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Podcasting and recording revisited: A lecture theatre perspective

Roger Atkinson

After a number of IT in higher education columns exploring the impact of technologies upon scholarly publishing in journals and books, I'm prompted to draw attention to the impact technologies are having upon another great, enduring activity in academia, the presentation of lectures. In part, this revisits an earlier column about podcasting [1], and in part responds to some phrases that crossed my screen recently. Attention getting phrases! To begin with several of these:

Book to take part in one or more of the forthcoming free ALT/ELN 90 minute webinars...
All webinars will be run using Elluminate Live! ...
Below is a brief description of each...
15 October - Video on a Shoestring...
James Clay, Gloucestershire College
Session Title: Me, my camera and I
... will show how he creates, edits and delivers videos quickly, easily and without a large crew or lots of money.
Rob Hubbard, LearningAge Solutions
Session Title: How I shot my client
... Tired of paying people 500+ a day to shoot and edit video for him Rob instead spent the money on equipment and did it himself... [2]
Well, 'video on a shoestring', a free professional development 'webinar' - that's one way to highlight the generational change in video recording capabilities now available to educators. Here is another snippet, from only 16 years ago, that highlights for me the great reductions in prices for a component that is now almost mandatory for presentations, the lecture theatre projector:
The price jump in moving to new technology, providing larger and brighter images, such as LCD projectors, in the very large venues is substantial. ... In this case a decision was made to use a $30,000 Sony VP-1271 video projector although the initial budget had included a $70,000 Barco Data 5000. ... It has subsequently been discovered that the Sony projector is at the limits of its performance. (Roberts, 1993) [3]
Well (again), I'm old enough to remember the big Barco projectors with their three beams, and I also remember doing the leg work for Murdoch University's first purchase of a portable video and data projector, priced at $15,000 - that is enough musing for one column! The wonderfully economical new technologies for recording and digitising video and audio, and for projecting it in a lecture theatre, are only two parts of a modern, comprehensive 'technological resource kit' for lecture presentations. Other parts include software for creating and displaying a presentation, such as the ubiquitous MS PowerPoint, software and hardware for audience response systems ('clickers') [4], interactive whiteboards, now gaining much attention in the schools sector [5], and server software for on-demand delivery as in podcasting and similar applications [6]. Amongst these many topics, and another class of topics that could be characterised as a 'pedagogical resource kit', there is one I seek to concentrate upon especially for this column. This is web based lecture recording technologies [7, 8, 9], though at present the topic is probably better known under brand names such as iLecture [10], Lectopia [11], Mediasite [12] and CourseCast [13], perhaps to be joined in the future by Opencast [14].

What's so interesting about web based lecture recording technologies? The phrase is too cumbersome to be 'attention getting', it's usually shortened to web based lecture technologies, or "acronymed" to 'WBLT', and anyway brand names like Lectopia are nicer and easier to remember. Nevertheless, it is interesting on numerous counts, including recent and rapid adoption in Australia and internationally, its origins in universities followed by commercialisation, its large scale integration of numerous component technologies, and its potential impact upon the pedagogical role of lectures and the lecture theatre. To illustrate the last point, consider this quote from HERDSA Darwin 2009:

"But they won't come to lectures..." The impact of recorded lectures on student experience and attendance
Helen Larkin
The move to provide increasingly flexible platforms for student learning and experience through provision of on-line lecture recordings, is often interpreted by students as meaning attendance at lectures is optional. The trend toward the use of such recordings is often met with resistance from some academic staff who cite anecdotal evidence that student attendance will reduce. [15]
After many years of engaging with barriers and objections to adoption of educational technologies, naturally I find "But they won't come to lectures..." to be an attention getting phrase. Although differing from the usual suspects (too difficult, too expensive, too unfamiliar, too unreliable, etc), "But they won't come to lectures..." is not an especially novel apprehension. I recall in the early 1980s a similar apprehension about allowing on campus students to purchase the booklets of lecture notes that in some subjects constituted the major part of the university's provision for external students. Also, some adopt the contrary view that IT may increase rather than decrease attendance at lectures, as illustrated by another quote from HERDSA Darwin 2009:
Passion or Podcasts? Students' views about university lectures
Helen Cameron
... academic staff members feel increasing pressure on them to attract students' attendance by employing IT and other media. [16]
Back to the more technological matters, Lectopia in particular has achieved rapid adoption in Australia and New Zealand. Lectopia states that:
The Lectopia technology is currently licensed by a range of educational institutions, including over 50% of Australian universities, and three universities outside of Australia. [17]
Of course the number of licensees, or the length of the customer list (for example, the Echo360 list [18]), does not give any evidence about the extent of implementation within an institution, but it does give an indicator of growth since developments commenced about ten years ago. Developments originated mainly in universities, most notably The University of Western Australia's creation of iLecture [10], before migrating into commercial environments - perhaps not unlike the migration of WebCT from the University of British Columbia [19]. Another example of university origins is Panopto [13]:
Developed at Carnegie Mellon University, Panopto is the product of years of advanced research in scalable rich media systems that harness the advantages of today's video, capture, stream, search and archival technologies. The Panopto team includes industry leading researchers and developers from Carnegie Mellon University.
Web based lecture technologies are not really new. Like very many other information technologies, Lectopia and its competitors are 'aggregations' or 'integrations' of existing technologies or suites of technologies. One of Lectopia's current web pages illustrates this is a colourful way, displaying 18 logos for the major information technologies used by Lectopia [20], plus using the qualifying phrase, "the system does make use of many other technologies." Other pages by Lectopia and its competitors emphasise 'integration' with other systems, such as learning management systems (Moodle, Blackboard, etc) and learning object repositories, and with numerous suppliers of lecture theatre and presentation hardware (the projector, lights, microphones, etc, that respond if and when you find the right button on the console!). It is interesting to observe that podcasting is simply one of a number of 'Delivering' options, it is not by itself a 'system', and that 'digitising' is mentioned infrequently, although replacement of analogue recording technologies by digital recording is the basic enabling feature for web based lecture technologies.

