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Lecturer Andreas Dewanto, Department of Physics shares his perspective on producing lecture videos for iBLOCs.

 


Producing Your Lecture-videos for Flipped Classroom

 

by Andreas Dewanto

Email: andreas.dewanto@nus.edu.sg

 

A. Background

The NUS Internal Blended Learning Online Course (IBLOC) initiative was introduced in 2013. Blended learning refers to a type of teaching and learning methodology which incorporates technology to conventional   classroom teaching and learning. For instance, one of the characteristics of conventional classroom is   the physical co‐presence of   teacher and students. Use of media and infocomm technology in delivering lectures enables students to attend the "class" anytime and anywhere. Hence, one application of blended learning is   flipped classroom, where students are expected to go through the lecture material online, and be   present in class to solve and discuss homework or tutorial problems. In this sense, technology is required to produce high-quality lecture-videos, monitor students' progress, and engage the students beyond the classroom.

 

We recognize a few major concerns [1] from fellow educators pertaining to flipped classroom. One of   such concerns is   the lecturer's lack of time and expertise to produce the lecture videos. While lack in time is dependent on individual lecturer's time management and commitment, we think that lack in skill or expertise should not be a hindrance. When we decided to enroll PC1221 Fundamentals in Physics 1   into the iBLOC initiative, we had no experience in video production whatsoever to begin with. This article thus outlines our experience and thought process as we learned   the rope of producing   PC1221 lecture videos. We hope   to share with our colleagues and fellow educators the various information, technical aspects, tips and tricks   concerning the production of these videos.  

 

PC1221 Fundamentals of Physics 1 is a physics bridging course for students without A-level physics background, who intend to read more advanced physics courses which require A-level background. It covers topics such as kinematics, dynamics, work and energy, momentum, fluid physics, thermal physics, and thermodynamics.   As of semester 2 2014/2015, the course is offered in-parallel to both regular (already-matriculated)   NUS students as well as reserved national-service (RNS) students who will only be matriculated to NUS in semester 1 2015/2016. The regular class, comprises of 33 students, runs for 13 weeks (excluding mid-term break, reading week and examination week), which is typical of NUS courses in semester 2. Whereas the RNS class, comprises of 16 students, runs for 20 weeks   (excluding mid-term break, reading week and examination week), which spans over semester 2 and special term 1 in NUS academic calendar.  

 

B. Hardware

We started by   scouring through various forums and blogs to seek for minimum desktop specification required for video production. One of the blogs, hosted by Udemy [2], provides such information. Based on this information, the Department of Physics procured an Apple MacPro of which specification is listed in Table 1.

 

Table 1 : A comparison of the department-procured MacPro specification versus minimum specification recommended by Udemy [2] for video production.

 

Recommended by Udemy

MacPro

CPU/

Processor

A minimum of i5 or i7 quad-core processor.

3.7 GHz quad-core with 10MB L3 cache

RAM/

Memory

A minimum of 4GB. 8GB or 16GB is recommended for heavy editing work.

16GB (4x4GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC

Hard-drive/

Storage

A minimum 2TB internal hard drive.

1 TB PCIe based flash storage

Graphic Card

nVidia or ATI video card with a minimum of 512MB of memory.

Dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM each

Monitor

A widescreen LCD monitor, up to 27 inches. A dual-monitor setup   is   highly recommend.

2 x 27-inch U2713Hb Dell Monitor

 

C. Software, Operating Systems, and Course Management Systems

Camtasia Studio is the software that the NUS Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT) advised us for video production. It is available for Windows and Mac operating system. However, as of this writing, the compatibility between the two is very limited. One is able to record the raw videos   in either operating systems, and transfer the file to the other for post-production work. But once editing is done in one of the   OS, one should continue   working on that particular OS. Because of our choice of hardware, we   adopt Camtasia Studio for Mac.

