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Best Software For Putting Lectures Online? 126

Posted by timothy
from the taking-away-sick-day-as-an-excuse dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm trying to help a school put their classes online in the way most minimally invasive to the teachers. A few environmental considerations: They don't always have live internet in the classroom, or I'd just run to Skype. I'm hoping to make it as much one-touch start/stop as possible to start recording, stop recording, and upload to a server. I'd like to believe others here have already done something similar, so if a package or process worked for you, that would be great to hear. Not sure what if it's all PowerPoint lectures, or if they actually use a whiteboard, and if so what the best camera would be to use (on a school budget!)."
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Best Software For Putting Lectures Online?

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  • tegrity (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    fits all the bills you mention

    • Re:tegrity (Score:4, Informative)

      by adamdoyle (1665063) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:48PM (#38550948)

      A similar option is Adobe Connect. My Statics/Dynamics professor, in addition to the regular in-class lectures, had a Monday night online-only lecture where he had a headset microphone and a Fujitsu convertible tablet where, via live screen capture, he worked out homework/review problems on our screens and talked us through it. If we had questions, we would type it into the chat area and he would answer them through the microphone. I don't know how expensive it is, though. (I imagine it's not cheap)

    • I've got an online history course that I pickup on podcast. They are audio only, which presents minor problems. However:

      * Every Um and Ah is included. I don't notice this in live conversation, but I find them very distracting.

      * The author uses a fixed mike, so the volume level varies when he wanders.

      * About every 5-10 minutes the classroom door slams as someone goes in or out.

      * 3-4 minutes of every class is taken up with the kind of housekeeping that occurs in live classes. (Because of a dental appo

  • ... Windows Movie Maker!

  • What's wrong with youtube?

  • by grommit (97148) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:42PM (#38550894)
    If you're looking for something that won't have a direct cost to the school district to implement, take a look at Matterhorn ( http://opencast.org/matterhorn/ [opencast.org] ). Camtasia Relay by Techsmith is also a product built for this purpose.
  • Online Lectures (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:42PM (#38550902)

    The Open University uses something called 'Elluminate' it's fairly low badwidth though and fairly sure it needs an internet connection. You could always go proper oldskool and knock up a few multimedia CD-ROMs using Dreamweaver or whatever.

    If you're just going to be speaking then a movie is fine but some of the other options would enable them not to have their face plastered all over it if they preferred.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:42PM (#38550904)

    Seriously, it is older and not supported anymore, but still works on modern OSes fine. Has a screen capture mode that works great. You start it and it just captures what happens on the screen until you hit stop. Very easy to use. Additionally, it has a codec called Windows Media Screen which uses compression well suited to static computer images. You can get a whole hour long lecture in like 30MB if space is a concern.

    You just have the instructor wear a mic that feeds in to the computer's input (if the room has sound reinforcement just split off a feed from that) and students get all their slides and what they were saying while they did it. Means they can run programs too and demo that.

    For easiest results, record in regular Windows Media format, which takes up way more space, but you can upload that right to Youtube. If you let them know what you are doing they'll let you have longer videos.

    In terms of recording whiteboards and so on, I don't know of anything both easy and cheap. An AVCHD cam does a great job, but you usually need to spend a little time in a video editor afterwards. There are some high end capture solutions, but as the term "high end" implies, you don't really want to know what they cost.

    • by nzac (1822298)

      Seriously, it is older and not supported anymore, but still works on modern OSes fine. Has a screen capture mode that works great.

      So it works until you don't have access to VLC, on your portable device or computer without admin access.

      WMP is something most users want to avoid either because its bloated and generally incompatible or its not iTunes. Having a file that will open with WMP by default is just not a nice thing to do.

      Disclaimer: I have never forgiven a Vista version of WMP for grabbing 1.5GB of ram because I accidentally opened it (this was somewhat repeatable). Win 7 provided the solution by allowing me to uninstall it.