Returning to the matter of impact upon the pedagogical role of lectures and the lecture theatre, Table 1 gives a very brief and perhaps idiosyncratic selection of examples, maybe biased towards attention getting phrases, though attempting in the third column to highlight a range of generic information, styles, issues and perspectives relating to web based lecture technologies, rather than a particular institutional policy.

Table 1: Some examples of university web pages for web based lecture technologies

UniversityMain page title,
system and URL
Illustrative quotations from the website
The University of Western AustraliaLectopia @ UWA - Welcome. http://lectopia-
Lectopia (known as the iLecture System from 1999-mid 2006) was developed by staff in UWA's Multimedia Centre in response to the institution's commitment to flexible modes of teaching and learning. Initially implemented at UWA in 1999, Lectopia is an innovative, easy-to-use system that facilitates the recording of lectures and events for delivery via the internet.
The University of SydneyLecture Recording. Lectopia. http://www.usyd.edu.au/
Lectopia is a lecture recording and web publishing tool, and students can access lecture recordings on the web at their own convenience. Lectures can be automatically recorded and processed into a variety of streaming media formats. All that is required is for the lecturer to turn on the microphone for the recording to begin. The audio and visual recordings are then incorporated into unit pages on WebCT, Blackboard or Medicine LMS system for students to access.
The University of MelbourneLecture capture. Lectopia. http://trs.unimelb.edu.au/
... survey results suggested that students rely upon this flexible and convenient tool for selective reviews of content from classes that they have attended, rather than as a substitute for class attendance
The University of AdelaideMyMedia Lecture Recording. Lectopia. http://www.adelaide.
... it is not intended that lecture recordings be a replacement for attending face to face lectures...
... There are three main steps to making recordings of your lectures available to students online: Capturing... Processing... Delivering...
Curtin University of TechnologyCurtin iLectures. Lectopia. http://ilectures.curtin.
... now the reality here at Curtin University in 40 lecture theatres which have all been equipped with Automatic Digitisers as part of the Curtin iLectures Project... ... the iLecture system should not however be viewed as a replacement for traditional face-to-face lectures... good teaching practice involving engagement and dialog with lecture participants...
The University of New South WalesLectopia Service. http://www.elearning.unsw.
Session 2 2008 - Lectopia Now an Opt-Out Service ... if classes are scheduled in a Lectopia enabled venue, the classes will be scheduled for recording automatically, UNLESS the instructor 'opt's out'. Opting out of recording for ALL current and future recordings, or for selected courses only, is controlled via the Lectopia Self Service Wizard.
Queensland University of TechnologyLecture Video and Audio Recording. Mediasite. http://www.ihss.qut.
QUT lectures and seminars can be captured in Mediasite format. Staff may borrow a recording device from AV Services to record lectures in rooms not equipped with recording facilities... Recordings are available through the Mediasite server for academic staff to link to Blackboard.
Victoria University of WellingtonLecture & Presentation Recording Information. Mediasite. http://www.vuw.ac.nz/
ITS Teaching Services have recording technology integrated into 11 teaching venues...

Table 1 is not comprehensive, or rigorously systematic, but hopefully it will help to stimulate your own browsing on this topic. I know how precious 'browsing time' can be (for me, it competes with grandchildren time, Le Tour de France and Ashes watching time, gardening time, conference support time [21], etc), but 'browsing time' is, I hope, core business in academia, as it has been since the medieval beginnings of universities.

