Category: E-Learning

Philosophy Videos

From CUNY Academic Commons



       An annotated list of videos for use with the instruction of Philosophy




Business Ethics

Medical Ethics

Computer Ethics

Logic — Informal

Logic — Formal


Philosophy of Art

Philosophy of Education

Philosophy of Religion

Political Philosophy

Social Philosophy


Automated Lecture-Capture Systems

From CUNY Academic Commons



Recently, staff from Queensborough’s Academic Computing Department attended a product demonstration of Echo360 (formerly Apreso Anystream + Lectopia) at Hostos Community College (many thanks to Varun Sehgal, Assistant Vice President – IT). Echo360 is an automated lecture-capture system, a product-line that we at Queensborough have been monitoring for the past few years (see The Competition below).

Major lecture-capture characteristics of interest are:

  • Capturing classroom lectures – voice synchronized with any kind of computer-based presentation, and video capture when desired
  • Automatic creation of major playback entry points thus allowing students to “jump in” to any point in the lecture
  • Editing capability
  • Making captured lectures available in Blackboard and as Podcasts in iTunesU
  • Doing this with little or no teacher intervention or learning curve

Echo360 seems to do all of this and more.

We are rarely impressed with products in this space, because when you dig deep, especially on the technical side of things, you always find major flaws.

From all appearances Echo360 seems to be the real deal. It not only exhibits the major characteristics described above, but it seems to do more and it’s affordable as well.


Echo360 uses Adobe Flash technology, while most other lecture capture solutions use Windows Media Audio (WMA) or Video (WMV) formats only. In fact, raw recordings begin with H.264, meaning that they can be converted to any desired output format. This makes recordings editable as well.

Lecture capture can be scheduled, or controlled by the teacher:

  • When scheduled, a teacher simply wears a wireless microphone and teaches as she/he normally does – nothing else to do. On schedule the lecture capture is started, stopped, sent to the server, converted to desired format(s), and finally uploaded to the pre-selected destination(s) – Blackboard, iTunesU, etc.
  • When controlled by the teacher it can be as simple as programmed “Start”, “Pause”, and “Stop” buttons on a lecture podium’s control panel. Once stopped the remainder of the process can be as automatic as the teacher chooses.


If Echo360 has a weakness, it is in the area of editing. The current version allows for editing by a system administrator only, so teachers cannot edit captured lectures themselves. Furthermore, editing is limited to removal of material only, not substitution or addition of materials. The company promises that enhancements to the editing capability are high on their upgrade priority list. Software-Only vs. Hardware-Assisted Capture: There are two ways to entrée into lecture capture with Echo360, the less expensive – less capable software-only method, and the more capable hardware-assisted method. Both require Echo360 server software (therefore a network server to run it) and a Flash Streaming server license (therefore another network server to run that as well).

The Classroom End

  • Software-Only: With Echo360’s capture software installed on your classroom computer or laptop; your voice will be synchronized to whatever appears on the screen.
  • Hardware-Assisted: Echo360 sells an appliance that will capture whatever goes to the projector. This, therefore, supports any and all installed classroom technologies. Whether you teach projecting PowerPoint, a document camera, an annotation screen, digital slides, DVDs, Web sites, programming environments, etc., all will be captured and synchronized with your voice.

The Back End

You will, of course, need the help of your IT department because this is a network-based solution. If there are installation issues, experience tells me that most will be network related, so get your IT Department involved early on.

As stated before, Echo360 server software (therefore a network server to run it) and a Flash Streaming server license (therefore another network server to run that as well) are needed to store, covert, and deliver captured lectures. An Adobe Flash streaming server license can be expensive, but there are alternatives such as the WOWZA server that we are told works well.

Also, in the case of Blackboard delivery, a “building block” must be purchased and installed within the Blackboard environment by, in our case, CUNY IT. I mention this because there is time and a cost ($10,000) associated with building block installations at CUNY. Obviously this would be more cost effective if Echo360 were adopted by multiple colleges and the $10,000 cost divided amongst them.

Sample Rich-Media Output

Click here to see some examples of rich media content created using Echo 360.