      • Well I'm assuming here that this guy asking is a tech for the university and so can, you know, maybe do his job and install and configure the thing. Also I'm talking about acquisition. You can distribute it in a different format. I know, I know, anything MS is so evil. Deal with it, he asked for a tool that does the job well, this does. We actually use it for this purpose at the university I work at. Professors run a profile we've set up, record their lecture, and can post it online. It is also free, which

        • by nzac (1822298)

          I know, I know, anything MS is so evil. Deal with it, he asked for a tool that does the job well, this does.

          No a lot of things MS are crappy, not evil, this is partially to do with WMP needing to be a .NET example (it would not be a good endorsement if it was a native C++ application).*

          MS products work and depending on your definition work well but they are always preform like crap and are designed to make it frustrating to use outside of windows.
          I would expect that open-source, apple and for a fee third party windows devs will have better solutions that are still supported.

          *For music i consider 45MB to be requir

          • Well then, perhaps you'd like to suggest something that you've used for this purpose. Something that will easily capture the entire screen's output and audio input, in to a format that is readily usable for things like uploading to Youtube or feeding to an NLE.

            If you have such a thing then by all means, suggest away. However given that all you've done is bitch about WMP (and not WME, which is a different program by the way) I'm guessing you don't.

            Please understand I'm not talking theoretically here. I work

            • by nzac (1822298)

              I'm not suggesting it does not work, it just a crappy solution to the end user especially your non windows students. If you have it working its all good but you are suggesting that someone should start with an unsupported product using a codec that is most likely going to need to need VLC for those without windows or force them to use WMP. Do your students like the solution or do they every have trouble playing it? How does it work for lectures with MacBooks?

              If you need IT setup (you gave them a profile an

              • by narcc (412956)

                How does it work for lectures with MacBooks?

                Why should the university cater to them? They make up such a small portion of the personal computer market, they're not really worth taking the extra time to support. Should instructors go out of their way to accommodate Linux users? How about JNode or KolibriOS users? Get real.

                It's the student's responsibility to make sure that they have access to required resources, be they text books or software, not that of the university.

                Besides, it's not like students can't make use of the computer access provide

                • by nzac (1822298)

                  That probably explains the difference my Uni was not completely sold out to MS. Ours was 20 about percent MacBooks students and staff. Seriously how can you think Macs an obscure OS at Universities. WMV probably has less market share for public videos than Macs do as desktops.

                  What university are you at where Apple has no market share some departments must have 1 in 5 students wanting to use macs.

                  • by narcc (412956)

                    20% is FAR above their actual desktop market share. The figures I have from October 2011 put Macs at 6.45% (Windows is at 92.23%).

                    As for WMV, you can play those on OSX with VLC, Flip4Mac or Windows Media Player 9 for Mac.

                    Alternately, people who want to use obscure operating systems can always make use of the computer access provided by their institution. You'll find most schools offer student accessible computers in dorms, libraries, and many other places around campus.

                    Again, it's not the schools responsi

                    • by nzac (1822298)

                      20% is FAR above their actual desktop market share.

                      Those seem rather specific figure for College/University market share. What is population being measured here? i would think it's rather difficult to get a accurate measure of University share. Apple could easily be 3 times more popular considering discounts and marketing. If you go to a Medicine lecture Window computers could be out numbered.

                      Somehow you jumped right to the end, i never said you could not view on a mac but how do you encode using the program (i guess you could buy them a VM)?

                      Again, it's not the schools responsibility to make sure that you can competently operate your personal computer or to make sure that any required software will run on whatever obscure OS you want to run.

                      1 in 15 with ev

            • by mcrbids (148650)

              Well then, perhaps you'd like to suggest something that you've used for this purpose. Something that will easily capture the entire screen's output and audio input, in to a format that is readily usable for things like uploading to Youtube or feeding to an NLE.

