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USAC working to expand Bruincast

By Flavia Casas

Nov. 17, 2010 1:41 a.m.

The words “rewind,” “pause” and “fast forward” are rarely used to describe typical lectures.

But Stephanie Lucas, internal vice president for the Undergraduate Students Association Council, is working to expand the number of classes offered through Bruincast by encouraging students to contribute their views on the expansion of this service.

Introduced in 2005, Bruincast is a service that videotapes or records the audio for certain classes and puts the recordings online. After a few years of steady rise, the number of courses using Bruincast slowly began to decrease starting in winter 2008.

As a result of this decrease, along with continuing student demand, Lucas and her office are trying to quickly expand audio- and video-casting across campus. But the university already had a similar plan underway.

Larry Loeher, associate vice provost and director for the Office of Instructional Development, said limited technology puts a cap on how many courses can be granted audio- and video-casting services. Although the office is working to improve its technology, the process takes time and additional funding.

That’s where Lucas comes in. Although the Office of Instructional Development is unsure when it will have the technology to introduce an improved Bruincast system, Lucas said she wants to expand the program to include more North Campus classes, using the current technology as a short-term fix.

Lucas said she felt there should be a more even distribution because there are more South Campus classes on Bruincast than North Campus classes.

But Lucas needs funding to support her project and reach this goal.

To receive this funding, she must provide concrete, numerical evidence that there is student support for the expansion of Bruincast lectures.

After surveying about 500 students, Lucas’ office concluded that there is a demand for this feature. But she said at least 1,000 more student responses must be collected to show that the survey yields real results.

Based on the responses, Loeher said he is confident the internal vice president’s office will rally enough support.

“We’ve done surveys, and practically everyone who’s filled it out has said they consider it to be an asset,” Loeher said. “We think there’s a general amount of support to increase the size of the program.”

But not everyone sees the service as an asset. One of the main concerns against expanding Bruincast is the effect on student attendance in the classroom.

“One thing has to be understood is that it cannot be a substitute for being in class, because it’s not the same experience,” said Teofilo Ruiz, a history professor whose large lectures have been available via Bruincast for the past few years. “If students will not come to class, I will not do it.”

Although he acknowledged a drop in classroom attendance, Steve Hardinger, a chemistry lecturer, had a different take on the potential effects of Bruincast.

“Maybe (students) don’t need to come and could use that time to write a history paper,” he said. “It’s about student maturity.”

Ali Dabirian, a third-year psychobiology student, agreed with Hardinger and said a decrease in class attendance does not imply a decrease in performance.

“Not being in lecture may even help you learn more, because if it’s an early class, you can pay better attention when you watch the webcast,” Dabirian said.

The internal vice president’s office will continue to encourage students to voice support for Bruincast with classroom announcements, discussions with student groups, Facebook posts and more.

The survey, which closes on Nov. 26, can be found on the “Class Podcasting at UCLA” Facebook page.

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