Faculty Profile: John Kenfield Posts Voiced-Over Lecture Slides Online

Treasury of the Syphnians frieze

Attendance at lectures has become optional for students in John Kenfield's Introduction to Art History course. Students still have to attend recitation every week, but they have had the option of viewing voiced-over lecture slides online when they have time, rather than physically showing up to twice-a-week lectures. Part of the reason for the new arrangement is that enrollments had been falling in Kenfield's course, even though he has several teaching awards to his credit. Providing more flexibility helped avoid registration conflicts with other courses, and it also gives students the option of reducing their travel to campus.

When Kenfield first introduced the change in the Fall of 2013, he noticed a bump in enrollments and had some students express specific interest in the new policy. But that doesn't mean the lectures hall where he teaches has become a ghost town. Kenfield suspects most students watch the slides to make up for an occassional absence. They also give students a chance to catch something they missed during lecture and to review material.

Kenfield has long been posting a simplified written version of his lecture, along with slides, for students to access online. "I told students it's much more eloquent than what I say in class," Kenfield said. He also realized another benefit of recording lectures for viewing outside of class: he is no longer confined to 55-minutes. "I can go on for 60, 65, 70 minutes," he laughed. Kenfield also continues to post the written version of his lecture.

The spoken presentation is fairly simple--wmv files created using Video Studio X5 Pro in the Art History Department's Visual Resource Collection. Kenfield himself never appears in the presentation. He said he did some of the lectures two or three times to get them right. Kenfield faced a few surmountable technical issues, including making sure his voice was coming through clearly, and also the large file size that initially made it tricky to upload the files to Sakai. Sitting at a machine to record a lecture also took some getting used to. "It was a bit weird because there's no one to talk to, no one to play off of," Kenfield said.