Preliminary Conclusions

Is Echo360 a perfect solution? Of course not, but it comes closer than any other platform we have seen to date. Please take a moment to read the experiences of one of Echo360’s early adopters in this article entitled “Lecture Capture Pitfalls”.

Also, please click here watch the first 1:36 of this YouTube video.

At Queensborough we intend to conduct a pilot project using Echo360 hardware-assisted capture in two classrooms with delivery to iTunesU. We will report our experiences at the end of the pilot.

The Competition

Echo360 has much competition including: Tegrity, Panopto, Mediasite, Accordent & others I am sure. Other products such as Camtasia provide pieces of the needed functionality, but are not completely automated solutions.

Queensborough has invested in, and therefore has some experience with, Mediasite technology which works very well, but is not scalable – not easily made available in many classrooms at once. Mediasite is married to Windows Media only, and it is very expensive to purchase and maintain. One thing Mediasite does that the others do not is live Web broadcast, but if you do not need that capability I suggest that you look elsewhere for an automated lecture-capture solution.

Building An On-Line Course

From CUNY Academic Commons


Building an Online Course

by James G. Lengel, Hunter College

As more and more teachers at all levels put their course materials online, as as we gain more experience with what works and what doesn’t in this environment, it’s a good time to share some suggestions and guidelines for building an online course, or for posting study materials online for a face-to-face course. No matter whether it’s a course in high-school geometry or college-level art history, whether it’s on Blackboard or Moodle or iTunesU or your own web site, here are some ideas gleaned from the leaders in the field.

Optimize the size of a unit of study.

I reviewed a single online unit from a high school course that was quite long, consisting of three sections and dozens of activities, amounting to about three weeks of work. For most students, this is too big a chunk to manage, and results in a long list of activities scrolling way down the page. Better to keep your units short, so that the entire list of assignment fits on one page, above the scroll, and that the work can be accomplished in a fathomable time, such as a week. Most folks in this business have settled on a week’s worth of work in each section or unit, with 8-10 assignments to be done. Following this rubric for chunking the content, a semester-long course would have about 20 units, and a quarter-course would have 10. Whatever unit size you settle on, try to make it consistent across courses and subjects so that students know what to expect.

Always provide reasonable instructions.

Don’t just list a provide a link to an assignment, and don’t just tell students to “go and read this chapter.” Each assignment in an online course should provide a short rationale and clear instructions, such as, “Read this passage from Orwell’s 1984, and as you do ask yourself how the scene might be different if today’s technologies were brought into play. This will prepare you to answer the questions in the next assignment.” Tell them what to do, provide a little guidance, and tell them why they’re doing it.

Balance self-correcting and teacher-evaluated assignments in each unit.

Frequent student responses to content, and frequent evaluation, are keys to successful online learning. Each unit should contain both self-correcting activities such as quizzes, as well as teacher-evaluated assignments such as essay questions. If a student must do at least one responsive assignment in each unit each day, and if the teacher checks this each day, the student is more likely to stick with the program.

Let them do the work right on the screen.

Wherever possible and feasible, have students provide their responses right in a text field on the web page. Avoid displaying questions in Blackboard or Moodle, and asking them to go off and write their responses in a word processor. Better to pose the question, and place a text field right under it for their response. This makes it much more likely that they will actually do the assignment. And it makes it easier for the teacher to use the learning management system see who has done it, to view their writing, and assign a grade to their results. It avoids sending files back and forth by email, and avoids printing on paper.

Use advance organizers.

Rather then sending students off to do some readings, then afterwards assigning them with questions about the reading, consider giving them the questions first, and then send them off to the readings with the questions in mind.

Put the due dates right on the assignment.

Don’t make them go off to a calendar or schedule page for guidance on how to pace themselves. List the target date for each assignment right in the instructions. This is easiest to do if you build week-long units, and you can use days of the week as the pacing: “Read this passage from Orwell’s 1984, and as you do ask yourself how the scene might be different if today’s technologies were brought into play. This will prepare you to answer the questions in the next assignment. (Tuesday).” If you follow this method you’ll never have to change calendar dates when you teach the course again next semester.

Consider including creative assignments.

