Lecture flipping- part 3

film strip


On to the geeky bit- the technology behind the flipped lecture. I haven’t uploaded the videos (yet) to youtube so an icon will have to do…

Even before I decided to volunteer for the biochemistry lectures and before I planned “lecture videos”, I was fascinated by science videos on YouTube- asapscience, Earth Unplugged, Minute Earth and especially Minutephysics, Myles Power, Periodic videos, PHD comics, SmarterEveryDay, thebrainscoop, Veritasium, Vihart and Vsauce. Creating something, merging science with a little bit of art and creativity sounded like fun, and I wondered if I wanted my own science channel. Trouble is, all of the above “content creators” (as YouTube calls them) make videos with pretty high production values –read: recorded under semi-professional conditions with very good cameras and lighting. My first attempts at creating videos the way Henry Reich does for Minutephysics (time-lapse recording of hand-drawn doodles on paper, a beautifully simple version of professional videoscribing as e.g. seen in RSA animate) were not encouraging. Much easier to start from animated Powerpoints and record screencasts. Without a vast amount of research, I settled on Snagit to do the screencasting. It’s very easy to use and cheaper than the full Camtasia studio. Snagit does not include editing, so I decided to subscribe to Adobe Creative cloud as well (affordable with educational discount) so I can use Premiere Pro, although chances are Camtasia studio would have been cheaper in the long run. It’s a shame that Adobe decided to exclude their screen capture tool (part of Captivate) from the Creative Cloud.

Having watched a few traditionally recorded lectures done with screen capture technology, I found them unbearably slow compared with the snazzy YouTube channels above. For a succinct style, I scripted the videos and created the Powerpoints alongside the script. I created those ppts based on the previously existing lectures, but soon found I wanted my own style and needed to include way more animation than would be practical for a classical lecture. After a while I found that I needed to make those animations move slowly (or fade in/out over eg 2 seconds instead of 1) because the 10-15 fps recording rate of Snagit otherwise made things jump awkwardly. For the voiceover I recorded my reading the script with Audacity on a Rode Podcaster microphone, using a fleece jumper around the mic (and myself!) to achieve a reasonably dry sound. This was good fun and surprisingly easy. Some room for improvement though- I’d like the sound even drier, and I’d prefer to speak standing up rather than hunched over the desk mic. Should be easy to fix. Having recorded the screencast (just clicking my way through the ppt), I spliced video and voice together in Premiere Pro to make text or images appear just at the right time. It took a while to get the hang of it and arrive at a routine for cutting, moving, rate stretching etc, but in the end this was a very satisfying thing to do. In some of the other videos I edited in other clips, for example of molecular dynamics animations that I found on the web. I’ve yet to learn how to produce animations of rotating protein structures but that’ll come.

Making these videos was very enjoyable, but also extremely time consuming –about 2-3 full days of work per lecture-, and having started production on the first one I realised I would only be able to convert 3 lectures to videos this year. Probably just as well because this was a trial run, and it makes sense to learn from the first round before rolling out the flipped approach to all of my lectures in the unit.

Each of these videos shrunk the 50 minute lecture down to 15-25 minutes split into two videos or just one. This was intentional, so students would be able to go through material for revision more quickly, but it also meant that I had to talk quite fast. I would have to wait for student feedback to see if they agreed.


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