              Like... CamStudio? [camstudio.org]

              Please understand I'm not talking theoretically here. I work for a university, part of my job is media, and I've used WME9 to capture lectures. The professors like it because it is easy to use (they just run the profile I give them

  • by s0litaire (1205168) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:45PM (#38550920)

    As a starting point, make the actual videos downloadable or on DVD with a "quiz" style menu.

    Check out the Stanford On-line courses. http://www.db-class.org/course/auth/welcome [db-class.org] That's probably about the style you're looking for.

    Course Lectures split in to blocks of 10-15 mins each, with a small True/False or Multi-Choice quiz at the end. (you can do this with DVD's it just takes a bit of planning with the menus when authoring the DVD.)
    All supported by PDF of Teacher & Student lecture notes and examples on a single DVD.

    Simples....

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I took the Stanford database course and I was impressed by the content, length, pace, and it's availability to all of the 93,000+ people who signed up. I haven't taken a true academic course for over 45 years and I was truly impressed with what appears to be the next wave of educational presentation.

  • For a more general purpose online learning platform Moodle is certainly worth looking into. I haven't used it in anger for a few years now but it appears to be active.
  • by ttocs_47 (610926) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @05:14PM (#38551184)
    It is important to consider what you want in these online classes.
    • 1) Are you looking to make a course accessible after the fact, or do you want to do distance learning (which is what it sounds like when you say "I'd just run Skype") where interaction is possible?
    • 2) What types of courses are you making available? For example, some courses only need to a single camera on the teacher, other courses will need both teacher and/or power-point simultaneously, yet others will need video, chalkboard or whiteboard, and teacher, and others will also need the audience. Note also that some disciplines (math especially) use a lot of chalkboard, so you may need multiple cameras.

    These are nontrivial considerations, and often overlooked. I've been recording my calculus lectures at my university (Stony Brook), which has Echo360. Unfortunately, our setup is (a) expensive, and (b) useless for my discipline (mathematics), because it cannot capture 16 feet of blackboard in a way that can be read later, especially if you also sometimes use a data projector (which I do). It works fine for power-point oriented lectures, but you can't do mathematics properly via power point, because students need to see the problems being worked, and need to refer to the beginning of the problem (so it doesn't fit on a single slide).

    What has worked for me is to set up a pair of HD cameras in the back of the room, pointed so each can see (part of) the blackboard. Then I post-process this into a single video stream later. If I am using a data projector, I also grab the stream from Echo360. (I've also made multiple synchronized streams on a web-page using JWplayer, but this doesn't work as well)
    Unfortunately, this is not a turn-key solution.

    Something like matterhorn might be helpful too, but you really need consider all of the content needs before deciding on a delivery mechanism.

    • by FuzzyHead (86261)

      I've help some speakers record at a local place. We use one camera for recording straight into a laptop in HD. I ask for a copy of the power points on a thumb drive. Normally, I export the power points into PNG files. Then I can edit the whole thing in Sony Vegas overlaying the slides. It's more labor intensive than a set and forget solution, but it doesn't take that much work and I can typically edit the final video in less time that it took to record everything.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @05:15PM (#38551190) Homepage

    "I'm trying to help a school put their classes online in the way most minimally invasive to the teachers." That guarantees a worthless product.

    Recorded lectures aren't that great to begin with. On top of that, most of the useful content is on the board or the slides, so you want a format which emphasizes them, not the speaker. A fixed wide-angle shot of the front of the room is almost useless.

    One little trick Stanford used for years was having presenters write on a paper pad, which was picked up by an overhead camera and projected to the students as well as being recorded. The pad was only 5" x 7", so that the instructor couldn't overfill a single page with more text than would survive mediocre analog TV.

    • Recorded lectures aren't that great to begin with. On top of that, most of the useful content is on the board or the slides, so you want a format which emphasizes them, not the speaker. A fixed wide-angle shot of the front of the room is almost useless.