Balance the quizzes and essays with assignments that require students to draw diagrams, write screenplays, record podcasts, construct slide shows, create photo essays, and produce short videos. All of these can be created on a computer and turned in online through the learning management system. One creative assignment in each unit might be a reasonable goal and would go a long way toward increased student interaction and 21st-century learning. Call it the Project assignment.

Consider some simple labels for each type of assignment.

Avoid unnecessary wordiness by settling on single-word descriptors for each of your item-types. The pages would be easier to use and visually cleaner if long-winded titles such as “What are my goals for this Medieval Civilizations unit?” became “Goals”, and “What do I already know?” became “Pretest” and “What do I need to do in this section on Muslim Civilizations?” became “Assignments.” In this way, the structure of the unit becomes clear: Goals, Pretest, Assignments, Learnmore, Project, Posttest. If everyone used these same labels consistently, the students would find it easier to follow the work.

Online assignments can extend learning beyond the classroom, make it easier for teachers and students to work together, and provide more flexibility in the time and place for learning. As we use this method with our students, we will continue to learn how to improve it.

For more ideas on the topic of online learning, see:

  • Online Education: What’s the Buzz?
  • Supply and Demand
  • Publishing on the Web for Teachers

This article published here with the permission of the author. Jim Lengel is a visiting Professor, Hunter College School of Education (October 2008)

Learning Online

From CUNY Academic Commons


Learning Online

by Jim Lengel, Hunter College and Boston University

A new, startup high school in New York City was putting it’s curriculum together over the summer. As in most states, biology is a required course for all students. The favored biology textbook, published by Holt and well-aligned with the Regent’s exam, is listed by the publisher at $105 per copy. That’s one hundred five dollars and no cents. For a book for a ninth-grader. One of many necessary to float him through the curriculum. (Or sink him with a backpack full of weighty tomes.)

It’s no wonder the school decided to provide the biology course, as well as the rest of the curriculum, online. You want to learn biology? Connect to the school’s Moodle server, click your biology course, and see the assignments from your teacher. Click on the introductory reading, and you’re connected to the appropriate chapter in the Holt textbook. You can connect from school, from home, from the library, from your iPhone. Do the same for World Civilization, Math, and English — though physical, hold-in-the-hand books, in the form of novels, are allowed in the latter. the school has weaned itself from textbooks, and also from much paper and pencil.

Providing learning materials online is growing at the high school level, a reflection of what’s already happened at many colleges. Not just textbooks, but assignments, quizzes, exercises, problem sets, articles, discussions, presentations and podcasts. In most cases it’s the same content made available more efficiently; in some cases it allows new forms of learning to take place. In the new high school, each faculty member has put all of the necessary learning materials for each course online. From there, students can work on it whenever and wherever they have the opportunity.

What does this mean for the teacher? As we plan an online course, how should we think differently about learning? After helping educators at a variety of schools and colleges and companies to build and improve online learning experiences, I share in this article some of the key discoveries about this mode of learning.

Quality Content

Generally, what you put online must be more carefully crafted than what you say in the lecture hall, and more precise than what you hand out in the classroom. Students expect readings, assignments, and quizzes they see on the computer to be better thought out than what they see in the classroom. The diagram quickly sketched on the chalkboard will not suffice for an online illustration; it should be re-drawn on the computer so that its concepts are immediately clear. Remember: when students confront your teaching material online, you are not there in person to explain it, or provide further details: the document they see must cover all bases. Each piece of content posted online must be self-contained and self-explanatory, so that students know exactly what they are supposed to do and have all the support they need to do it.

Think of it like a can of soup. If you are at home, in your own kitchen, you can put a bowl of soup on the table for your guests, and if it’s not exactly right you can fix it: add some salt, warm it up, thicken it a bit, put a dollop of butter in it, suggest they try it with crackers, and explain how good it is for them. But if you need to prepare and preserve that soup for someone going on a trip, you’ve got to make sure it’s just right, so when they open it and eat it all by themselves far away, it tastes just right, with no explanation needed

Small Chunks

Today’s students do not spend hours at a time with a single activity on the computer. And the act of reading on the computer (or iPod) is different from reading from a book or paper. The setting, the technology, the habits of mind, all tend toward short increments of time, multiple distractions, and multimedia expectations. You can’t simply post your hour-and-a-half lecture to the web site, or paste the 20-page full-text article to Blackboard, and expect it to have the same impact as in the classroom or in the journal. It’s better to divide your content into manageable chunks, pieces of information that can be confronted and understood in 15 or 20 minutes rather then 50 or 80.

