Thursday, September 20, 2012

How I Flipped Out: Pre-Recording Content Delivery

In early June, I focused my attention on reworking the presentation of the content of my Intro to Ancient Rome course.  Once I made the decision to pre-record the lectures using our Echo360 lecture capture technology, I also had to revise and reorganize my Power Point slide presentations.  Even if I had had the time in the spring to start work on revising the Power Points--time that I didn't have--there was no way I could have understood how to do it until I actually did a day of test shots in front of the camera.  It was really only when I was in front of the camera that I was able to intuit the ways that the medium of lecture capture (and shortened lecture times) demanded a different kind of presentation than what I had typically done during a regular class session.  In fact, it becomes clear that, about a week into shooting, I really "got" how to work with the medium of lecture capture and maximize its strengths.

After a weekend of frantically preparing the first 4-5 PPTs, I showed up at the audio studio for the first real day of filming.  We filmed on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10-1 pm (often more like 2 pm).  We usually filmed 4 lectures/session.  We did two weeks on, a week off, and then two more weeks on.  There were two additional one-day sessions in late July and mid-August to film (and re-film) some lectures orienting students to the course, to blended learning, and to the ethics approach.  We filmed a total of 51 lectures (some of these were re-filmed a few times!) plus the three "introduction to the course and its approach" lectures.  The lectures were about 15-25 minutes in length, and most of them were right around the 20 minute mark.  We ended up re-recording about 15-20% of them, for a range of reasons: the first cut was too long; there was a typographical error on a slide; I was tongue-tied (this happened exclusively at the starts: every once in a while, I would have trouble getting my momentum going); there was a technical problem (one day we lost all of our work because my new computer power cord was creating some kind of interference with the Echo Box); or I just didn't feel like I had done the lecture as well as I could have. 

Now, I'm a perfectionist (like many academics!) and I had to let go of a lot of that during this process.  Still, there were times where I really felt like I could do better and it was worth a second shot.  With the Echo360, we could edit things out but we could not splice things in.  To make this work, one has to stop after making a mistake, wait about 45 seconds, and then start again so that the editors can cut out the mistake.  I could never train myself to do this.  Once I lost my momentum and train of thought, it was gone.  I always found it easier to start over.  Fortunately, most of my troubles came within the first 2-3 minutes so it was easy to just start anew.  In the end, we did keep a few lectures that had tiny errors in them (saying 507 BC instead of 509 BC for the foundation of the republic, but in a context where they have already learned the correct date and it's clearly just a slip), with the thought that we will surely be doing more recording for other versions of the class and so can replace them then.

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