      Exactly this. Our curriculum has included a particular lecture series for years. And, for the first several years, the faculty in charge of this series just offloaded the recording duties to random grad students... and provided us with several years of basically worthless video. Additionally several of them used a Microsoft piece of crapware that only worked in Internet Explorer and required all sorts of ActiveX plugins to allow the video to be watched... some sort of "MS Office" plugin that purported to ru

    • by biodata (1981610)
      Disagree abut the slides. When I speak the important things come out of my mouth and body language, the slides are just for illustration of particular points and to keep attention focused on the overall flow. If most of the information was on the slides, I could just email the slides and do something more useful with my time than prepare, rehearse, and stand there talking.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I use some syncing software by these guys at Singular software. They have something called Presto that is a 1 touch solution for creating easy to watch lectures. It assumes these lectures have slides or a powerpoint and you plug those files in and it lays them over the video of the projection to get a cleaner picture.
    It also tracks the face and does other cool stuff

    http://www.singularsoftware.com/presto.html

    I'm waiting for it to come out for the PC

    Cheers

    Rob
    Phasefirefilms

  • by quetwo (1203948) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @05:25PM (#38551274) Homepage

    At Michigan State University, we have a Techsmith Relay server. The instructor just puts in the USB thumb drive, the auto-run runs, and they just have to type in their lecture's name and hit "Start". It is recorded to the USB or automatically uploaded to our capturing server if they are on the network. It can automatically be pushed out to our LMS (Angel / Moodle), or posted on a webpage for people to access. Works on both Win and Mac, and doesn't need anything installed, which is super-nice.

    I've recorded a LOT of sessions with Camtasia as well. Great product, with tons of bells and whistles, but it does require the user to do the work of editing and encoding. That's great for me (I can edit it before I post), but not great for people who just want it to get out of their way.

    http://www.techsmith.com/ [techsmith.com]

  • This is exactly the design scenario for Podcast Publisher and Podcast Library.

    http://www.apple.com/macosx/server/features/all.html#podcasting [apple.com]

    While it can take advantage of a whole cluster of servers, it can also run (albeit more slowly) on a single Core i7 Mini Server. For more detailed docs, see:

    https://help.apple.com/advancedserveradmin/mac/10.7/#apdEDF248EC-ED8E-473E-8166-E7D0B2A854D7 [apple.com]

    It's in use at lots of universities and some K-12 schools.

    Hope this helps.

    --Paul

  • I haven't used ether of these, but Stanford has most of their openflow system opensourced it appears:

    http://med.stanford.edu/irt/edtech/projects/mediaflow/

    Or take a look at OpenCast's Matterhorn Project: http://opencast.org/matterhorn/

    • OpenCast Matterhorn looks great and I've checkout the site.

      Unfortunately, I can't seem to find good documentation of how to run under Windows 7, without "3rd party software tools" (which sort of defeat the purpose of Open Source). However, I find myself doing a lot of development and work in Windows so that I can interface a number programs that don't easily run under Linux and despite my love of Linux, find this quicker than developing under Linux, which I don't have running at the moment.

      Has anyone run M

      • The 3rd party tools are those that don't run in the JVM. These are not bundled with Matterhorn mostly due to licensing incompatibilities -- GPL in particular. They are all open source (ffmpeg, mediainfo, tesseract). Because compiling ffmpeg under windows is not trivial, windows support has come and gone in Matterhorn, and has always been somewhat experimental. I don't know where windows support is at the moment. Most people wind up simply running a linux VM if they can't part with their windows environm
        • Thanks for the response.

          Any recommendations on the Linux VM for this softwarre?

          I've usually run Linux off a CD on my windows notebook given some past mixed experiences with dual booting. Running on a separate Linux machine may simply prove the easiest option, just not the most convenient presently.

          • Ubuntu is a community favorite, but I'd check in with the matterhorn mailing list and/or IRC channel to see what folks there would recommend.
  • nuff said.

