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Editorial: Using Audio and Visual Materials in Teaching and Learning

Graham Lewis, Centre for Academic Practice, University of Warwick

Students today live in a world rich in multimedia and appreciate variety in their learning environment. They take audio visual information, the Internet, mobile and integrated communications for granted.  When learning they find a mixture of text, still images, sound and video is more interesting than 'chalk and talk'.  This is not to say that replacing traditional teaching with multi-media packages will lead to better learning.

While educators have used video as an instructional tool for decades, our ability to share and easily express ourselves with this media was cumbersome and often not worth the effect.  It has only been recently, through ubiquitous digital video cameras, high end PCs, inexpensive PC based video editing software that the media has become sufficiently accessible, flexible and, through the Web, sharable, to make it a viable media for both teaching and learning.

Lecturers have found even short digital video segments very useful in customized e-Learning.  Students find video motivational and enjoy greater control over their own learning (it is easy to start, stop or replay video segments). With increasing bandwidth it is now often possible to provide students with significant additional high quality learning resources online.  This is particularly helpful for those concerned with distance learning but such resources significantly support classroom teaching too.

At Warwick, the e-Learning Strategy  included a committment to exploring the production of streamed video lectures and several have already been produced across a range of disciplines and in combination with other web based technologies. See the Innovations section in this edition for more details.

The first of the articles in this edition, 'Reflections on the Experience of Recording an E-Lecture',  looks at the experiences of Valerie Brooks, a lecturer in the Institute of Education as she produced the first of several video lectures.

While the Web is promoted as a multi-media environment, the vast majority of communication takes place through text.  In our second article, 'Is There Anybody There?', Teresa MacKinnon from the Language Centre looks at the way that Web based audio communication is being used over the Web to assist in language learning.

Our final article, 'Look Who's Talking Now', also looks at audio in the form of computer generated speech and asks how this fast evolving technology might begin to encroach on education.

Also in this edition, as always, a selection of related Web resources including a short tutorial on capturing audio on your desktop PC.

There are a number of issues surrounding the capturing of teaching in video format:  Do you capture in real teaching environments or in staged situatuons?  Are 'talking heads' necessary?  Do they grab attention as well as a live presenter?  Do you attempt to match TV level presentation quality or simply accept flaws in the presentation skills of real academics? 

Clearly there is a trade-off here between the accessibilty of the technology for lectureres and possible student expectations of production quality.  As an intitution we are covering all levels of production by providing the studio or lecture theatre capturing of teaching with subsequent editing, the drop-in 'video booth' where lecturers can record themselves and the loaning of digital cameras via Audio Visual services where staff or students can capture a range of activities in the field.

A quick search on the Web will reveal a host of sites dedicated to the techniques and processes of video production in teaching but we are still a long way from understanding how augmenting or replacing face to face lectures with video lectures impacts on student learning and therefore the best ways to integrate the two.  The Resources  section includes some links to studies concerned with evaluating the effectiveness of video as a teaching tool.

Although some progress is being made, IPR issues in using video from other sources still form a barrier to using the vast archives of TV, film and radio materials that would be so useful in illustrating our teaching.  The resources section contains links to the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC), a good starting point for tracking down video resources and copyright issues.  Also in the resources section is a short piece on the University of Warwick's video collection now managed by the Library.

Perhaps the most powerful use of digital video will be not as a teaching tool per se but as a learning tool, a means of expression and opportunity for creativity for students. 

Planning, producing and editing their own video, they gain opportunities for higher level tand reflective learning as they formulate and discuss their own ideas.

This has been the overwhelming conclusion of the use of digital video at school level where uptake has been faster.  The digital video edting stations now available in the new drop-in mu;timedia facilty, the Learning Grid, at Warwick eflects the opinion of many that this will also be the case at University level education across a wide range of disciplines not just those traditionally associated with creativity in communication.  It will be interesting to see how staff and students take advantage of these facilities in the years to come.


Graham Lewis
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7657 2737