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Using Screen Recording Platforms to Increase Instructor Presence in an Online Classroom

Special Issue: Instructional Technology in the Online Classroom

By Seanan Kelly, Charles Banaszewski / December 2018

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Critique of online learning persists due in part to a generally asynchronous format and delivery across learning system platforms [1, 2]. However, technology advancements that include audio and video recording capability have enhanced asynchronous learning platforms creating a more synchronous look and feel in online classrooms. Use of Web 2.0 tools [3, 4] such as screen recordings can help raise instructor presence providing an opportunity to reduce the virtual distance between instructors and students. Traditionally, instructor feedback is asynchronous in nature [2]: Regardless of modality (online, ground or hybrid) there is little difference between the teacher's hand-penned notes on a paper submitted in a ground class and comments placed in an electronically submitted document for an online course.

Screen recording tools can address limitations of asynchronous exchanges and enhance instructor presence by providing the ability to communicate feedback in a more effective manner to "help facilitate meaningful learning" [5]. Further, use of screen recording can deepen the quality of feedback by enabling instructors to cultivate learning opportunities in a discussion style format. The exchange remains asynchronous, but inclusion of the instructor's voice accompanying embedded comments reduces the impersonal nature of traditional, static feedback and helps clarify writing suggestions, objectives, nuance and critique.

Literature Review

Traditional classrooms afford students direct interaction with instructors where a topic can be explored in great depth or a tangential sub-topic can be discussed, which tends to give students a greater sense of satisfaction [1]. Instructor presence provides visual and aural cues enabling students to understand instructors' intentions and objectives, capitalizing on Garrison, Anderson and Archer's community of inquiry model involving cognitive, social and teaching presence [6]. Advances in technology have shifted student and teacher interactions from primarily synchronous learning environments to include asynchronous exchanges [3, 7, 8] such as discussion boards and videos as well as electronic submission of assignments. Learners are no longer placing a hard copy of their work into the hands of instructors; assignments are submitted and feedback is provided electronically. Students, instructors and researchers may champion traditional face to face interactions, but feedback delivered specifically for writing assignments is generally asynchronous [2] .

Traditional students for the most part have adapted and accepted technology dependent submission policies. Instructors can deliver written feedback for an essay without trepidation from a student because both have the convenience of discussing feedback face-to-face before/after class or during office hours to clarify writing comments and objectives [9, 10, 11]. According to Mandernach, Gonzales, and Garrett "online instructors have a responsibility for setting the tone and climate of the overall learning environment through their engagement in the course. The active participation of online instructors fosters increased student participation which, in turn, enhances and motivates student learning" [12].

More recently, the proliferation of online course offerings from traditional and non-traditional institutions has shifted the landscape of college education for the students and the instructors [3, 7, 8]. Students today increasingly "log into" asynchronous online learning environments with technology mediated classrooms which vary between web-facilitated, blended or hybrid learning models and completely online modalities utilizing web hosted material or a learning management system (LMS) [3, 8] .

Generally speaking, online courses still rely on posting forums, emails, pre-loaded videos, or raise-the-hand features to support peer to peer or instructor-student interactions. In some instances learning management systems incorporate features such as video and audio conferencing, online real-time chat or instant messaging features to create synchronous exchanges. These efforts however tend to be the exception depending on what the learning management system will allow for in the way of integrated technology, or the subject matter, content and objectives of a course.

Efforts on the part of institutions to improve the synchronous learning opportunities in the online environment continue to be met with skepticism from faculty with research suggesting less than 35 percent of faculty (hovering just over 25 percent in some years) consistently were perceived to accept the value of the value and legitimacy of online (none face-to-face) education between 2002 and 2015 [8]. Despite these bleak projections or perceived value of completely online courses, faculty perspectives of blended or hybrid learning modalities has remained relatively high over the same period, with academic leaders consistently rating the promise of blended or hybrid courses as superior to that of fully online courses [8].

In recent years, classrooms have seen growth in areas that take advantage of available technology shifting asynchronous exchanges to synchronous engagement. By example, the addition of video conferencing, chat boxes, polling features and white board tools employed by instructors and supported by institutions serve to connect faculty and instructors synchronously with students [13]. Use of these tools capitalizes on benefits of having visual contact with the instructor providing students an opportunity to read facial expressions and hear tone of voice, two components often missing or misconstrued in an online environment [1, 4]. Moreover, use of these and other tools can help ameliorate student feelings of anxiety and fear their learning experience will suffer in the online classroom [14]

Although efforts to increase student attendance and participation in the online class have been made using additional Web 2.0 tools [4] efforts to incorporate synchronous tools have sometimes delivered mixed results because of continuing challenges due to non-academic factors such as time [8], financial considerations, workload, change in job and family and peer support [15] or instructor availability.

Other ways instructors have addressed the impersonal nature of an online classroom have included creating individual instructional video presentations with the instructor as presenter/lecturer. Other examples include real-time video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, which provide the opportunity for student-instructor interactions reflecting traditional classroom exchanges [4].

