As more and more students take online university or college courses, professors, the universities that employ them, and the makers of the lecture video software find it increasingly necessary to make those classes as easily accessible to their students as possible.
"Online instruction gives non-traditional students, usually people with full- or part-time jobs, to increase their education on their own time," said Kristin Zurovitch, product marketing manager for Sonic Foundry, the makers of Mediasite. "The next logical step is providing that on any device they need."
At Arizona State University, about 450 master's degree students - taking about 750 courses a year - in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering take classes entirely online. Providing them with a relevant education is a top priority, said Octavio Heredia, associative director of global outreach and extended education at the engineering school.
This semester, Mediasite by Sonic Foundry, the makers of the video software and hardware used to record lectures at ASU, will launch applications on iSO platforms, allowing students to watch video lectures on their smartphones and tablets.
Engineering is a field where keeping up with the latest information is important to stay current, and most engineers engage in some sort of post-undergraduate education, Heredia said. Most of the online students are full-time working professionals.
"Giving more platforms, gives students a better education experience," Heredia said.
That can mean giving students the ability to view lectures where it's easiest for them.
This is where a convenient, flexible class works best, and online streaming works well because it allows students to still get the traditional lecture portion of a classroom experience, Heredia said.
Now, streaming on iPhones, iPads, Android and any iOS technology by Mediasite allows students to access information anywhere they have Wi-Fi or 3G Internet reception.
"Many universities realize they need to adapt content to match what students are bringing to classes," Zurovitch said.
For years, ASU online engineering students have been using the Mediasite platform, but in a limited way.
The platform generally has two simulation video feeds, normally one with the lecturer and the other showing a PowerPoint or whiteboard. Usually, this would be viewed in a typical web browser on the Internet.
During the presentation, students can pause, forward, rewind and speed up presentations, Heredia said. They can also search for key words to find specific points in presentations, rather than view the entire 75-minute lecture.
This can be important in classes where the information is complex, and taking traditional notes is challenging.
"In a traditional class if you miss it, you've missed it," Heredia said. "With this you can watch as many times as you need to."
And while some professors worry that by making their lectures available online, they will be teaching to empty classrooms, that's not always the case, Heredia said. Instead, it's changing the way professors teach. If students view the lecture component online, class time can be dedicated to applying and discussing the learning.
Students can even ask email questions directly to the professor, which indicates the exact spot in the presentation the student questioned, Heredia said. It's the virtual hand raising that allows professors to know exactly which part of the instruction became confusing to the student.
The lecture capture also provides a couple of great recourses for professors, Heredia said. Many of the professors use it to gauge how well they are teaching.
Statistics complied by MediaSite can show where students stopped watching the lecture, how many students viewed it in its entirety, and when students are watching the video, Heredia said.
"When a guest speaker lectures in a class, they are volunteering their time," Heredia said. That can be challenging when a class has multiple sections and guest speakers would have to commit to hours of time.
With lecture capture, all students gain the benefit of the guest lecture, instead of only one section, Heredia said. Additionally, students taking the same class in another semester could also view it without infringing on the volunteer time and time again.
Right now, the engineering department offers about 60 online classes a semester, Heredia said. Of those, about 30 are captured new and 50 percent are pre-recorded from other semesters. Typically, pre-recorded lectures can be used for up to three years.
Since the lectures are recordings of traditional classroom lectures, students who may have missed a class due to illness or emergency are able to view it later at the professor's discretion, Heredia said. In fast-moving classes, it can be hard not to fall behind.