Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Use of Video Capture at Universities Beyond Lecture Recording

The Australian National University, where I teach, has selected Echo360 for recording lectures in lecture theaters. This will replace a bespoke system called "Digital Lecture Delivery Service" (DLD), which has been in use since 2004. So I dropped in for a demonstration of the new system from Jo Williams at Echo360's Perth office (the product was originally developed at UWA in Perth and then commercialized).
It happens I had seen an early version of this system in use at the UWA's Albany campus, when a consultant for government.

At its most basic Echo360 works like DLD in the lecture theater. The audio is recorded from the same microphone used for the lecture theater. Whatever is on the projection screen is recorded as video. This is usually slides, but can be a document camera recording material, including hand drawn diagrams. Optionally a video of the presenter is also recorded. The presenter just as to remember to start the recording and stop it at the end, whereupon the system makes the recording available via the Learning Management System (LMS), in the case of the ANU, this is Moodle. The student just need a web browser to play the video (PC, Apple Macs and Linux).

Students appreciate having recordings of lectures, for ones they miss or want to go thorough again (students where English is a second language find this particularly useful). Also this is a quick, easy and cheap way to create content for a distance education course. Research shows that a recording of a live lecture with poor quality video and all the unedited gaffs is just as educationally useful as a professionally produced video.

Echo 360 offers some intriguing extra features, some already in the product and others in development. The lecturer can record their lecture at their desk, using software on their PC or Apple Mac (unfortunately Linux is not supported). They can also annotate a recording they have made live in the lecture theater with extra notes for the students. Also notes from students can be shared.

Students can pause the recording of a lecture, rewind and fast forward. An intriguing future possibility would be to pause a live lecture. I discussed the possibility of this in the conference talk and paper "Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning: Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques", and wrote a project proposal for a student to write "Software for Synchronised Asynchronous Constructivist e-Learning". The idea would be to break down the division between what is real time and what is pre-recorded.

Another intriguing possibility is to combine large group interactive sessions with students live in a room and on-line. The use of this form of "interactive engagement" is still controversial at ANU when used just in a classroom, without adding the complication of on-line students as well. However, combining the on-line and classroom students could enrich the experience for both and make it much more lively.


  1. Is this a development of iLecture?
    I saw a great demo of iLecture in 1999 at an Apple AUC conference in Woolongong uni. Way ahead of its time. I recall the presenters were from Perth.

  2. iLecture was developed at UWA in the late 1990s, renamed 'Lectopia' in 2005 and sold to become Echo360 in 2007: