A software product originally intended for use by big-name media outlets has recently begun cropping up in college lecture halls across the country, enabling professors to easily record live classroom lectures and presentations and post them to the internet for students to review.

Called Apreso, the multimedia software package–first adopted by big-name media providers such as CNN and Fox News to convert digital footage of news broadcasts for redistribution on the web, mobile phones, and cable television–reportedly has caught the attention of tech-savvy college professors and other educators looking to capture lessons for students to access in their dorm rooms, at the computer lab, or while on the go across campus.

Virginia-based Anystream Inc. says its Apreso Classroom software product is being used in university classrooms and lecture halls nationwide to realize the benefits of multimedia-enhanced instruction. According to the company, its customers include the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Harvard University, Sheffield University, the Medical College of Georgia, and Temple University.

Anystream and university officials say having the lecture materials ready for immediate online review is leading to higher retention and greater experimentation in the classroom. The technology’s increasing popularity also has led to speculation about its potential in K-12 classrooms.

The Apreso program can be loaded onto an existing podium PC in a media-enhanced lecture hall, or onto a separate machine dedicated to its use. Once installed, the solution can be configured to work with classroom hardware, including microphones and installed video recorders, to capture a full video of the professor’s lecture automatically. In older classrooms, where video recordings are not an option, Apreso can be configured to record all visual presentations, including PowerPoint slides and other electronic applications.

Presentations are captured in full motion, not just in periodic photo capture. That means if a professor is using a mouse- or stylus-enabled application to write out equations in longhand, for instance, the program will record the entirety of the professor’s gestures along with the lecture, not just a series of captured screenshots.

The application also records the professor’s voice output from a microphone and can capture audience comments as well. The audio track of the recording can be repurposed for podcasts on iPods or other MP3 players, Anystream said.

What’s more, the product is schedule-driven, according to the company, which means that a professor who wants to capture his or her lecture using the software need only inform the appropriate IT administrator. The administrator can set the lecture to be recorded as often or as seldom as the professor wishes. After the lecture is completed, the captured content is encoded, formatted, and placed on the school’s learning management system, where it can be accessed by students online, on demand, via a variety of media players, including Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, and iTunes. The room is then automatically reset to record the next scheduled lecture–without any additional work from the professor.

For schools considering the technology, one of the most limiting factors is likely to be price. Though Anystream has reduced the price of a single license for its base Classroom offering to $5,000–down significantly from the $10,000 to $100,000 it charges major newsrooms for a similar service–one source told eSchool News the necessary hardware to outfit lecture halls and classrooms, including video recorders, sound and digital projection systems, and computer-enabled lecterns, could end up costing a school anywhere between $2,500 and $12,000 per room, depending on the level of functionality desired.

Anystream isn’t the only company offering these services to schools.

Other video-over-IP network solutions are available at comparable prices from companies such as VBrick Systems and Advanced Media Design (AMD). Like Anystream, these companies have developed products for corporate and government videoconferencing markets that have been adapted for education.

Solutions from these companies provide users with varying combinations of the on-demand offerings of Anystream, at price points ranging from $2,000 for AMD’s Digital Media Recorders–which reportedly have the capability to stream directly from the classroom to the web with no administrative intervention–to VBrick’s VBEduCast system, which, at $5,495, reportedly can get video and presentation software-enabled lectures posted onto the web from a media-enhanced classroom “in minutes.”

Despite an increasingly crowded marketplace for classroom video-capture technologies, Anystream executives say their Apreso product holds an advantage over the competition thanks, at least in part, to the product’s “set-it-and-forget-it” scheduling capabilities.

“Two or three years ago, universities began purchasing the product for lecture capture,” explained Mark Jones, Anystream’s vice president for education products. “It had, up to then, been used as a high-end, broadcast media application, an agility product [for bringing broadcasts to the web].”

That’s when Anystream decided it was time “to tweak the product for an education market,” said Jones. “We added the scheduling component–essential for education–[and] designed a version with integrations for [learning management systems such as] WebCT and Blackboard. We also brought the price point down, as it wasn’t friendly to university budgets.”