 

We are aware of a colleague who is using Final Cut Pro to prepare the lecture video. Final Cut Pro is adopted by professional film-makers and, hence, it offers better features and flexibility for editing. However, that also implies steeper learning curve. We liken Camtasia to Paintbrush, and Final Cut Pro to Adobe Photoshop. It took us roughly an hour of self-exploration through trial and error to master Camtasia decently. By “decent”, we are able   to record the lecture slide, edit the video to remove unwanted scene, enhance its quality, and apply animation, such as masking, drawing, and zooming to highlight particular content in the slide. We thus recommend to simply utilize Camtasia Studio for the production.

 

Coursera is our choice of course management system. Coursera was founded by Stanford computer science professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, as a platform for massive open online courses (MOOCs). Up to date, NUS has been offering 3 MOOCs on the Coursera globally. NUS, however, is also using the platform to host courses taught under iBLOC initiative, although it is up to the respective course lecturers whether to adopt Coursera or NUS IVLE to manage the course.   We adopted Coursera mainly to try out the technology.

 

Similar to IVLE, Coursera supports various features to disseminate information and lecture material, post forum discussion, and   keep track of students’ progress via quizzes, surveys, and log files. Unlike IVLE, Coursera does not support seamless integration with the other NUS management system. For instance, students will not automatically be able to join the course in Coursera upon successful bidding via CORS. Instead, our CIT colleagues will have to register the students manually to the Coursera course, so that these students are able to access the course material using their NUS user ID and password.   Furthermore, lecturers are not able to export grade from Coursera quizzes directly to NUS IMMS. Instead one has to take an extra care importing the grades to a separate Excel file, and from the Excel file to IMMS afterward. In our opinion, this is rather cumbersome, but not something of a serious concern. 

 

We did, however, experience what seems like a serious technical bug when running both regular and RNS class in Coursera. Due to the difference in the schedule (13 weeks vs 20 weeks), we created 2 different sessions under the same course in Coursera. Each session is a complete course package (with separate lecture video timeline, mailing-list, forum discussion, etc), for each of the student groups. Midway through the semester, we discovered that a few of RNS students who were included in the mailing list meant for the regular students. As a result, these few RNS students were receiving email-announcements meant for the regular students. They were confused. The glitches persisted even after CIT’s attempt to fix them. Fortunately, the affected RNS students were in the correct session and we made it a point to put up our email-announcements to the session’s noticeboard. We thus specifically instructed these affected students to simply ignore any email coming from us, and follow the instruction in the session’s noticeboard.   As of the writing this article, we are not aware if this problem has been resolved.  

 

We thus recommend against crating multiple sessions under the same course in Coursera . Moving forward, when offering parallel courses for regular as well as RNS students in years to come, we plan to manage the regular course using IVLE, and manage the RNS course using Coursera. This will ensure an independent mailing list for each group of students.

 

D. Pre-production

Lecture slides were prepared using Powerpoint. Though we had taught the course before, we decided to redesign the slide from scratch, instead of recycling the slide from past years. We have 2 reasons:

  1. In past years, we prepared the slide in 4:3 format. As wide-screen monitors gains popularity and becoming a norm, Coursera requires the lecture-videos to be prepared in 16:9 format.
  2. We are mindful not to be too wordy with the slide. In the past years of teaching PC1221, we designed the slides to be a self-sufficient source for students’ revision. That is, we expected students to read the slides when revising the material. In a lecture-video, students listen to the slides being narrated to them.  Images and simulations form a better visual engagement than words. Slide transition, animation and sound effect are hardcoded into the slide.

In addition, the principles outlined by Mayer [3] may come handy while preparing the slides. Interested reader may contact Mr. Alan Soong ( alan.soong@nus.edu.sg ) for the reference.

 

We further made it to the point that narration was written down in details for each slide as we were designing the slide. This narration would be read aloud during recording. Narration helps in ensuring a smooth recording and avoiding fillers, such as “er”, “um”, and “uh”, and thereby minimizing our post-editing work. Narration also helps us in avoiding excessive and irrelevant use of adverbs, such as “actually” or “basically”, thus ensuring a succinct presentation. Guo et al [4] has suggested an optimal time of 6 minute or less for each lecture video. In practice, we think it is more effective to develop the videos based on topics, and not constrained by time. As a result, we have produced lecture-videos which last from 4 to 16 minutes. In average, our lecture videos last for 8-10 minutes.

