Our campus is going to be transitioning to a new Learning Management System (think Blackboard or Moodle) within the next year-ish. I volunteered to be on the LMS Task Force that is part of the process for selecting the new LMS. This summer I sat through four vendor demos showing off the incredible ways that their systems worked and how great they would be for our campus.
The four that we saw all do the same basic things. There are some faculty on our campus who have specific needs for their courses like grading discussion forums, tying rubrics to certain types of assignments, various uses of calendars and other specific needs. Most of the systems actually seemed (on first glance) to handle most of these needs, although some seemed easier than others to set up and use.
What struck me as something new was that all four of the vendors featured the ability for instructors to provide video feedback to students via the LMS. I mean that it was a prominent part of each of the demos that all of the reps glowed about. I think that all of the video feedback implementations were via screencast, but I think most also weirdly included a recorded webcam session of the instructor talking to the student. I've been assigning students to do screencasts as homework for the past few years now, so I am no stranger to students and instructors communicating via screencast. Depending on the need, I've found it useful to post feedback as a screencast to students, but never my talking head.
I asked some of the reps if the video feature worked for the students to post to the instructor or rest of the class. It was clear that some of the LMSs had the ability, but none of them were intending for that use, which I found a bit disappointing.
So why are so many of these companies showcasing this feature? Are faculty using it? Do students like it? Does it facilitate learning? I feel that I have a pretty good pulse of the physics teaching community, and I don't see anyone using video communication as faculty-to-single-student transmission only. Nor do I have a sense that instructors at my school want that either. But, I could be missing a segment of teachers who find it to be really valuable. If so, I'd be interested in hearing who is using it.