The Kaltura Experience

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In the last months and the previous semester I have become acquainted with on-line classes. In this blog I want to share some of my experiences with this form of teaching. Most of the lessons are using the Kaltura software so that explains the name of this blog. At the moment it works fine but that took some time. In my first lesson, I missed an hour. Luckily for me the presentation was recorded and I could see it later in the week.

I noticed that there are different sorts of online lectures: just playing a video, a combination of videos and online questions and discussion groups. Lets start with the first one. There is no interaction and you just watch the video. But there are differences. Some teachers put on a lecture of a previous year recorded in the lecture hall. This are not the best. You don’t hear questions from the students, they refer to wrong data and they last mostly 45 minutes or more. Another sort of presentation that I like more, are the lectures where the teacher speaks from behind his desk. In both cases I find it more difficult to concentrate and remember the teaching material then in a live classroom.

Video lessons have some advantages too. I can pause when taking notes, I can repeat a part when I didn’t heard or understood the words. What I’m wondering if it is possible to rip a video. Of course you can use your phone but that will be a low quality. In the paper today was an interesting article  that discussed if it would not be better to put the best lectures in open data.[1] But for many teachers that will be a bridge to far I suppose.

Some of my lectures are divided in mostly four clips of about 20 minutes. I find that better to grasp. The lessons with short video clips are much easier to follow and comprehend. The style of the teacher is also a factor. I found out that someone who talks slowly is easier to remember. I like the lessons where the clips are combined with live questions and discussions,

An other case are the live sessions. You mostly see a small window with the teacher and many other small windows from the students. Here is the first problem. There is a list of participating students but that can have more students then there are windows. If you are not in one of those windows, you cannot use your microphone or camera. I still don’t know how to solve this problem. And on whose side the problem is, do I something wrong or is it on the teachers side? Or just a bug or restriction in the Kaltura software. If anyone knows the solution, please comment on the blog.

In the first lessons there were problems with the microphones. If one of the students had its microphone open the sound was distorted but the last weeks that problem is reducing. Better discipline or tuning of the microphone of the students or improvements in the software or hardware?

But the most annoying I find al those dull windows. You are participating in a discussion group but you can see no one because most students keep their cameras closed. The reason is that it will take to much bandwidth if all the cameras are open. But I don’t know if that is the real reason and if that it is really true. I think that at least the one that speaks or asks questions should open the camera. I think for teachers the experience is that they are talking to a closed wall. Personally I feel that very annoying.

Another painful moment is always when the teacher asks a question to the group and nobody gives an answer. Everybody hides behind his/hers closed window. In a classroom you can see if the question is misunderstood or that everyone is felt asleep. In this case you have to guess why there comes no answer.

Perhaps we need some sort of “kalturaqette”: when to use the camera, the microphone, the raising hands and what we put into the posts. I hope that we don’t need rules or procedures but that it grows natural.

As I said before, not every teacher is equally experienced with the digital tools or controls the art of good and clear presentation. Nevertheless I have a lot of respect for their attempts. May be an idea to give a price to the best performing teacher in this media this semester?

Well we are getting every week more used to this form of teaching. It isn’t optimal but, apart from a lot of other problems, it gives a good possibility to follow lectures.

[1] Eveline Crone, ’Hoorcolleges van de lopende band’ NRC (3 oktober 2020).