Sunday, January 08, 2006

can you hear me now...?

One of the most important additions to my bag of technological tricks in the past few years has been the use of my iPod to record each lecture. What makes it work is the simplicity of the process... plug in the voice recorder at the beginning of each lecture, hit record, turn it off at the end, sync it with my laptop once a week, drag the .wav files to a folder for each course. There is a little maintenance involved (renaming the files to include the course name) but the payoff is definitely worth it. The payoff being, a simple straightforward answer to the student question - "What do I do if I miss a class?"

But the delivery end of the process is more complicated. One obvious tactic would be to make the lectures downloadable. I haven't figured out a way to do this yet. Each lecture is about 1h 40m long, producing a 70-80Mb file. This means that, over the course of the semester, I might require 6 GB of storage or more. Plus the bandwidth to frequently deliver 75Mb files at a reasonable speed to students. There is no part of the university web presence that I'm aware of that is capable of handling these storage and bandwidth requirements.

The first semester I did this, I told students they could request a lecture (or several lectures) and I would burn them a CD. Big mistake. The volume of requests was high and I would often find myself sitting around and burning stacks of CDs before an exam. More recently I shifted part of the burden onto the student - if you BRING me a blank CD-R, I will burn you lectures after class. This quickly cut down on the number of frivolous requests. (Suuuure, you're going to listen to these 8 lectures while you study!) And while I still sometimes dream about making the files downloadable, I think that may actually be a mistake. Besides adding an additional upload step to the process for ME, I think it would be too tempting for students to take the attitude of, "Why GO to class when I can DOWNLOAD it instead?". The same consideration stops me whenever I consider adding video recording, or integrating the audio recording with a Quicktime output of my Keynote presentations. As big a fan as I am of classroom technology, I really don't want to wind up lecturing to a video camera in an empty lecture hall. Besides... once they have a few semesters of my lectures on DVD... why exactly would the university need to keep ME around?


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