 

Secondly, narration also serves as subtitle. For subtitling our lecture-videos, we enlisted a student-assistant as recommended by CIT. During the course mid-term feedback, we asked the students if having subtitle helped. Of 30 respondents, 1 student opts for “ Yes because sometimes I can't understand what the lecturer said”, 14 students opt for “I can understand what the lecturer   said, though the subtitle definitely helps”, 9 students opt for “I can understand what the lecturer said without the subtitle, but it still good to have it, and 6 students opt for “I can understand what the lecturer said. I do not need the subtitle.” We thus recommend lecturers to provide subtitle in their lecture-videos , especially if English is not their native tongue.

 

Figure 1 . Narration is provided in each slide for it to be recorded and served as subtitle.

 

We decided not to record a "selfie” (or talking head) of ourselves to be included in the screencast. We reason that   the videos may be used in the course for many years to come. However, the lecturer may change from year to year. We keep in mind that the videos may be developed further in future . For instance, we may want to remove certain contents deemed irrelevant or add more contents to further explain or emphasize certain concepts.   We further avoid putting or mentioning any reference to specific dates or time (e.g. “As we discussed last Monday, …” or “This topic will be tested next week.”) in the lecture videos to ensure that the videos remain relevant in years to come.   Once again, we found that narrating the slides prior to the recording helped us avoid saying such reference by mistake.

 

Simulation and images were incorporated into the slides. In conventional PPT slide, we normally source for these images and simulations from the recommended textbook. This is not an issue if one decides to use IVLE as the course management platform. However, since Coursera is a for-profit organization, one should be mindful of the proprietary right of the images, which belong to the publishers. However, we sought consent from Pearson and Cengage publishing house . Consent from the publishing houses were given. We are allowed to incorporate their images into the slides as long as (1) we continue to recommend the textbooks to the students, and (2) the course is not open for public. These consents are applicable to other colleagues who are recommending textbooks from Pearson and Cengage in their course. Furthermore, we often use images from Open Clipart ( openclipart.org/ )   and Wikimedia Commons ( commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page ) which carry creative commons license.

 

We incorporated simulations from PhET ( phet.colorado.edu/ ) and Wolfram Alpha ( demonstrations.wolfram.com/ ), as these simulations are free, as long as proper acknowledgement is provided. When simulations were involved, we were mindful to leave empty space in the Powerpoint slide. Recording was done separately for the simulation and the slide. The record of the simulation will then be fused into the screencast during post-production (see Fig. 2)

 

Figure 2 . Powerpoint slide and applet-based simulation are recorded separately during production. The record of the simulation is then superimposed on the Powerpoint screencast with the aid of Camtasia.

 

E. Production

Interference from background noise is a major concern in any video production. Vehicles passing by, car honking, students talking loudly, or hacking and banging from construction sites are typical source of background noise in NUS. To minimize interference from such noises, we recommend recording the lecture-video to be done only in CIT-administered recording booth .

 

We recorded our videos in 2 venues: the ERC recording booth in Education Resource Center Multimedia Hub at U-Town, and the Faculty of Science’s self-recording room, located at S16 level 3. The former facility can be booked via utav@nus.edu.sg , whereas the latter can be booked via Facility Booking System in the Staff Portal. Most of our recordings were done in the ERC recording booth. We recorded only 2 lectures in the FoS self-recording room.

 

The ERC recording booth supports both Windows and Mac users, while as of this writing, the FoS self-recording room is only equipped with Windows-based station. As mentioned earlier, we were able to produce the raw records using Window-version of Camtasia Studio, but we were unable to do any editing of it if we intend to work on the post-production in Macintosh. The more serious problem, however, was with the background noises which came from the science canteen downstairs and the Special Programme in Science students beside the recording room. Though not completely soundproof, the recording kiosk in ERC provides a better recording environment.    

