Re-Thinking Live Lecture with LaunchPad by Combining Reading and Lecturing into one Student Activity

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Launchpad has given me the tools to create a much richer learning environment outside of class, which in turn has transformed what I do in live class sessions.  In particular, it has allowed me to break down traditional barriers between in-class and outside of class activities, radically transforming how I structure my course.  Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the elimination of my live lectures—which is not to say that I no longer speak in class, as you’ll see.

Parts of my lectures have become redundant.  No longer do I have to lecture on material covered in the textbook during class. Before LearningCurve helped my students to engage with and master readings, these review lectures made some sense. Many students hadn’t completed the reading assignment for the week, and those that had read it passively and still needed to digest the information. But now with LearningCurve assigned before class, such reviews are largely unnecessary. Through a journal exercise, my students tell me which parts of the chapter they would like to review. Instead of lecturing on the same material covered in the text, I now lead class discussion of student-identified topics from their readings.

But there were important elements of my traditional live lectures that were not redundant, particularly those moments where I clarified, challenged or added to the text in important ways. These segments could not be cut without loss, but I increasingly wondered about the timing of these portions of my lectures. While I had something that I wanted to tell my students, was the Wednesday afternoon after the student read the text over the weekend really the right place to add my thoughts? Moreover, was covering all this material in a single one-off 50 minute session the right modality? The answer for me was no to both questions.

My solution was to embed these segments of my traditional lectures directly into Launchpad. I see this change as a chance to guide my students as they are reading and to encourage critical engagement with the text. It is remarkably easy to do in Launchpad.  I simply record voice over lecture slides and then embed them using the ‘Link’ option in the ‘Add to this Unit’ button. I can place these mini-lectures before or after any a- or b-heading in the e-book. I’ve experimented with a variety of formats, but I have settled on 1 to 4 minute segments as the ideal. This length is perfect for a mini-lecture focused on a specific question, puzzle, or event.

The format has several advantages over the classroom.  First, its length makes it easier for a student to focus on and the mini-lectures break up the text which in turn makes it more digestible. Second, it can be viewed multiple times and a student views it when he or she is ready or it becomes relevant. Third, my lectures align more closely with the book than ever before.  Even when I offer new material I do so in the context of the book. Finally, my videos are closed captioned and I post a transcript with each podcast. These features address universal design and accessibility issues more fully than I could in my traditional classroom.

I know that this probably sounds like a big undertaking, but there are two things to keep in mind when you think about inserting elements of your lectures into Launchpad.  First, these mini-lectures are the best segments of your current live lectures, so they are easy to create.  Also, once you create them, they are ready for future semesters.  No longer will you have to give the same lecture three times on the same day and the links copy over each semester in Launchpad.

You have options as to how these mini-lectures will look and feel.  I have found voice over lecture slides most effective. It allows me to bring visual evidence and structure to my mini-lectures.  But there are other options.  It is even possible to record a live lecture in front of a real class and edit it into shorter segments for Launchpad.

Flipping my classroom has led me to think a great deal about timing and teaching. New on-line resources are breaking down traditional barriers between inside and outside of class activities, making for a more seamless and dynamic experience for my students. The elimination of traditional live lectures in my courses is just one part of this transformation, one that freed up considerable class time for discussion and active learning, which both my students and I are finding more enjoyable and useful.

About the Author
Eric W. Nelson (D.Phil., Oxford University) is a professor of history at Missouri State University. He is an experienced teacher who has won a number of awards, including the Governor’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2011 and the CASE and Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Professor of the Year Award for Missouri in 2012. He is currently Faculty Fellow for Engaged Learning, developing new ways to integrate in-class and online teaching environments. His publications include The Legacy of Iconoclasm: Religious War and the Relic Landscape of Tours, Blois and Vendôme, and The Jesuits and the Monarchy: Catholic Reform and Political Authority in France.