Podcasting possible for lectures across university 

IITS Creative Media Services equips dozens of lecture halls for MP3 recording

By Karen Herland

Aaron Brauer, a lecturer in the Academic Technology Department of Arts and Science, likes making his lectures available to students outside of the classroom.

He has been offering video or audio recordings of his classroom presentations on his course website for years now. This year, when IITS offered an automated service he was eager to try it out. He has not been disappointed.

“The system is completely automated. It is really useful for me to do it myself and not have to rely on a technician,” Brauer says. “The recording is ready within minutes of class ending and I can offer students a link on the website.”

Steve Helsing, who handles research and development at IITS Creative Media Services, has spent a year and a half developing the system.

“We used to send a technician out with equipment to record courses,” Helsing says, pointing out the investment in human and equipment resource allocation was large. “The challenge was to develop a new system that was automated, cost-effective and scalable.”

The system now in place meets those criteria. Several dozen classrooms on both campuses have been equipped with inexpensive hardware, making audio capture for archiving, broadcasting or online distribution of class lectures or speeches a straightforward proposition (both H 110 and the De Sève cinema have the capability).

Professors or lecture organizers wanting their lectures recorded can register through IITS. Once they are in the system, they simply have to pick up a microphone on the day of the lecture and log onto a webpage from the classroom. They can then hit record or pause in real time to create an MP3 file of the lecture. The system gives each professor the ability to determine what material will be recorded and the control to pause if they want some material to remain in the classroom.

Almost as soon as the class is over, professors will receive an email providing simple instructions to get the file linked via RSS or iTunes feeds on Moodle. Students registered in the class can review the lectures whenever they want. This process can be extended to public lectures so organizers can post links to MP3 files of speeches or panel discussions on their own websites.

The system is in the second semester of a pilot phase to identify bugs, but the potential of the new technology is great.

“In theory, it can help me prepare for future classes,” says Brauer. “Courses are usually offered once a semester and it’s impossible to remember everything from all 13 lectures.” The archiving potential allows teachers to review their material, making adjustments if required.

Helsing says one faculty member considered recording lectures at home and making the MP3 file available to students before class time, which could then be spent in discussion and reaction to the course material. “This is a potentially interesting use of the technology that I hadn’t anticipated,” says Helsing.

Because the system involves a centralized server and software with an inexpensive device to capture the lectures installed in participating classrooms, it’s easy to add rooms.


Concordia University