 

F. Post-production

During post-production we remove unwanted scene from the recording, adjust the sound and image quality of the recording, and finally apply annotations, animations, and masking to the recordings. Different annotations, animations, and masking as provided by Camtasia software are used to emphasize or highlight certain things in the slide as shown in the Fig. 3. In any case, we recommend interested lecturers to invest more effort and thought for pre-production to ensure a smooth post-production.

 

Figure 3a . Snapshots of the video before and after annotations are applied. Camtasia supports various forms of annotations, such as arrow, underline, circle, square, cross, tick, and free text.

 

Figure 3b . Snapshots of the video before and after zooming is applied. Zooming is one of the animation featured in Camtasia.

 

Figure 3c . Snapshots of the video before and after masking is applied. Masking provides a way to darken irrelevant content of the slide, in order to focus audience attention to certain part of the slide.

 

G. Closing Remarks

One of the criticisms [1] argues that   student   do like to “sit at home watching boring video lectures on the web”. At least in the classroom, they get some kind of interaction with the lecturer and with their peers, the critics further argue. This leads to the issue of accountability, i.e. how do we ensure the students to watch the videos?

 

We concur. The greatest disadvantage of online lecture is the removal of direct human-to-human interaction typically present in conventional lecture. We normally gauge students' reception of a lecture and take cues from the look of their face, gesture or body language. In respond, we could crack a joke, pause, repeat the explanation, or give a short break to ensure students stay engaged. Obviously we are no longer able to do so in online lectures.

 

Interestingly, we are also aware of millions who are glued to National Geographic, Discovery Channel, or similar edutainment channels. Youngsters possibly learn more about science from such channels than from their science classes. We thus ask ourselves: what makes such productions way more successful (in term of viewership, at least) than our lecture-videos? There are a number of reasons, we think, such as the charismatic tone of the narrator, the high quality of the footages, and the professional-touch of the production as a whole. There is also difference in the mind of students learning from such channel purely for entertainment and enrichment, and learning from lecture-videos for passing the exam. We definitely cannot expect all our students to watch the lecture-videos as enthusiastically as they would when watching Discovery channel. Nonetheless, we can learn from those edutainment channels and strive to produce high-quality, professionally-looking, and visually-engaging lecture-videos.   This, coupled with regular continual assessment (such as reflections, quizzes, etc), we believe, would ensure students to stay engaged, and even entertained, throughout the course.

 

Acknowledgements

The author would like to give its appreciation to

  1. NUS Provost Office (Dr. Chng Huang Hoon and Ms. Ong Chin Chin), for the funding and various administrative advices provided.
  2. NUS CDTL (Alan), for the pedagogical advices.
  3. NUS Physics Department (Prof. Sow Chorng Haur, A/P Thomas Osipowicz, and PC Lab Team lead by Dr. Ng Siow Yee and Mdm. Tan Teng Jar), for the administrative support prior to and during the course.
  4. NUS CIT (Shyam, Han Leong, Nel, Claudine, and Rini) for the various technical assistance rendered.

This work is supported by NUS grant no. C-144-000-044-511.

 

Reference

[1]. November, A. (2012). Flipped learning: a response to five common criticisms. November Learning, Retrieved from   http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/teaching-and-learning-articles/flipped-learning-a-response-to-five-common-criticisms-article/  

[2]. Refer to   www.udemy.com/blog/best-computer-for-video-editing/  

[3]. Mayer,   R.   E.   2015,   March.   Research-based Principles for Multimedia Instruction. Keynote address   presented   at   the   Coursera   Partners’   Conference,   Newport   Beach,   CA.

[4]. Philip J. Guo, Juho Kim, and Rob Rubin. 2014. How video production affects student engagement: an empirical study of MOOC videos. In   Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Learning @ scale conference   (L@S '14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 41-50. DOI=10.1145/2556325.2566239 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2556325.2566239

 

 

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