Monday, April 3, 2017

Making videos for a flipped course

Video design and production strategies

Lecture videos provide useful material for student preparation. After some experimentation here are my favorite guidelines for their design. 
  1. The movies should be very clear, typically based on slide decks or on whiteboards
  2. They must be short, optimally 5 minutes and no longer than 10 min or students attention will drop
  3. Any method that works for the author is a good method
These are by not means rules, and guideline 3 trumps everything else. How do you design a video? The short answer is that it depends. If you are a strong lecturer, one who is typically clear, you can jot down some notes and and take a movie of yourself. Here are two good examples:
  1. Joel Ledford, a colleague of mine at UC Davis delivers a lecture on LUCA using the UCD E-learning studio
  2. Ed Himelblau, a collaborator of mine at Cal Poly delivers a lecture on Lac operon regulation
Figure 1. E-learning studio at UCD. The lecturer delivers
the  lecture while behind and using the glass board.
I am not sure how much time each video required, but I bet each involved less than four hours including planning, delivering the lecture, filming and editing it. Joel uses a fairly sophisticated facility at UC Davis (Fig. 1). Ed is winging it elegantly with a consumer camera (his cell phone?). The presentations exceed my favorite target time, but are clear and easy to follow. 

I have tried the E-learning studio and I do not think it fits my style. The resulting video is too long and I find my lecture to be adequate, but not as compelling as I would like. You can edit them later of course. Using a video editing software like Camtasia, you can add any thing on top of your lecture (see example in the link above).

If a studio setup such as the one in Fig. 1 is not available,  you can set up a simple studio at home. Steve Luck, a colleague at UC Davis, scripts and films his own lectures. See his course introduction for an example. By the way, the description of his hybrid course might also be of interest. 

The Ploid recipe for a lecture video

  1. Establish the learning objectives. What do you want your students to learn? What are the targets and what level of mastery do you aim for?
  2. Plan the lecture. I am very visual and use drawings to outline my message. One could also use a slide deck or a textbook.   
  3. I scribble using Doceri on a iPad. I make a video of the drawings using the Doceri time track feature. 
  4. Script the lecture. Write out exactly what you will say in 500-1000 words. Then transfer it to a teleprompter program. I use Promptsmart on an iPad. Read it while recording it to a sound file. I use Quick Time on a Mac and a dedicated microphone. You should be able to fit 100 words in one minute.
  5. In Camtasia join the sound and video tracks. The clip speed on the video track allows stretching and compacting specific segments of the Doceri video to fit the sound track.
  6. Add a head and a tail frames for title and end acknowledgements. 
  7. Upload to YouTube. You are done. 
I find Youtube to be the most convenient repository. It is reliable, you can set different privacy level, such as "unlisted" or "public", if you want just your class or the public to see them. It provides extensive "Analytics". The following two videos are examples of this method. 
  • Genetic epistasis. 7min. This is my most popular video to date (April 2017) with ~2500 views a month. 
  • Protein motifs. 3min. Not so popular, but I like it. 
The videos are fun to make. After some practice, I can design them and produce them with relative ease. Still, from conception to posting making a video takes me a minimum of 8 hours. 

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