Using Narrated Lectures for Anytime-Anywhere Student Access

One of the ways that I delivered content to my students in a Mastery Learning class was by narrated lectures.  This allows students to have just-in-time content delivery.  They get you and your content (both visual and audio) when they are ready for it and where ever they are at that time.

There are so many tools out there to accomplish this goal of providing narrated lectures online, and new tools are being created all the time.  You may want to dig around on Google and see which software/tools will work best for you’re creation and publication needs as well as your budget, but here are some tips to get you started.

Creating Videos

There’s many names for this type of content (vodcasting, vidcasting, podcasting), but publishing a video file in various ways.  There’s two ways that you can create the video –

1.  You can use a videocamera (such as the inexpensive, high quality and easy to use Flip Cams) and record yourself presenting content just as you would to a classroom or record yourself setting up a lab experiment or going over the use or handling of equipment as for a “pre-lab” discussion.

2.  You can use software that captures what you do on your computer as you work through a PowerPoint presentation on your computer.  A microphone captures your voice and the software records everything that’s on the screen.  Tablets or other on-screen annotation tools allow for you to write on the screen image of the PowerPoint just as you would write on a whiteboard or smartboard.  Some options for these software programs include Camtasia, Snapkast and Profcast.  A couple of chemistry teachers out in Colorado have a nice website that explains how they go this route to produce their videos.

The videos are often exported from the camera software or the screen-capturing software as a video file (MP4).  These files can be placed on your website, TeacherTube, emailed, placed on flash drive or DVD’s, iTunes, uploaded to your content delivery system (such as Moodle or Blackboard).  The MP4 files can be viewed on any computer, iPod-type devices, many phones, PSP video game players, etc.

The benefit in this type of video-delivery process is the ease of access – students can view the file on iPods, iPads, their smart phones or video game consoles.  Students have enormous flexibility even when you don’t have computers for every student in the classroom.

The drawback to this method is that MP4 files can be large depending on the length and quality of the file you created.

Narrated PowerPoint & Webpage
Although similar in basic concept to the above method, it’s slightly different and results in much smaller files for viewers to download.  This was my method of choice because of the demand downloading large video files during peak hours at the school I was teaching wasn’t always the best way (and I couldn’t upload large video files to my school’s teacher website).

It can also be a cheaper route as you can find conversion options that are free and you can narrate your PowerPoint files within PowerPoint itself so you don’t need a screen-capture program but you might or might not have the flexibility of what devices students can view your presentation on, depending on how you choose to convert it.

1.  Narrate the lecture within PowerPoint.  Depending on your version and operating system, it may be in a different location, but somewhere in your PowerPoint menus, usually near the “view slideshow” option, there will be an option to “record narration.”  Once you select that option you will see your slideshow and you will click through it just as you would presenting to an audience, speaking into a microphone/headseat as you go.  You can use screen annotation with a tablet or other method just as you would during a normal presentation.  When you’re done with the presentation, it will ask you if you want to save the timing with the narration and say “yes.”  That way it will remember how long you waited between each click when advancing the slideshow.

Narrated PowerPoint files are VERY LARGE, so you don’t want to just put this file on a webpage.  You need to convert it somehow.

2.  There are many conversion tools out there, some free (usually with a watermark or advertisement on it somewhere) and some will offer teacher pricing if you call or email their customer service which can be considerably cheaper than the regular price.

I used Impatica (with an educator discount I received by calling them) and it imports my narrated PowerPoint file and exports it as a very small webpage.  The only catch is that there will be three files you need to place all in the same location on a webpage (all in the same folder)–there’s the html file that people view and then there’s a .jar file for each html file and then there’s an “engine” file that only needs to be put in the folder once no matter how many .html and .jar files are in the folder.  As long as they’re all stored in the same place, it’s no problem and the only file that you need to link or send to the URL for is the html file.  Due to this need for placing files in the same folder, it won’t work with all content delivery systems (such as WebCT), so use the free trial version to see if it works for your needs before purchasing.

There are other choices that are free and offer more flexibility in deliver options.  authorSTREAM, for example, is a website that is free to join and you upload your narrated PowerPoint file and it can convert it to Flash (a small file size) and you can link it to a blog, website, facebook, iTunes or just about anywhere.  A free account on this site allows you to upload and publish as many open-access presentations (anyone can search, find them and view them) as you’d like and 20 “private presentations” that only the people you invite to it can see.  The paid memberships allow a greater number of “private presentations.”  Because you can create a link on any webpage to point to your authorSTREAM presentation, this method will work with any content delivery system–the drawback is that unless it’s one of your “private presentations” then it will be open to anyone and everyone on the internet (as opposed to the above options where it would be possible to put it in a content delivery system that only students enrolled in your course would have access to).

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