Movies are the key to lively lectures

July 13, 2001

Academics should be making use of moving images and sound to make lectures more interesting for students, according to Murray Weston, director of the British Universities Film and Video Council.

The advent of digital video cameras, PC-editing software and online video databases means it is now simple to include moving images in lectures, Mr Weston said.

"There are things people say and do that you cannot easily get from the written word," he said.

Technology's affordability and ease of use mean that staff can shoot and edit material and embed a video clip into a PowerPoint presentation without the aid of technicians.

But Mr Weston said that until now, finding and accessing suitable footage had been difficult. "There is no national catalogue of moving pictures like there is for books, so even though someone has probably shot sequences that are exactly what you need, you will not know where to find them."

Properly describing images and storing them on servers to make the materials more accessible is, Mr Weston said, the only way to increase the usage of video for teaching and research. Often, just two or three minutes of video is needed to make a point, rather than a 30-minute or hour-long production.

To make images easier to locate, the council, along with the Open University, is setting up the Managing Agent and Advisory Service for moving pictures and sound in British higher and further education.

Maas, part of the Joint Information Systems Committee's Distributed National Electronic Resource initiative, is expected to be launched in October and will contain archive film material as well as specially commissioned items.

"It will be an interesting assembly and it is just the start; we are going to be clearing quite a lot of material in the next three to five years."

The vast capacity of the SuperJanet academic network has created opportunities for using moving pictures and sound in universities, but not every lecture theatre or tutorial room has the necessary video projector and sound facilities.

Academics' attitudes about video also need to change, Mr Weston said. Those who have regularly used it, particularly in disciplines where its use is not necessarily expected, have often been seen as "a bit wacky" by some.

"There is a need to encourage others to understand and find out more about this content, which is genuinely informative, helpful and enriching for the whole learning, teaching and research experience."

Digital video could also be used more for assignment purposes by students, Mr Weston added.

The movie editing software included on new Apple computers makes desktop video editing very simple for anyone, although Mr Weston said the dominance of PCs in universities could restrict its use.

The film and video council also runs the Moving Image Gateway, a website that lists about 400 other websites relating to moving images and sound and their use in higher and further education.

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