E-lecturing – very possible but is it probable?

With a learning management system such as Blackboard that we have here at Bond it is possible to walk into a lecture theatre empty-handed and conduct a perfect lecture. All would-be printed materials are stored in the Blackboard subject web site (notes, handouts, slides, web links, audio and video files, online demos) and can be projected as needed. New or annotated material can be generated in-lecture as it progresses and saved back to the Blackboard site for later consumption by the students.

What’s missing? Several important interactions and much important information:

  1. Annotation and visible gestures: keyboard and mouse are only useful for small annotations and amendments to notes and slides during a lecture. A pen and tablet screen are needed to provide the equivalent freedom of a whiteboard. A tablet PC is needed in each lecture room. A major additional benefit is that the annotations, arrows, underlining, circling and drawing are recorded and can be saved up to the web site.
  2. Lecturer’s narrative: this should be available as a podcast on the web site. A wireless microphone and readily available podcast recording and editing software is needed on the PC in each lecture room. The saved podcast can be uploaded to the web site after the lecture for editing and/or playback.
  3. Lecture room PC screen video: a video recording of the lecture’s use of the PC screen captures the presentation of the lecture material and is of special benefit when displaying web pages, showing media and demonstrating software. A screencasting software package is needed on each lecture room PC. Indeed such software can combine the lecturer’s narrative as well.
  4. Student interaction: this is the most difficult of all. Only if students each wear a microphone can their verbal remarks/questions be captured. Passing around radio mics is an interim solution but will disrupt the class and consume extra time. Of course issuing each student with a remote keypad or clicker device provides a very specialised form of feedback which requires special hardware, software and substantial preparation before the class.

I am hoping to progress at least the second and third aspects in the coming months, and since I currently own a tablet PC I may be in a position to test the first aspect in my next teaching semester.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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