The Apreso Classroom product has met with positive reviews from students, instructors, and administrators, Jones said, namely for its flexibility of use.

“We really view the higher-ed market as a bunch of smaller markets,” Jones explained. “Law schools use it largely to help students review closing arguments. Med schools, which are very visually demanding, use it to record [dissections and other procedures] & Business travelers in MBA programs are using it to stay on top of their courses, and the lecture capture helps students in complex math, science, and engineering courses be more confident, because they can review their materials as much as they want.”

John DeAngelo, associate dean for information technology at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, said his school piloted Apreso Classroom in two lecture halls beginning in July 2004, and the school has since added 10 more campus-wide, including two more in the Fox School. DeAngelo expects campus use of the product to continue to increase.

Though its use by instructors is voluntary, DeAngelo said the Apreso software has been accepted widely by students, professors, and administrators. He said that, in the Fox School alone, more than 2,000 hours of captures have been stored since 2004, and as many as 40 business-school faculty members are now making use of it, as well as 3,000 students. From an administrative standpoint, he said, the school wanted something that didn’t require an operator to make it work, which also suited the university’s expansion plans.

The school is in the process of constructing a new 12,000 square-foot facility. The building, called Alter Hall, will have all of its classrooms equipped with the technology.

University instructors currently are using the video-capture system to prep for exams, said DeAngelo. MBA courses are using it to prep students for face-to-face meetings. For quantitative courses in math and science, DeAngelo said, the students “who just don’t get it the first time through” are using the Apresos to increase review time.

Temple also now uses the system for recruitment, he said, showing students excerpts from lectures to entice them to university programs. Apresos also are being used to give students recently accepted to the university a taste of its curriculum. In addition, the software is being employed as a means of connecting students and instructors in the university’s international program.

Though Temple has done no controlled studies of how the program has affected student learning, a study carried out by the University of Massachusetts on its Lowell campus has shown that, among calculus students during the 2004-05 school year, 72 percent of those who took Apreso-enhanced courses said it contributed to the content of their course materials. Students taking part in the calculus courses supported by Apreso lectures also had a success rate (a grade of C or better) that was 11 percent higher than that of their peers, and there were 10 percent fewer students with Ds, Fs, or withdrawals in Apreso-enhanced courses, the study found.

Mike Lucas, coordinator of distance education for UMass-Lowell, said Apresos also are being used in two media-enhanced lecture halls at the school. Instructors are employing the solution to support introductory engineering courses, anatomy and physiology courses, and some chemistry courses. Though the technology is currently being offered only to instructors scheduled to use those lecture halls, Lucas said he anticipates that the future will see increased demand for the technology.

“I hope to have scheduling conflicts in the future,” Lucas said. “That would mean the faculty at large [is] embracing the technology.”

The UMass library system has used the Apreso technology to create tutorials for library resources and make these tutorials available on the web, Lucas said. He said professors who frequently travel have been using the technology to make available lectures for when they are away.

While student acceptance of the technology has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Lucas, instructors, by and large, have been less enthusiastic.

Some instructors say they worry about the potential for faculty to create “canned lectures” that will be archived and reused by students in place of an actual, live lecture.

“Typically–and this is my generalization–it’s been the younger faculty [members who aren’t] really concerned,” explained Lucas. “Older faculty [members] are concerned that students won’t be making it to class.”

He added, “Some are concerned that the lecture will be canned for the entire year” and are wondering about job security.

Dale Mann, professor emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently managing director of the technology consulting firm Interactive Inc., said using the system in such a way wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for schools.

“It’s a lesson-capture system that automatically creates a library, a stock of materials, that can be edited into a single master class,” Mann said. “If you do a [full recording] for three lectures in a row, you’ve got the base for creating a master class. You could edit [the master version] out of the three iterations of your presentation.”

Mann believes K-12 schools could use such a resource for distance education.

