classroom recordings can eliminate this consequence associated with putting more control in the hands of presenters. By programming systems to begin recording (and later to stop recording) at pre-determined times, these systems literally can push concerns about lecture capture into the background. Assuming that instructors begin talking at the beginning of their scheduled class and wrap up by its scheduled end, all the content is captured without human intervention.

Such an automated approach, however, could ultimately wind up short-changing content viewers. If an instructor starts early or talks later than expected, for instance, that content would not make it to the recording. That would create the same type of content loss that emerges when instructors forget to hit the “record” button.

Additionally, pushing lecture capture into the background can allow some video-phobic teachers to forget or ignore the video production process altogether. The sheer act of hitting the “record” button reminds some instructors of the need to capture audio and video during their presentations. That keeps them mindful of having class participants speak into a microphone and of the need to stay within the camera’s traditional line of sight.

The question facing those in education is whether the value of video is enhanced by putting more production power into the hands of presenters or by implementing solutions that automate the process of flipping on the recording switch. While today’s solutions capture lectures better than ever before, my hunch is that the debate between instructor-guided video capture and the automation alternative will not be settled anytime soon.

Steve Vonder Haar is a senior analyst with Wainhouse Research and can be reached at svonder@wainhouse.com.


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