How To Give a Million Lectures

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Well. You know how you watch your odometer on your car and see it tick over from 49,999 to 50,000, and for this to be a major event. For Twitter you often remember that time that your followers ticked over from 999 to 1K. It’s a kinda significant moment. And so today my YouTube channel finally ticked over to 1,000,000 views:

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When I first started very few people in academia used YouTube, and it was seen as a niche area. At the time there was a limit on the size of the video (I think there was a 10 minute limitation), and so I had to upload my videos in parts:

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And from 2009 to the current day, we have all seen a massive scale up in YouTube, and where many kids these days will watch their content from YouTube, and not even consider using scheduled TV programmes. In academia, when I started posting, few people could see the impact that the channel would have, and many thought that it was a threat to traditional lectures. But I’ve never found that it reduced the attendance for lecture.

For me, it was often a great way to do a brain dump of the new areas I had learnt, or it was a great question on a forum that starting me thinking about how best to explain something. Everything, though, is done on a zero budget, but which hopefully supports students in their learning, no matter where they are in the world.

My main motivation was to support students around exam time, as I knew that campus based students would typically not watch the lecture before the class or just after it. From my analysis I could see that most students were using it to catch-up before exam time.

You can then spot the different trends by looking at the traffic profiles. In the following we see an undergraduate class in Semester 1 (up to Dec 2017) and then a postgraduate class (with distance learning) in Semester 2 (after Jan 2018). In both cases the peak traffic is the day before the test, with small peaks around the daily activity. The distance learning class has the more consistent accesses to the content, as you would expect:

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One of the key elements, though, is the support for our lab work to be recorded, and this provides a way for students to remotely follow the same lab as us. The labs are written in the way that they will change for every student, but the same guidance is there to provide support:

For the core lecture, the talk around slides is the most comfortable for me, as the live lecture situation should be about the students who are sitting in front of you:

But I realised that sometimes it’s better just to get the whiteboard out, and chat around something:

So what tips do I have? Well, do whatever you are most comfortable with. For me:

  • Focus on support any gaps there may be. If I have 15% of students who don’t attend lectures, then I hope that these students will be able to catch-up sometime later with the lecture.

So here’s to the next million lectures!

Anyway, they are probably too technical for some, but it’s what we love, so here’s the channel:

https://www.youtube.com/billatnapier

Professor of Cryptography. Serial innovator. Believer in fairness, justice & freedom. EU Citizen. Auld Reekie native. Old World Breaker. New World Creator.

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