  • When I've felt the need to provide audio recordings of my lectures, I simply record them with a pocket voice recorder that records directly to mp3 and mounts as a usb drive. My recorder is a Sony, but there are many on the market that are as good or better. From there it's easy to post them on Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT, or whatever courseware the teachers are using. When we do video, that's generally more of a production involving IT people and a different hosting server, but for audio a very simple approac
  • If you do plan on going the camera route, you may want to take a look at www.cowboyfrank.net and look through his camera reviews. Based on his info, I went and got the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000. [Part No. 960-000048] Google the Part number if you are serious about getting one or more of them. The price is pretty good for them right now (under $50 with an average price of $75).
  • by jim_deane (63059) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:28PM (#38551816) Journal

    Also consider what to do for classes that do not use lecture much if at all. Many modern science classrooms use other methods, such as Modeling Physics [http]. If you were to video my classroom, you would need to be prepared to video student whiteboard sessions, lab demonstrations and discussion sessions, experimental design, experiments, data analysis, lab whiteboard discussions, and extensions such as worksheets, challenge problems, computer simulations and programming.

    I think you would need a live videographer to properly record something like my class in any sort of useful way.

  • Vbrick (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jjeff1 (636051) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:46PM (#38551928)
    I've worked with schools for years, and can point out some things that may help. First, if the school is in a poorer area, check out your E-Rate eligibility. In some cases, you can pay 10 cents on the dollar for technology. Among the eligible technology would be video streaming, such as vbrick.
    The vbrick units are highly scriptable, and you can ( and I have ) programmed them to do as follows:
    - user hits the button, as in a physical button on their desk or the wall or whatever
    - system records for x minutes
    - system uploads video to VOD server
    - VOD publishes video to public web server

    Yes, you can even have an "on-air" light turn on when the system is recording.
    Later on, you can add tags or other information on which people can search your content. You can attach documents, or links to other web-based content. So your video of a lesson has the associated homework, plus link to your states' DOE standards web site or whatever else you want. It can be integrated with moodle or similar systems. You can limit access to video by username/password and/or by IP address. If you want, videos recorded in the high school can be limited to specific users and/or IPs, so lets say the 2nd graders can't watch the sex-ed class. Likewise, you can limit videos on the public internet to your low bit-rate content only.
    The critical part here is ease of use. Teachers are asked to do more and more with no new resources. If your solution consists of login to this, click that, then this, etc.... it simply won't get used except maybe by a couple tech-savvy teachers. Of course when those people leave or change positions, your project dies. Then your well intentioned project becomes just another expensive boondoggle. In some ways, spending MORE on a project will guarantee success. Administration may let a 10K project disappear, but probably not a 100K project.
  • HTML is the way to go for the web. It allows hyperlinks and such fancy stuff.
  • You absolutely need to check out the Khan Academy [khanacademy.org]. Besides a very comprehensive grade school curriculum, the site has tools to support a teacher in finding out what students know and where they are having difficulty, so they can concentrate on helping a student where they need it most. As well, the Khan Academy has opened up public tutoring to give students the special support they need from people who've volunteered to teach. This is an amazing site and an incredible resource.

  • Unless the lecturers are willing to change their style quite a bit I don't think you'll do well without a cameraman in the room.
    In my experience lecturers move around quite a lot, and sometimes you need to pull back to get their body language, at other times you need to zoom
    in on the black- or white-board to see what they are writing or pointing at.

  • You can import a Powerpoint or a PDF (there are more formats as well) and present on an iPad - everything you do gets recorded - then you can export to MP4 or YouTube. Obviously, you need to convince the lecturer to use it ;-) http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/explain-everything/id431493086?ls=1&mt=8 [apple.com] There are highlighters, a laser pointer - you can also save the whole lecture as a PDF (more or less - it takes screenshots of your slides).
  • Definitely agree with Jjeff1's suggestion about E-Rate. You may also be eligible for Title I funds depending on your school's situation. I know in the district where I work, some of the "poorest" schools are the most technologically advanced, all thanks to Title I funding. Have you considered getting some students involved? You might be surprised how many would be willing to help out with some of the labor for the less-turnkey solutions (let them handle editing, annotating, uploading, etc.). I know I would

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