Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An experiment with YouTube course delivery

This winter I taught CSE 1030, an introductory computer science course. I'm always looking for new ways to distribute course materials online, and in this class I was lucky enough to have a student who was willing to capture video of the lectures. (Many thanks to Louis St-Amour for his help.)

For the sake of visibility, familiarity, and ease of access, I posted the course video to YouTube. You can see some of the results here.

Overall, reaction was positive, and the availability of video did not seem to impact classroom attendance at all. That may have to do with the quality of YouTube video, which is not great -- for instance, when I use the projection screen in the classroom, it is virtually impossible to make anything out on the screen. However, I see the video as more of a "memory aid" for those who attended the lectures and may wish to review, rather than as a wholesale replacement of the lectures.

On the downside, YouTube restricts videos to 10 minutes and 100 MB. It is possible to get around that by splitting the lecture video into multiple blocks and joining them back together as a playlist, but preparing the video for upload in this way is labour-intensive. I'm told that tools exist to make this easier, so please tell me if you know of one.

In general I'd like to do this again. What was most surprising was that a decent video record of the lectures could be obtained and distributed online at very low cost -- beyond a laptop, which I have anyway, the only equipment we used was a webcam, which can be had for under $200. I'd also like to try distributing the video in iPod format.

I'd love to hear of other experiences with this, as well as suggestions for improvement.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Click here to waste time

My building has a green roof, and for the past few years a family of Canada geese have set up a nest there, just opposite our main seminar room.

Today we set up a webcam to check out their progress. (They tend to do a lot of nothing. It won't be very exciting until the eggs hatch.)

UPDATE: The geese have left and the webcam is now down.