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Grab that lecture -- in full HD!

Jaya Jha, Head of Product & Marketing, Aurus Network, an Indian  company that has pioneered some cost effective solutions to capture classroom interactions with HD quality, explains the nuances of the technology 
While our minds struggle to make sense of the new buzzwords technologists and businesses keep throwing at us every day, it is the simplest of the ideas that are often the most useful, and bring about the real breakthroughs. In the universe of education technology buzzwords, lecture capture is one such idea. The concept is very simple. Lecture capture involves recording classroom teaching and making it available digitally - either in real time or on-demand.
What is the technology, you would be tempted to ask? I can just put a cameraman with a digital camera in the classroom, connect it to a computer later, process the videos and upload them to an internal server for download, or to a service like YouTube for streaming. As far as the definition of lecture capture goes, that would be an implementation for sure, albeit a rudimentary one. It can work as an experiment, but it will not let you take you use all the advantageous opportunities lecture capture presents. 
The manual capture process is too time-consuming, costly and not scalable. Without dedicated systems and processes, the large number of videos becomes difficult to manage very quickly. Further delivery through a generic platform or a download server means not having access to usage data, which can provide some of the most useful insights. It might also mean loss of control over the content. 

Therefore, the technology comes into play to take care of
1. Capture: Recording, processing and uploading of video, preferably automatically.
2. Delivery: Cross-platform delivery with detailed usage statistics being fed back to the teachers and institute.
3. Management: Ability to organize and index the videos in a way that makes sense for the institute and the students.
We will come back to the implementation aspect, but before that let’s take a look at why should we bother with lecture capture at all. 

Why Lecture Capture? On the first day of our classes at IIT Kanpur, around four hundred students waited excitedly for the first lecture at eight ‘o clock in the morning. “Good Morning. Welcome to IIT Kanpur,” the professor said as he walked in, arranged his notes, fitted his collar mike and picked up the chalk. That was all the warm-up time we got. Off he went teaching the first lesson of PHY101 (Introduction to Physics). First topic was completed in next fifty-five minutes as a bunch of seventeen-year olds stared agape at the professor and the board. Hardly anyone remembered anything of what was taught in the lecture.
While that was an extreme example, the problem of not understanding everything taught in the class and forgetting it within two to three days is quite common. There are other related issues that create gaps in learning in a classroom environment. The students might miss a lecture and then find it difficult to understand the next one. Different students learn at different paces and the pace of lecturing cannot adapt to everybody’s requirements. Some concepts are just tough to understand and students might need more time to grasp them.

If the institute has implemented lecture capture, the students can go back to the relevant lectures and learn at their own pace.
Educators sometimes worry that the management and students would see recorded lectures as a substitute for face-to-face teaching. That is students would stop attending classes, and management would replace the teachers and play recorded lectures instead. These fears are misplaced, however.
Studies have shown that the attendance in lectures does not go down when lecture capture is implemented. In fact, the students who derive the most advantage out of the recorded lectures are the ones who attend the lectures in person too. Given a choice, students prefer to enrol in the courses that offer lecture capture.
For introductory topics, the recorded lectures can indeed be used instead of live lectures. But the lecturing time freed is best used in discussions, group tasks and other such learning activities facilitated by the teacher. It is a way to free the teachers from repetitive tasks and let them focus on the activities that add most value. It would be naïve for the management of any educational institute to replace teachers with recorded lectures.
However, one place where the recorded lectures can indeed improve the current state and fill up for the lack of teachers is in distance education delivery. Distance education, until recently, has relied on printed text material as the only source of learning for students. Recordings of actual classroom teaching can be an extremely valuable addition for such programmes. If the lecture capture solution also enables live delivery and two-way communication, then distance education students can get the live classroom experience as well.

Implementing Lecture Capture As discussed earlier, manually recording, processing and uploading videos is not a great way to roll out an effective lecture capture programme. There are several professional lecture capture solutions available in the market. The right choice depends on the specific needs of the educational institutions. Some key features found in most solutions include automated, scheduled recording, ad-hoc recording, content storage server, multiple output format, course management integration and cross-platform solution. Beyond these, the solutions are usually differentiated on features like robustness of system, quality of videos, infrastructure requirement, interactive features, ease of customization, analytics, upfront and operational costs, flexibility of pricing, integration with existing infrastructure, ease of implementation, administration and use. 

Some of the best practices to keep in mind while implementing a Lecture Capture solution in an institution are:
1. Get a buy-in from the teaching staff. Assure them that the solution is to aid the learning process and not to replace the student-teacher interaction.
2. Start with a small-scale implementation. For example, start with one classroom and proceed further based on the feedback from the users. Good student feedback will also help get a buy-in from more teachers.
3. Implement during vacations. This helps in ensuring that any time overruns do not affect the classes. Keep a close eye on the output in the initial days of the new semester, to notice any system failures.
4. Plan to use the recorded content for new things. This will help you extract the most out of the investment. For example
a. Offering online courses. They can be offered free for the purpose of brand building, or they can be paid offerings to open up a new revenue stream.
b. Experimenting with blended learning and flipped classrooms.
Implemented with good planning and clear vision, lecture capture is a simple and powerful tool for improving the learning outcomes of students and efficiency and productivity of teachers. Additionally, it paves way for the educational institutes to introduce and experiment with new-age practices such as blended learning and flipped classrooms. Organizations which want to deliver quality education at scale and achieve thought leadership in pedagogical practices, should seriously look at implementing lecture capture. 
Aurus Network was founded in 2010, in Bangalore, with the vision to make quality education accessible to masses at affordable prices. Its core team members have educational experience at world-class institutions such as IITs, IIMs and Stanford University (USA). Also, they have worked at technology companies like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. It pioneered the use of internet-based, live 2-way HD classes which connected the best teachers with students across the country and eliminated the need for costly hardware-based video conferencing or VSAT (satellite based) equipments and networks. Read more here