Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mini-Lectures via Camtasia

Today I've been doing some recording in Camtasia in part to provide demos for faculty in my college and in part to think through the pedagogic implications. This is my latest effort, a mini-lecture on "Block Pricing," a particular type of price discrimination. I'll discuss briefly on technology/implementation issues and then another brief discussion on pedagogy.

First consider sizing of what you are seeing. The movie should display in the browser without the need to scroll, either horizontally or vertically. I've captured about as big a region as is possible to do that (when viewing on a laptop) and yet preserve a reasonable aspect ratio. Excel is helpful for this sizing effort because it counts rows and columns. I've got 22 rows displayed (and note that there is one tool bar open that appears below the Menu bar) and the columns displayed are A through M. If you size an Excel window that way you can then use it is a guide for any other application that you may wish to record; just size the window of that application to match the Excel window.

In the settings in Camtasia I did a screen recording with voice narration. I maxed out on their settings for video and audio quality - bigger file size, but who cares. Then I saved the file in the native format and made ready for Web delivery. When Camtasia does this, it uses Flash and produces the video as an .swf file. As an alternative I tried a custom setting in Camtasia to make a Windows Media file, but the video quality is not as good - there is discoloration. So I'm sticking with their recommendation for Web delivery. Camtasia produces an entire folder of stuff, with .xml, .css, and other files to accompany the video file. One of these is an .html file. When Camtasia is done I drag that entire folder onto my Web space on the College of Business server and then click on that .html file. That launches the presentation at the url where the presentation appears. Voila!

I'm doing this at the office where I have a very good connection to the server and the presentation appears almost immediately. I need to try at home to get a more realistic sense for how long it takes to load. I'd appreciate learning your experience with that.

* * * * *

The movie is of an "Excelet" that I had written (to accompany a textbook by Baron and Besanko). The Excelets were originally written as ancillary material to accompany the book, but I think these type of mini-lectures can be used as gateways into the content. Note the duration. This one is under 4 minutes in length. If you were doing a chalk board lecture on this topic it would probably be 20 minutes to a half hour, and that is because all the content would be derived from scratch --- the way we were taught to do it. I think the derived from scratch approach is fine for a student who will go on to grad school, but other students don't have the patience and need a quicker way to penetrate the ideas.

So here much of the construction has already been done. The Excelets have the virtue of literally being able to visualize the comparative statics from that construction and thereby get some insight into the construction itself. Note that the presentation in the video is mostly to explain how to use the Excelet and read what is going on. While there is some theory presented, most of that is in passing. They pick the theory up in the play with the Excelet and the video is aimed at encouraging the play.

For presenting theory of this type, I think this is the right type of design. No doubt building the Excelets is time consuming. But the Excelets are durable and can be re-used from semester to semester.

In my opinion, this type of content lends itself to online delivery. In teaching Economics, one can parse the course into two parts, one a math/theory part and the other a story telling part. We need to teach both and students really understand the economics only if they are comfortable with both. The story telling part is much better done face to face and in small group work during the live class time having students hash through a sensible story to match the economic situation seems like a valuable activity. The analytics, on the other hand, at least getting the basics, can be done online and via self-study. This type of online mini-lecture would seem a boon for that.


Norma said...

Good quality of image and sound. This is a good alternative for either replacing a lecture or providing as a resource for students who need to review the explanation. The instructor will lecture it only once ... having this alternative recording will allow students to go back to it if they need to. It appeals to different learning styles as well.
One thing that I would change in the video is the icon that reads "double click for word doc notes" unless there is a link there which will take working on making that an image map, I guess...

Lanny Arvan said...

Norma - thanks for the comment. I agree that the image and sound quality are good. We no longer have to sacrifice on that dimension in making screen movies.

In the live class I wouldn't lecture on this again, but we might use this as a departure on discussing other issues/models of price discrimination.

As for the link to the Word document, it is indeed embedded in the Excel file, from which the movie was made. For the movie itself, I guess a document that is outside the movie but found near it should be used for notes.

Norma said...

This brings another point. Have you tried the Google Notebook? If that is added to the browser you can make notes about any page (and it could very well be the page where the video lecture is embedded) and your notes will be there as long as you login into your google account.. no matter what computer you use.

Lanny Arvan said...

I hadn't tried Google Notebook. It does seem like a useful tool. Here's my first stab with it.