Monday, March 8, 2010

Fly on the wall

Filming lectures is becoming increasingly popular at most universities. Sometimes they're shared on the net using platforms like iTunes U or YouTube Edu though probably the vast majority are hidden for all but registered students. The reasons for filming are generally to let students review lectures later and to allow distance learners access to the campus classroom, but when the lectures are open to all factors like marketing and recruitment come into force.

There's an article in The Chronicle, College 2.0: More Professors Could Share Lectures Online. But Should They? that lists the pros and cons of going on air in the classroom. One factor that makes some teachers reluctant is the relationship between teacher and students that doesn't translate well when seen on a small screen. As one professor puts it:

".... I find myself playing devil's advocate all the time ... I don't want to be on the record saying something I don't even believe" if the lectures go out on the Web. He considers the classroom a "sacred space" that may need to stay private to preserve academic freedom."

I personally believe that the benefits of openness in this respect far outweigh the drawbacks but one aspect of the filmed lectures is a problem. It's the fly on the wall feeling you get when watching these recordings as a distance student. Since it's filmed "live in front of a studio audience" you as a distance student are simply not there. The teacher addresses the students in the room and has eye contact with them and seldom, if ever, with you. I've seen many filmed lectures where the teacher even moves off camera for a while or is very definitely off centre. This hardly makes the film compulsive viewing.

If a lecture is intended for an audience of distance students a greater sense of intimacy is gained if the lecture is recorded on the teacher's own computer and webcam or in a studio with no audience. That way everyone gets full eye contact. Maybe it's soon time to make most lectures web-based, even for campus students and spend the contact time in the classroom on discussion rather than lecturing.

Photo by Wen Chuan Tan, Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike Some rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Filming lectures is becoming increasingly popular at most universities.

    - i agree... :)