Anystream’s Jones said his company, for now, does not plan to move into the K-12 market, even though there has been some interest from schools. Unlike college professors, he noted, K-12 administrators must worry about meeting federal guidelines such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits the public distribution of certain student information, such as the identities of students who could be revealed should the wrong person gain access to the system. He said Apresos would have to be carefully used in K-12 schools to avoid violating such laws.

Still, he said, many of the benefits achieved through the technology in higher education are applicable to K-12.

“As in higher education, this technology could be used to repurpose classroom lectures for distance learning,” Jones said. “Smaller high schools in Minnesota could share instructors with a school 100 miles away.”

Links:

Anystream Inc.
http://www.anystream.com

VBrick Systems
http://www.vbrick.com

Advanced Media Design
http://www.amdsys.com

Temple University
http://www.temple.edu

University of Massachusetts
http://www.umass.edu

Interactive Inc.
http://www.iternactiveinc.org

Though Temple has done no controlled studies of how the program has affected student learning, a study carried out by the University of Massachusetts on its Lowell campus has shown that, among calculus students during the 2004-05 school year, 72 percent of those who took Apreso-enhanced courses said it contributed to the content of their course materials. Students taking part in the calculus courses supported by Apreso lectures also had a success rate (a grade of C or better) that was 11 percent higher than that of their peers, and there were 10 percent fewer students with Ds, Fs, or withdrawals in Apreso-enhanced courses, the study found.

Mike Lucas, coordinator of distance education for UMass-Lowell, said Apresos also are being used in two media-enhanced lecture halls at the school. Instructors are employing the solution to support introductory engineering courses, anatomy and physiology courses, and some chemistry courses. Though the technology is currently being offered only to instructors scheduled to use those lecture halls, Lucas said he anticipates that the future will see increased demand for the technology.

“I hope to have scheduling conflicts in the future,” Lucas said. “That would mean the faculty at large [is] embracing the technology.”

The UMass library system has used the Apreso technology to create tutorials for library resources and make these tutorials available on the web, Lucas said. He said professors who frequently travel have been using the technology to make available lectures for when they are away.

While student acceptance of the technology has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Lucas, instructors, by and large, have been less enthusiastic.

Some instructors say they worry about the potential for faculty to create “canned lectures” that will be archived and reused by students in place of an actual, live lecture.

“Typically–and this is my generalization–it’s been the younger faculty [members who aren’t] really concerned,” explained Lucas. “Older faculty [members] are concerned that students won’t be making it to class.”

He added, “Some are concerned that the lecture will be canned for the entire year” and are wondering about job security.

Dale Mann, professor emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently managing director of the technology consulting firm Interactive Inc., said using the system in such a way wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for schools.

“It’s a lesson-capture system that automatically creates a library, a stock of materials, that can be edited into a single master class,” Mann said. “If you do a [full recording] for three lectures in a row, you’ve got the base for creating a master class. You could edit [the master version] out of the three iterations of your presentation.”

Mann believes K-12 schools could use such a resource for distance education.

Anystream’s Jones said his company, for now, does not plan to move into the K-12 market, even though there has been some interest from schools. Unlike college professors, he noted, K-12 administrators must worry about meeting federal guidelines such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prohibits the public distribution of certain student information, such as the identities of students who could be revealed should the wrong person gain access to the system. He said Apresos would have to be carefully used in K-12 schools to avoid violating such laws.

Still, he said, many of the benefits achieved through the technology in higher education are applicable to K-12.

“As in higher education, this technology could be used to repurpose classroom lectures for distance learning,” Jones said. “Smaller high schools in Minnesota could share instructors with a school 100 miles away.”

Links:

Anystream Inc.
http://www.anystream.com

VBrick Systems
http://www.vbrick.com

Advanced Media Design
http://www.amdsys.com

Temple University
http://www.temple.edu

University of Massachusetts
http://www.umass.edu

Interactive Inc.
http://www.iternactiveinc.org