So find within that long lecture five or six key concepts, and develop a five-minute podcast for each one. Use subheads more liberally in your writing. Read a bit, then ask a question that requires an answer to be submitted online. Better to build the students’ work around six short assignments rather then two long ones.

Active Assignments

It’s not what you do, it’s what they do. In the classroom the teacher is at the center; students focus on the professor; it’s what the faculty member does that makes the difference. Not so with online work. The only thing you get to do is prepare the content and pose the assignments; from then on, learning is dependent on what the students do. So the key to successful online courses is to craft a set of activities for the students to do: read this, look at that, ask yourself this, write that, discuss all of it together with your classmates. The clearer and more active the assignments, the more likely your students are to follow the course of study.

Think of your online course as a series of verbs; begin each item with an action word that directs the student to do something. Read. Consider. Compare. Discuss. Browse. Defend. Explain. Think. Find. Comment. Reflect. And for each assignment, make them produce something: a short answer, a contribution to a discussion, a response to a quiz question, a well-founded essay.


Whenever possible, illustrate the ideas from the course with media that go beyond the written word. Think of the many ways your academic ideas can appeal to the eye and the ear, the two great gateways to the mind. It’s much easier to do this online than on paper, so take advantage of maps, diagrams, images, illustrations, paintings, photos, animations, graphics, drawings, sounds, music, voice, and visuals. Socrates and Plato used all of these in their academy. So can you. You can make them yourself, license them from the textbook publisher, or find them freely on the Web. Or ask your students to help you construct them. The software tools for finding, gathering, organizing, creating and editing multimedia learning materials are more powerful and easier to use than ever.

Multimedia works. It helps students understand ideas. It provokes new kinds of thinking about old concepts. Not just multimedia presentations of the teacher’s ideas, but multimedia reports from students. Consider assigning projects that require students to express their ideas in several media at once.

Frequent Evaluation

Research on student engagement finds that many small evaluations work better than a few big exams. Students learn more this way, remember it longer, and find it more useful. The more opportunities your online course provides for students to turn something in, and have it evaluated (by you or by the computer), the better. So add some self-correcting quizzes to your course. Require a weekly (if not daily) response to a course assignment form every student. This keeps them connected, and notifies you of students who are falling by the wayside.

Most of the systems used to manage online learning, such as Blackboard and Moodle, make it easy to construct these kinds of evaluations, and to organize the results for you online so that feedback and grading is easy accomplished.

The Learning Sequence

The teachers in the new start-up high school are learning to structure their courses for an online environment. They are now thinking of each course as a sequence of activities that students go through as they learn the material. For instance, the biology teacher has divided his course into weekly sections. In each section students follow a carefully-crafted sequence of online activities:

  • Pre-assessment. A short, two- or three-question self-correcting quiz to see what he already knows (and doesn’t know) about the subject.
  • Close reading. A serious and detailed look at the key concept, often guided by an essential question.
  • Written response. An opportunity for the student to summarize the key idea in her own words, and get online feedback from the teacher.
  • Wide browsing. Moving beyond the text to explore numerous (and perhaps conflicting) online sources bout the concept.
  • Discussion contribution. Responding publicly in writing to the questions posed by the teacher and commenting on the contributions of classmates.
  • Collaborative work. Contacting and conversing with classmates online to create a short presentation of ideas.
  • Capstone project. Putting all that you have learned about this concept into a paper of presentation, and submitting it online.
  • Post-assessment. A self-correcting five-or six-question exam, with questions drawn from the state mastery test, that shows how much you have learned.

As online learning grows, we will all learn more about what works best. But by following the guidelines above, you have a better chance to develop an effective course of study.

For more ideas about online learning, take a look at Online Learning: What’s the Buzz?, Distance Learning, Learning Objects, and Supply and Demand.

This article published here with the permission of the author. Jim Lengel is a visiting Professor, Hunter College School of Education (October 2008)