Since well before MOOCs emerged, the University of California at Berkeley has been giving away recordings of its lectures on YouTube and iTunesU. In fact, Berkeley has become one of the most-generous distributors of free lectures on the web, adding some 4,500 hours of video per year.
But that web channel, webcast.berkeley.edu, will soon stop adding fresh content. Last month officials announced that, because of budget cuts, the university will no longer offer new lecture recordings to the public, although the videos will still be available to students on the campus.
“Berkeley has its own budget challenges, and we made some tough decisions,” said Jenn Stringer, associate chief information officer for academic engagement. “It’s not a decision that we wanted to make,” she added. While the lecture videos were bare-bones — in most cases just showing a single-camera view from the back of a classroom — ending the public distribution will save the university about $300,000 per year. The money was paid to staff members for such tasks as editing out chatter at the beginning and end of the lectures and making sure copyrighted material was removed before posting.
All of the existing public recordings will remain online and available, but no new recordings will be added to the public collection after this semester.
Ms. Stringer stressed that Berkeley now has more-effective ways to share its teaching with the masses. The university has been an early adopter of MOOCs, which include lecture videos with higher production values and interactive features such as quizzes and exams. Berkeley offers about 40 of them (https://www.edx.org/school/uc-berkeleyx) on a variety of topics through its partnership with edX, a nonprofit provider founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Berkeley will continue to record lectures in many of its courses and make the video accessible to students on the campus to use as a study aid. Such recordings have become standard on campuses, but the default is usually to limit access to students, in part because of the cost of preparing the recordings for public distribution. Colleges that do offer lecture videos free on YouTube or iTunes typically select just a handful of courses to feature, rather than the more comprehensive approach that Berkeley has taken.
The popularity of the lecture videos on YouTube has been mixed. Many of the videos have drawn only a few thousand views. The most popular, a biology lecture about human anatomy, has been seen nearly a million times.