E-Learning: Video lectures filmed by students

[2013-06-02 Tue]

I recently received a grant from the UCL e-learning team to run a project for filming maths lectures.

The aim: The aim is to provide UCL mathematics students with high-quality video coverage of some of their core lectures. This would be particularly useful in mathematics where material is hard to absorb on a first hearing. We'd hope this would be particularly useful for our many overseas students with English as an nth language for n>1. Many of our courses are big ancillary courses for other departments and having lectures available online would help alleviate the possible clashes that might occur in timetabling.

The problem: Mathematical pedagogy focuses on board-based lectures, which are difficult to film under the current system used at UCL because the camera quality is not sufficient to capture extensive boardwork.

The proposal: Use a small, high-quality camera with a mount (borrowed from the e-learning team), operated by students from the front of the lecture theatre. We will train a group of students to act as camera-operators.

This is only a trial, so we will concentrate on two second-year courses (Mathematical Methods 3 and Complex Analysis), filmed by a team of four students. These students would preferably be from other classes so that the students in the target classes can focus on learning and not on filming. This would result in a workload of one or two hours/week for each student, which is hopefully not too much to distract from their own lectures, and they will be paid for their work (that's where the grant is going).

The results will be posted to Lecturecast and the students will be able to give continuous feedback via Moodle forums, to that we can optimise our filming techniques. We will also assess the effectiveness of this method and the usefulness of the new resource using questionnaires.

From a lecturer's perspective, I want my lectures to be videoed so that I can watch them back and know where I need to explain things better next time. While it is slightly terrifying for the unintentional verbal and notational errors one makes during lectures to be captured and viewable, it would surely be more useful for me to spot them so that I know why my students are getting confused.

While high-quality tracking cameras might be an optimal solution to this problem, they are expensive and we would first like to assess the usefulness of video lectures to our students. I also think that having a camera operated by someone who understands and appreciates the lectures, someone who can point the camera at what they think is most relevant, will lead to a more natural and useful video. I have seen the results of tracking cameras before, and I usually ended up standing on the far side of the board from the equation I was talking about. Having the camera placed at the front of the lecture theatre also seems like a more surefire way of being able to see what's been written.

Comments, corrections and contributions are very welcome; please drop me an email at j.d.evans at lancaster.ac.uk if you have something to share.

CC-BY-SA 4.0 Jonny Evans.