Developing Streaming Audio Lectures for Online Courses
By Nora Strasser
Wichita, KS 67213
(316) 295 – 5879
fax: (316) 295 – 5404
It is difficult to successfully teach an online mathematics course. There are many problems that need to be overcome. First, it is difficult using mathematical symbols on the internet. However, this problem is becoming less troublesome since more attention has been drawn to it. Most course administration software now allow the smooth integration of symbols. Second, the internet is very dependent upon reading. Most information is transmitted through the written word. This is a problem because many students find it difficult to read mathematics and need additional forms of learning. I will be considering both of these issues in this paper.
We will look at how to create lectures that incorporate symbols. These lectures will be used as the basis for the course. The lectures will provide the written version of what math teachers normally put on a chalkboard or overhead.
Next, we will look at how to create an audio portion that will function much like what we usually say during a traditional course. One difficulty dealing with audio over the internet is that audio files can be very large and difficult to download. That is the reason that we are going to be using streaming audio. Streaming audio allows the user to download only a small portion at a time and thus can start listening to the lecture before the entire file is downloaded. A slower network connection can be used successfully.
Creating Lectures with Mathematical Symbols and Diagrams:
PowerPoint was the software chosen to create the presentations. It was chosen since it is readily available to most people and easy to use. In order to get mathematical symbols into the PowerPoint slides, the Equation Editor provided by Microsoft was used. The equations can be created using the Equations Editor directly within PowerPoint. Other types of equation editors could be used but then the equations would need to be pasted in. Please note that the Equation Editor is usually installed as part of the complete installation of Microsoft Office. If you installed Microsoft Office using the default installation, the Equation Editor may not be available. It will need to be installed to be usable.
In order to access the equation editor, you must go to the toolbar and select the Insert command. After you have clicked on Insert, a drop down menu will appear. You will see that one choice on the drop down menu is Object. Click on Object and a pop up menu will appear. On the Create New tab choose Microsoft Equation. The Equation Editor will appear and you can create your equation. If you use the equation editor often, it is a good idea to customize your toolbar so that you don’t need to go through these steps each time.
To customize your toolbar, click on Tools and choose the Customize from the drop down menu. Select the Commands tab and from within the commands tab select the Insert Category. Scroll down the Commands available until you see the Equation Editor. Click on the icon for the Equation Editor and drag it onto the toolbar. Choose a location that makes sense to you. I usually put the icon next to the icon for creating bold text.
Putting diagrams into the presentations was more difficult. There are several techniques that can be used. Some diagrams, such as number lines, were drawn using the Microsoft drawing program located within PowerPoint. Some diagrams could not be created using the drawing program and were created by hand and then scanned. The scanned diagrams were saved as JPEG files and then added to the PowerPoint presentations.
Once the presentations were completed, a script for narration needed to be composed. This script needed to include every comment that was to be made for all slides in the presentation. The easiest way to work with the script was to type it into the notes section for the slide in the PowerPoint presentation. Once the script was completed and typed in, the notes pages for the presentation were printed. The narrator was able to read directly from the notes pages to complete the narration. A script is very important in order to produce a smooth and professional sounding recording.
Creating Streaming Audio Presentations:
Once the PowerPoint presentation is completed, it is time to creating the streaming audio. We will be using Real Presenter, a piece of software available from Real.com that will create the audio presentation for us. When Real Presenter is installed, it becomes a part of PowerPoint. A new choice is offered on the toolbar. This choice is labeled Real Presenter and includes a drop down menu. One of the choices on that menu is “Narrate a Presentation”. By picking this choice, you are asked to select the type of presentation that you are going to record. This presentation could be a live presentation to broadcast over the web or a presentation that is recorded and made available later. We will opt for the later choice.
You will then be asked to enter information about your presentation. The information entered will include your name, the name of the presentation, and a description of the presentation. The name of the presentation will be the name of the folder that your presentation will be stored in.
Finally, you are first asked to test your audio equipment. In particular, you need to make sure that you microphone is working properly and that the record level is set to an appropriate setting. My recommendation is to go to your volume control on your computer and under the Play Control, choose the mute all option. Also, you should go to the Record Control and make sure that the microphone is selected as the input device. Once this is accomplished, you can begin the narration.
You can use the microphone provided with your computer system. However, the quality of this microphone is usually somewhat lacking. If you wish to have the best recording possible, I recommend using a microphone that is powered. It will greatly improve your recording. It is also helpful to have a microphone that is multidirectional since this allows the narrator some freedom of movement while recording.
After you have finished the narration for each slide, you click the left mouse button to move to the next slide and continue recording. When you are finished, you will be asked if you want to save the recording. After you save the recording, you can view your presentation and rerecord certain slides if necessary.
The Real Presenter software will create a folder with a large number of files on your computer. This entire folder needs to be put onto a streaming server to be available for students to use. If your web site is being hosted on another computer, you will need their help in placing your streaming audio presentation on this server. If you have access to your own streaming server, the process is simpler. Once the presentation has been put on the streaming server, you can create links to it within your course web site. This will allow students access to it. The trainer.smi file is the one that needs to be linked and run.
Streaming audio lectures provide students with the opportunity to learn mathematics on the internet by not only reading, but listening as well. This recreates the typical classroom setting for students involved in online learning. Student learning should be improved by using this method.
Creating streaming audio lectures is not as difficult as it sounds and should provide faculty with an option for online learning. There are many other uses that these streaming audio lectures can be created for. You can use these lectures for students who miss class. These lectures can be used for reviewing certain topics. These lectures can be used as a supplement to the traditional classroom on a companion web site. I’m sure that there are many other uses. The availability of the software needed to create these lessons and the ease with which they can be created makes streaming audio a viable option for many different uses.