The Scream in Camtasia

More on jigsaws and video lectures

In my post from March 31, I mentioned an assignment in which students in my US Judiciary class were asked to create mini online lectures on aspects of the Supreme Court process. I think it was a smashing success: Six of the seven student teams have created their videos, and a seventh is on the way. Not only that: the other students are busy watching and commenting. I uploaded the videos into TechSmith Relay, since this has two advantages: First, the videos can be restricted to the class only, so that student privacy can be guaranteed and FERPA won’t come knocking on my door. Second, there is a feature that lets students comment and ask questions about a specific point in the video. Neat! I can see video views, and there now in the high 70s and 80s. Not bad for 29 students. (OK, some of those views must have been me, but still.)

I had to be a bit involved in the process. The starting point was a set of team discussion boards in which students decided who would write the lecture script, create PowerPoints, record the narration, etc. I participated in those boards, trying to encourage students, offer help, and prod those who didn’t seem to be getting started. Then, I had to help assemble some of the videos, though not the majority of them. In one group, only two of the four members actively participated, and in another group one or two students were absent. Again, that’s impressive for a 29 student class in a time of crisis! In terms of my time commitment, the activity required some planning, some carefully crafted instructions, and enough involvement to provide encouragement and assistance, but on the whole it was a reasonable time commitment for a three-credit class, online or offline.

Here is another class experience, though: The class topic that follows the Supreme Court process in the syllabus is a discussion of the Court’s cert decision: What factors make it more or less likely for the Supreme Court to grant a writ of certiorari, and why? Since the text book that we are using does not provide a very detailed treatment of the topic, I decided to create a series of video lectures to cover the main theoretical arguments. I followed what I believe is good, though maybe not best, practices: Short lectures (less than five minutes) that presented 2-4 points, with a written script that can offer additional access options beyond the video. In the end I created eight short videos. I did not carefully track time, but the whole process took maybe 6-8 hours, for about 28 minutes of lecture. This is not sustainable as a weekly expectation, not for one course, but definitely not for a full teaching load.

In other words: student lectures work, professor lectures less so.

But the good thing with the short (professor) lectures is that they’re building blocks: I can replace individual lectures if they’re outdated or I want to use a different example. I can add new lectures that reflect new developments in political science and in the courts. So, over time, it’s possible to build a library of lectures that can be used flexibly, like I am using video lectures that I created years ago for another course on a related topic.

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