To reflect, I consider how much the lecture theatre perspective has changed, from Geoff Roberts' concerns about the cost of the Barco projector [3], to Helen Larkin's phrase "But they won't come to lectures..." [15]. Is this an indication that the technologies supporting the presentation of lectures have become so good, so affordable and so usable, that students may feel that "... attendance at lectures is optional"? Probing deeper, does that question really matter, should we consider instead what's more important, their attendance at lectures or their enrolment (these days, persons on the roll is more important than bums on seats!) and their satisfaction with the learning opportunities? As another reflection, perhaps for a future, 'why is it so' IT column, how come some of our Australian edtech developments, for example Lectopia, migrate to 'offshore' ownership and leadership, whilst others, for example Moodle [22] and AJET (Australasian Journal of Educational Technology) [23] internationalise with their leadership continuing to be Australian or Australasian?


  1. Atkinson, R. (2006). Podcasting: Do you really need to know? HERDSA News, 28(3). http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/herdsa-news/28-3.html

  2. Book to take part in one or more of the forthcoming free ALT/ELN 90 minute webinars [viewed 3 Aug 09] http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=cEZ6U3lCa1g3dHlFdlBkZ2MxOHdqWEE6MA..

  3. Roberts, G. (1993). Educational technology and the mass lecture: A restatement of fundamental issues. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 9(2), 182-187. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet9/roberts.html

  4. For example, see Kay, R. H. & LeSage, A. (2009). A strategic assessment of audience response systems used in higher education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(2), 235-249. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/kay.html

  5. For example, see Holmes, K. (2009). Planning to teach with digital tools: Introducing the interactive whiteboard to pre-service secondary mathematics teachers. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 351-365. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/holmes.html

  6. For example, see McGarr, O. (2009). A review of podcasting in higher education: Its influence on the traditional lecture. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 309-321. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/mcgarr.html

  7. For example, von Konsky, B. R., Ivins, J. & Gribble, S. J. (2009). Lecture attendance and web based lecture technologies: A comparison of student perceptions and usage patterns. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(4) (accepted, to be published Sep 2009).

  8. Gosper, M., McNeill, M, Woo, K., Phillips, R., Preston, G. & Green, D. (2007). Web-based lecture recording technologies: Do students learn from them? In Proceedings EDUCAUSE Australasia 2007. http://www.caudit.edu.au/educauseaustralasia07/authors_papers/Gosper.pdf

  9. Woo, K., Gosper, M., McNeill, M., Preston, G., Green, D. Phillips, R. (2008). Web-based lecture technologies: Blurring the boundaries between face-to-face and distance learning. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 16(2), 81-93.

  10. For notes on iLecture, see http://www.lectopia-service.uwa.edu.au/about

  11. Lectopia: About Lectopia. http://www.lectopia.com.au/about-overview.lasso. Lectopia is "morphing" into Echo360, see http://www.lectopia.com.au/apreso-acquires-lectopia.lasso?-session=iComm_Client:3AAAAB6713a7d193A9nxl2049B85 and http://www.echo360.com/. For awards received by Lectopia, see http://www.lectopia.com.au/news.lasso?-session=iComm_Client:3AAAAB6713a7d2A8ABGMFE3FA7E2

  12. Mediasite by Sonic Foundry. http://www.sonicfoundry.com/mediasite/

  13. Panopto CourseCast. http://www.panopto.com/products_coursecast.aspx

  14. Matterhorn | Opencast. http://www.opencastproject.org/project/matterhorn

  15. Larkin, H. In Proceedings HERDSA 2009. http://conference.herdsa.org.au/2009/concurrent04.html#1819

  16. Cameron, H. In Proceedings HERDSA 2009. http://conference.herdsa.org.au/2009/concurrent04.html#719

  17. Lectopia. About Lectopia. http://www.lectopia.com.au/about-overview.lasso (select the tab 'Licensing' to view the list of universities which have licensed Lectopia).

  18. Echo360. Customers. http://www.echo360.com/customers/

  19. Wikipedia. WebCT. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebCT

  20. Lectopia. About Lectopia - Technology. http://www.lectopia.com.au/about-technology.lasso?-session=iComm_Client:3AAAAB6713a7d36615ygK2144878

  21. Conference activities. WAIER Forum 2009, http://www.waier.org.au/; Ascilite Auckland 2009, http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/

  22. Moodle. http://moodle.org/

  23. AJET. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/

    All URLs verified 6 August 2009.

Author: Roger Atkinson retired from Murdoch University's Teaching and Learning Centre in June 2001. His current activities include publishing AJET and honorary work on TL Forum, ascilite Auckland 2009 and other academic conference support and publishing activities.
Website (including this article in html format): http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/ Contact: rjatkinson@bigpond.com

Please cite as: Atkinson, R. J. (2009). Podcasting and recording revisited: A lecture theatre perspective HERDSA News, 31(2). http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/herdsa-news/31-2.html

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