Screen Recording

Screen recording platforms are an emerging and effective Web 2.0 tool that allows teachers to bridge the gap learners sometimes feel lies between themselves and instructors, particularly in online courses. These platforms allows a user to record and share content from a single screen capturing audio or video or both including user voice and image. For instance, Soto and Ambrose [16] reported learners in a math classroom used screen recording to work out problems on their own which subsequently helped instructors identify where and when students began to struggle with the process of solving math problems. Specifically, use of screen recording provided the ability for learners to talk out the non-linear process of their thinking, writing and problem-solving decisions [16] . Other applications can include lecture style video recordings, single document review with simultaneous audio commentary, or audio-video-document capture all at once. Recordings can then be shared via media file or URL links distributed via email or within classroom exchange forums and are viewable on web capable devices such as laptops, smart phones and tablets.

Using Screen Recording to Promote Instructor Presence

Use of screen recording in the classroom can take multiple forms. Audio feedback has demonstrated a potential to address the need for quality, detailed feedback [17] as well as the potential to provide an experience of one-to-one exchanges similar to what office hours or tutor sessions might reflect [9]. Users have the ability to record short announcements, clarification, overviews or responses to questions, which can provide a quick and personal way to respond to individual or group questions. An enhanced version of short verbal responses can include attaching documents that have been discussed within the recording which offer a means to provide guidance and direction across learning styles and proficiencies.

Screen recording technology advances these ends allowing students to follow both audio commentary and visual navigation of a document providing context for reviewer feedback and direction [9, 10, 11, 18] Further, because links can be accessed regardless of whether learners or instructors are in class at the same time, screen recordings can provide the look and feel of a synchronous learning experience. This is perhaps the most immediate benefit of screen recording platforms: the ability to deliver personalized asynchronous feedback addressing specific questions or modeling processes specific to learner need as a synchronous experience could provide.

Benefits of Screen Recording for Online Students

Screen recordings provide benefits for learners [19]. Perhaps the most visible benefit for online students is the look, feel and sound of a synchronous experience, whether through discussion, lecture, or presentations in support of specific course and content objectives. From a learning styles perspective, screen recordings offer learners the ability to review material at their own pace with the ability to pause and review content as they feel necessary. In addition to what might be considered core curriculum deliveries, learners can better understand 'soft skills' of online academic success, such as course navigation pathways and location of in-class and out-of-class resources (e.g. location of syllabi or demonstration of web-based research and artifact review).

As a starting point, presentations need not be single function (addressing a single objective); writing objectives for instance can be sequenced and scaffolded, recorded as a progression to demonstrate writing as a process of creating outlines, annotating articles, examining research, demonstrating structure, APA formatting, modeling language and phraseology (among others) specific to instructor objectives. A combination of these approaches can be helpful in support of developing critical writing and research habits for instance.

Benefits of Screen Recording for Online Instructors

Instructors can benefit from screen recording opportunities supplementing static curriculum pieces, such as course readings and proficiency assessments. Instructors can model course specific practices or individual approaches to teaching and learning reflective of their 'personal style' and academic expertise. Moreover, when used to address writing as a construct and practice specifically, screen recordings as means to deliver feedback provide a one-to-one, teacher-student dialogue (a personal writing seminar of sorts), which can help remove a stigma of writing associated with criticism or 'fear of the red pen.' Central to this mode of feedback is an ability to capture the instructor's review of an artifact as a non-linear process. This is important in the exchange of feedback because a typical mode of student review of instructor comments tends to follow a page-by-page (linear) process, when in many cases instructor review occurs in non-linear fashion. Closing the feedback loop between faculty and learners in online settings in particular can potentially engender a feeling of 'coming to class' as opposed to learning at a distance in isolation.

Enhancing Presence

Basko and Hartman suggest online educators should, "create a sense of presence in the classroom" [4] to help reduce the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness recommending establishing synchronous events to achieve this goal. Formats such as screen recordings can help to achieve this desired presence. Synchronous events depend on attendance for effectiveness, an area that educators have attempted to improve using Web 2.0 tools [4]. Screen recordings can be delivered to classes as a whole or to learners individually to be viewed at the availability of the student. Connections between instructors and students in the online learning communities are strengthened because the instructors' online presence now has a 'face and voice' to inform their intentions and objectives.


Use of screen recordings in online classrooms provide one-to-one, teacher-student exchanges reducing the virtual distance between instructors and students enhancing instructor presence by enabling students to understand instructors' intentions and objectives. These ends underscore benefits of screen recording to enhance and motivate student learning. Future research should examine whether use of screen recording for feedback on graded assignments earlier in the semester contributes to greater academic achievement on similar assignments later in the course. Additionally, future research could use comparative analysis to understand possible statistical differences between student success across courses that use screen recordings for feedback and courses that do not.


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About the Authors

Dr. Seanan Kelly has been engaged with higher education leadership and policy studies for over fifteen years as student, instructor and researcher completing a Doctor of Education in Higher and Postsecondary Education, from Arizona State University. Dr. Kelly's ongoing research interests involve factors influencing degree attainment by African-American Male student-athletes in Division 1 football and basketball. His work has been cited by researchers and scholars at Auburn University, the University of Minnesota and Albion College in Michigan where he was visiting scholar. Dr. Kelly is currently full-time faculty in the College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University.

Dr. Charles Banaszewski received his Ph.D. in Theatre from Arizona State University in 2006. For the past 18 years he has taught at various levels ranging from K-12 instruction to community college and university levels, as well as conducting workshops and consulting with business professionals. Dr. Banaszewski is currently Assistant Professor at Grand Canyon University (GCU) in the School of Doctoral Studies where he serves as an instructor and content lead for the entry level coursework for incoming doctoral learners. He also serves as a Dissertation Chair and focuses his research on the sharing process between teachers and learners.

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