Friday, November 4, 2011

Lecture Recordings and Audio Software

Guest Post by Brittany Lyons

With the onset of the digital age, access to resources online has become the norm. The majority of students are digital “natives,” able to find textbooks, academic articles, study help, and any number of other aids for their courses, or even earn entire PhDs, without ever moving from in front of their computer screen. But the one resource not always available to them? The lecture itself. However, many professors have begun to change that, as there are many advantages to having recorded lectures available for students to listen to online at their leisure. But what's the best technology to use for this purpose? And how can non-digital native teachers tap in to the power of that technology?

What makes online recordings so great is that they give students access to the information as many times as they need to hear it. Repeated exposure to difficult concepts can really help students wade through the information, especially if they have an auditory learning style. Knowing the material will be available later also cuts down on students asking for repeated explanations of the same material in class, which means more information can be covered in one lecture period.

Similarly, online recordings provide a ready resource for students who are absent, or for those who are falling behind in class. Rather than having to repeatedly re-teach material during office hours, the professor can refer students to the online recordings to gain at least a basic understanding, and meetings with the professor can then be spent clarifying things the student doesn't understand. This makes one-on-one meetings with students more effective and productive.

Of course, despite the potential benefits of making lectures available online, many professors have concerns. One major concern is that having recorded lectures available will lower class attendance. While this may seem valid on the surface, ultimately it does not appear to be a problem. Glogoff (2009) reports that class attendance is not negatively affected by having recordings of lectures available online; instead, students use the recordings as an additional learning tool on top of attendance. Many use the recordings while reviewing class notes, often adding additional information and solidifying their understanding of the course material. Plus, with the information readily available online, students worry less about taking studious notes, which means they're paying closer attention to the lecture itself.

So the biggest challenge for lecture recordings, then, is acquiring and understanding the technology necessary to produce them. Many professors have trouble with this because they are not digital natives. However, there are many easy options, especially when you consider the programs available through NCH Software.

The most straightforward of the options is RecordPad audio recording software, which will record up to two hours of audio in a single file. The program is easy to use, and can run concurrently with other programs. This means that professors can easily record their lecture on their laptop while running presentation software for their class. Once they've clicked the button to start recording at the beginning of class, the professor can forget about it until afterward, when recordings can be easily uploaded straight from the hard drive for student use.

For professors who want to edit their class recordings (for example, if there was a piece of information intended only for present students, to penalize those who skipped lecture), is an excellent companion product to RecordPad. This software allows pieces of recordings to be cut, copied, and pasted, so that material can be removed if needed. For classrooms with poor acoustics, WavePad audio editor also offers effects such like amplification and noise reduction, which will improve the overall quality of the recording.

NCH Software’s RecordPad and WavePad are user-friendly tools for classroom recording and audio editing that can easily and effectively create lecture recordings appropriate for online use. Both are available for Windows or Mac (including the iPhone), and RecordPad can even be used on an iPod if professors don’t wish to carry a laptop to class. WavePad is available for iPad, making it possible to edit from anywhere—even between lectures. Downloading is quick and easy, and free versions are available for both programs if a financial investment doesn't seem to make sense. And while purchased versions offer many interesting and useful additional options, they also offer free trials so you know what you're getting for your money. For even the most techno-phobic professor, these tools make recording and posting lectures so easy it would be silly not to do it.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

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