Lecture Capture Software and Branch Quizzing: What’s Available for Flipping the Classroom?

A new trend in educational technology is the idea of “flipping the classroom”. Flipping the classroom is when an instructor prepares a lecture and has the students watch it before they come to class, which in turn the students are prepared to discuss the concept or class time is used to demonstrate a principle or answer questions about the content they were introduced to in the lecture. If you are interested in flipping your classroom or just want to record lectures for your students to use as study aids, how does one get started in lecture capture and what tools are available?

What’s great about lecture capture is that you don’t need a high tech classroom to record yourself. In most cases, a webcam, a laptop, and the right software will do. We recently did a survey and investigated software for lecture capture and the top four we researched for their features to record and the ability to create quizzes were: TechSmith’s Camtasia, Adobe Presenter (ver. 8), Adobe Captivate ( ver. 6), and Microsoft PowerPoint (Office 2010 edition).

Camtasia is a great software if you are looking to record your screen and a webcam at the same time. It does have a PowerPoint add-in so you can start to record right from PowerPoint. One drawback was if you were running PowerPoint 64bit, the add-in for Camtasia did not appear in the ribbon in the Add-in tab. Also, if you are looking for a strong branch quizzing feature, Camtasia is very limited. Camtasia allows for you to jump to a keyframe in the timecode if a question is incorrect, but there is no way to jump back to the quiz and retake the quiz or jump back to the previous video. Students would have to scroll back through the lecture to get back to that other keyframe to start after the quiz. You can also setup another quiz to go back, but that get’s confusing on your timeline and after you answered the question incorrectly, it was difficult to set the quiz question to allow you to attempt the quiz again. But if you are looking for a tool to just record the webcam and place it on top of the screencast of the PowerPoint or other things you are demoing on your computer, this is a great tool.

Adobe Presenter works with PowerPoint by adding an add-in Adobe Presenter tab to your ribbon. The biggest hurdle with Presenter is it does not work with 64bit computers. With Presenter, you record audio or video for each slide using the Presenter tools in the Presenter tab inside PowerPoint. You insert and create quizzes the same way. You have the option of creating graded quizzes or surveys. The video recording with the webcam in Presenter is very high quality (which also depends on your webcam) and you can add features to the video (like captions, name title) and even show your slide and your webcam side by side, which makes for a nice presentation. The screencapture and webcam application for Presenter isn’t integrated well with PowerPoint. It either creates a new PowerPoint with the video (which then you have to copy and paste back into your PowerPoint slides) or you can save it to your computer then import it into the PowerPoint slide. When a stylus is used while recording video with Presenter, the calibration is off when writing on the the slide with the stylus. Once the program was done recording the video, the calibration for the stylus was normal again. You can also record audio for each slide using Presenter. The Quiz Manager was confusing because you had multiple places to edit for feedback to create a branching quiz. We found that making a survey was easier to work with than a graded quiz question, and just editing the top level of the quiz for feedback and branching produced the best results. There are three levels you can edit for a quiz and this can make the user disoriented when using this product to create branching quizzes.

Adobe Captivate is a great tool if you are looking to create branching quizzes. This tool also gave you the option to export as HTML5. Most of the software here exports to Flash if you want the quizzing feature inside your lecture capture. Captivate allows for you to import PowerPoint slides. The Branching View feature inside Captivate creates a visual representation to show you how your branching quizzes work inside the lecture and you also have the option of exporting the Branching View as an image. You can import videos and Captivate has a built in Adobe product to help you convert videos so you can use them inside Captivate. You can record audio inside Captivate for each slide. You have a lot of options inside Captivate which can be confusing to a user at first and sometimes the software behaves strangely (as in we re-arranged slides inside Captivate which broke the Branching View and never updated the branching View to show the changes we made). The biggest drawback with Captivate is that you can not record your webcam, only your desktop. You would need to record yourself speaking into the webcam and import that video into each slide. What’s nice about the screencapturing feature for Captivate is that it pans with you as you move your cursor around the screen. Camtasia also has this feature.

The last software we explored for lecture capture and quiz branching was PowerPoint. If you already have PowerPoint, you don’t need any additional software unless you want to record your webcam video. You can set up hyperlinks to jump to slides if you want to have branching quizzes inside your PowerPoint. The learning curve is less if you are familiar with PowerPoint. You can package the format as a PPT Show so the students start right inside the PowerPoint. You would need a screencapturing software to record your screen if you want to record annotations you are making on a PowerPoint slide and import that video into a PowerPoint slide (so videos are created externally from PowerPoint). The hyperlinks are not really quizzing, but they can provide feedback by linking to feedback slides. The user viewing the PowerPoint will need PowerPoint installed (or something that can open a PowerPoint) to view the file. Under the File Tab of PowerPoint 2010, you have the option of going to Save and Send and choosing Create a Video. This will not work if you want to do quizzing since the video will play right through without hyperlinking to feedback. It will put your audio recording in for each slide (which you can record audio right inside PowerPoint). It will save the video as a Windows Media Video (.wmv). PowerPoint is a great place to start if you want to start experimenting with light quizzing and lecture capture for your course.

Each of the software packages we reviewed had their strengths and their weaknesses. Below is a breakdown and summary of what we found when we reviewed the software. Hopefully this will help you on your journey to flipping your classroom.

Product Description                Pros                  Cons
Camtasia Used to do screen and webcam capture
  • Record screen AND webcam simultaneously
  • Very easy to use
  • Very weak branching – can only jump to time code on incorrect answers
  • Add-on for PowerPoint does not work in 64 bit version of PowerPoint
Adobe Presenter Works within PowerPoint, allowing you to insert quizzes and to capture screen/webcam
  • Works within PowerPoint
  • Can insert quizzes and allows for simple branching
  • Can record both webcam and screen – results look good
  • Calibration of stylus different within application
  • Screen/webcam capture app not integrated well with PowerPoint.
  • Quiz creator is extremely confusing
  • Doesn’t work on 64bit OS
  • Strangely expensive
Adobe Captivate Create slides within app, including quizzes, branching. Can export to HTML5
  • True branching if you are willing to figure it out
  • Nice branching view
  • Can import PowerPoint slides
  • Complicated
  • Doesn’t record webcam (microphone OK)
  • Software sometimes behaves strangely
POP Plain Old PowerPoint
  • Easy to use, familiar
  • PPT packaging format (PPT Show) is a bit awkward.
  • Limited to hyperlinks between slides, no real quizzing
  • Webcam/screen captures must be done externally and then imported
  • Doesn’t depend upon Flash (depends upon PowerPoint)