Magazine article University Business

Lights, Camera, Action! Coaching Instructors for On-Camera Roles in Distance Learning and Lecture Capture

Magazine article University Business

Lights, Camera, Action! Coaching Instructors for On-Camera Roles in Distance Learning and Lecture Capture

Article excerpt

For an increasing number of faculty members, class prep has gone high tech. It's not about simply reviewing notes and planning course exercises. It also involves stepping in front of a video camera. Whether it's for distance learning programs or flipped classrooms, colleges and universities now need faculty who are able and willing to teach on camera.

Not all faculty are ready to jump on the bandwagon. While they typically support the use of lecture capture technology, they don't love the idea of teaching to a camera. It is a challenge institutional officials are now facing as demand for online classes climbs.

Since instructors regularly stand in front of classrooms full of students, why would they take issue with being in front of a camera? Jennifer Flatt, a professor of English and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette who has helped colleagues become more comfortable being recorded for courses, says most instructors have two big fears:

* That their words will be taken out of context.

* That how they look and sound on-camera is unflattering.

Fortunately, after a few trial runs, most faculty realize those fears are unfounded, says Flatt. "Anyone watching is watching because they want to learn"--rather than to critique the professor's outfit or to mock the presentation. And once they realize that they can act naturally in front of the camera and not change how they teach, most instructors relax, says Flatt.

As Flatt and others who work with faculty to help make them comfortable on camera know, resistance to or anxiety about teaching on camera can best be overcome through group training or one-on-one coaching.

Supporting in the course design process

Syracuse University has been a pioneer in distance learning, having begun offering classes online in the 1990s and steadily expanding available courses each semester. In 1998, low-residency graduate programs debuted at Syracuse, along with an IMBA and a series of executive education programs. The push online was initially faculty-driven, says Michael Frasciello, director of online learning at the Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science. But many educators realized the need for support in developing and enhancing their presentation skills. So at Syracuse, that assistance is built into the online course design process.

Just don't call it training. "'Train' is a four-letter word," says Frasciello of the culture at Syracuse. "We coach and advise." That means helping faculty members present their material in a way that is fun and interesting, rather than completely changing how they teach.

Frasciello works closely with engineering faculty, teaching them how to engage students in online courses. A five-module online prep course that took eight hours to complete, followed by the course design program, used to be the requirement. Now that course has been merged with the course design process. Within that process, Frasciello covers connecting with and engaging students watching the class lectures, providing suggestions for building in exercises and assignments that build on what students learned in the video.

Building a recording studio

Where Syracuse works hand-in-hand with professors who want to teach online, Texas Tech University officials created an in-house recording studio where faculty can record classes on their own.

Suzanne Tapp, director of teaching, learning and professional development at Texas Tech, runs a resource center dedicated to helping instructors improve their teaching skills--online and in person.

A year ago, Tapp recognized the need for a quiet work space for faculty to use for capturing lessons, so she took an area formerly occupied by two offices and combined them into a recording studio. Now it is "a quiet area with good lighting and great acoustics," with a tech expert around the corner (literally) who can help with the filming process. …

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