Rolling! Faculty Enhance Their Video Skills

Duke Digital Initiative’s ViTaL training helps faculty members strengthen their video lectures

Mich Donovan of the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) uses a video laptop kit, which faculty can check out from the Link on the lower level of Perkins Library. The kit includes a Mac laptop, Wacom tablet that can be used to annotate presentation slides, a we
Mich Donovan of the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) uses a video laptop kit, which faculty can check out from the Link on the lower level of Perkins Library. The kit includes a Mac laptop, Wacom tablet that can be used to annotate presentation slides, a we

JoAnne Van Tuyl read from a teleprompter in a campus production studio, explaining in Russian how to use three conjunctions in a conversation.

Like other faculty members at Duke, Van Tuyl, an associate professor of the practice in Duke’s Slavic and Eurasian Studies department, is peppering her courses with video lectures and tutorials instead of relying on textbooks and PowerPoint presentations during valuable class time.

“I found that I was lecturing too much,” Van Tuyl said of her beginning Russian class. “If I can give these mini talks and have a place where students can access these discussions online, then we can speak more Russian in class.”

The training session that afternoon was part of ViTaL (Videos in Teaching and Learning), an exploratory program by the Duke Digital Initiative that helps faculty create educational videos by providing equipment access, skill-building workshops and networking opportunities.

ViTaL invited faculty members to practice speaking on camera in the studio at Duke Media Services, which provides media production help to members of the Duke community. Van Tuyl practiced her lesson plan in the recording studio, and after her five-minute presentation, she received feedback from Duke Digital Initiative and Duke Media Services staff.

Remember to stay centered and not move too much on camera, they advised Van Tuyl. Break up a five-minute video with interesting graphics, and modify the information in a way that will be easy to digest.

The idea for ViTaL grew out of Duke’s massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that require multiple videos for large online classes. ViTaL meetings are open to all Duke faculty members, whether they are in charge of a MOOC or just hoping to learn more about video, as well as anyone with an interest in educational video. The meeting topics range from using a tablet for recording lectures to 3D display technologies.

“ViTaL is trying to provide some resources that anybody can use to support do-it-yourself-type videos, and to try and develop a community of people who are all interested in developing educational videos,” said Elizabeth Evans, the managing producer for the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI).

Roger Barr, a professor of biomedical engineering and associate professor of pediatrics, taught one of the first MOOCs at Duke – Bioelectricity. Duke staff helped him produce video lectures on how electric currents flow in people, animals and living tissue.

“I just see the world changing around me, in the sense that I’ve been a professor for a long time,” said Barr, who’s been a Duke faculty member since 1970. “When I started as a professor, people spoke in person. They wrote things on paper in a typewriter. Now everything with writing has changed, and everything with presentation is changing, too.”

Videos allow his students to learn when they aren’t physically in the classroom, he said, and if they don’t understand the content at first, they can watch the same lecture multiple times. Barr said that he decided to attend ViTaL meetings to learn more about incorporating video in his Duke courses on his own.

“The thing that is really different now than just two or three years ago is how good the video can be with pretty cheap equipment,” he said. “It’s not as if you have to go out and be willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to have a recording studio.”