University of South Florida provides Macbook Pro for every student-athlete

The University of South Florida and Northeastern University are going the extra mile to provide classroom lecture content for their student-athletes.  Institutions, like these, have seen how multimedia can improve student-athlete’s classroom experience.  The past two semesters, Northeastern piloted lecture-capture options for students who need to miss classes due to game commitments.  In the Spring of 2009, we used Flip cameras and Blackboard to deliver recorded lectures to the athletes.  Because the Flip camera operation is not really scalable, we expanded the offering in the Fall of 2009 using an automated system – Tegrity – with some programs continuing to use the Flip cameras.  The success of the program has freed funds to continue providing the Tegrity service through Fall of 2010.

Universities derive a lot of pleasure from their sports.  The time commitments of their athletes are significant.  Most, except those in major programs, have little hope of making it to the next level – if there is one.  Besides football,  baseball, basketball, and hockey, there’s track, swimming, crew and other sports (both women and men) which have serious time commitments associated with them and in most cases with very little scholarship money.  When I was a student-athlete playing both football and baseball, the technology was not available to record the lectures and make them available for review (except  large portable cassette tape recorders).  There was no learning management system where class notes could be stored.  Chat rooms weren’t available – if you don’t count the rotary phones that we had.  🙂  If we wanted to meet with our instructor, we had to wait till office hours – which were generally during practice times. 🙁

When the Athletic Department and a couple caring faculty approached Information Services early last spring for support in recording lectures – we were eager to help.  Though we didn’t feel that using the Flip camera was the best solution (because it was manual), it was worth the effort until we could implement a better system.  Last spring, one athlete had to miss several classes in an upper level business course, he utilized the recorded lectures and earned a high A.  This fall, it’s my understanding we had a high rate of retention from our student-athletes.  In other words, because the lectures were available to them, they didn’t have to drop the class because they got behind.

I’m not one that believes technology will solve all of our pedagogical woes, but in this case, effectively using tools (i.e. Blackboard, lecture capture software, and podcasting), without requiring the instructor to change much in the classroom, is a good service.  In fact, these same tools can assist all students – providing them with an effective and efficient way to review lectures – enhancing their class notes.  They can listen to the lecture with their iPod or MP3 player or watch it again on their computer.

Kudos to both Northeastern and South Florida!

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