Thursday, February 14, 2013

Posting PPTS

When I first started teaching large enrollment classes many moons ago, I refused to post extended notes or my PowerPoint slides.  I didn't take attendance (I had no efficient way to do so pre-i>clicker) and didn't want to encourage students to skip class and then rely on a skeleton outline of the lecture.  About three years ago, I realized that I needed to change my tactics.  Students were pooling notes via GoogleDocs; they were using their phones to snap pics of the PPTs in class (!); and some had disabilities accommodations that entitled them to all my notes and slides (which were then magically being distributed to other students in the class who did not have the same accommodation).  Around the same time that I realized I was fighting a losing battle, I chanced into teaching in a room equipped with lecture capture technology (Echo360).  After some back and forth, I opted to use the lecture capture for my class lectures--and loved it.  No more students asking for PPTs, no more pooling of notes.  Attendance wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't significantly lower than it would have been without lecture capture.  As well, because the lectures were recorded, I felt like I could hold the students to a higher standard of learning on the midterm exams.

Last fall, I used Echo360 extensively, to pre-record lectures and also to record in class lectures.  Within the first few weeks of the semester, I had students asking for me to upload the PPT slides that went along with the pre-recorded lectures.  In part because I had decided to give them every possible tool and then observe how they used it, I did so.  I could appreciate the argument that they wanted to be able to take notes from the lectures directly on print outs of the slides.  Unfortunately, it soon became clear that, when pressed for time, the students were skipping the lectures entirely and simply reading through the PPT presentations.  These presentations had a fair amount of text on them, in part because I was worried I would forget important details while taping the lectures.  Still, they weren't a sufficient replacement for the actual lectures.

Once again this semester, I had students asking for the PPT slides of the Echo recordings.  The argument was that it was difficult to scroll through the recording to find specific details.  Certainly, depending on the speed of one's connection, this can be true.  It is nevertheless interesting to me that, just 18 months ago, students were delighted to have the recordings.  Nobody asked for the PPTs--after all, that is part of the point of using lecture capture.  I opted not to provide the PPTs this semester.  I explained why I wasn't doing so and suggested some techniques for finding individual slides within a lecture.  I want the students going back to the recordings; I want them listening to what I am saying and not just reading a phrase on a slide.  I hope that, maybe, in going back to the lecture they will listen to longer parts of it.  I am thinking that I might excerpt the images and provide those for them to review outside of the Echo recordings.  But, honestly, I feel like they are lucky to have the recordings (I'm one of the few professors on campus to use this technology) and am not inclined to do anything to encourage shortcuts.  Yes, it would take less time to look at a PPT slide than to scroll through a lecture; but the entire point of recording the lecture is so that they will go back through them and listen to all or parts of them, depending on where they have gaps in knowledge and understanding.

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