UCU wary of lecture capture

June 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Posted in lecture recording | 2 Comments

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents many academics in HE, passed a motion (HE43) at their recent HE sector conference that expresses some of the anxieties that surround lecture capture. These include questions about the pedagogical value of recorded lectures and a fear that the technology will support the marketisation of education by enabling lectures to be franchised or sold.

The resolutions are actually quite useful, and I hope that the UCU co-opts people with real expertise and understanding to help carry them through. The resolutions are:

a. to support staff who refuse to have their lectures recorded.

This resolution was remitted (kicked into the long grass). My view is that no-one should be forced to record their lectures. Faculties may try to persuade those who don’t want to, but there may be good pedagogical reasons against it. However, there are also issues such as equality and accessibility (for example by dyslexic students) which mean that ‘because I don’t want to’ is not a good enough reason to refuse.

b. that universities should not be creating expectations that all lectures will be recorded.

I think it is student expectations that will be the key driver here, and that use will grow organically over time. The infrastructure required to record every lecture is huge, and institutions want to be convinced of the benefits as they invest.

c. to provide materials with advice on the issues of performance rights, copyrighted materials used in lectures, and intellectual property rights regarding the future use of a lecture.

JISC Legal have already produced a handy guide on this, and institutions will produce their own guidance. I think UCU should encourage a model in which academics licence their institution to freely use their content internally. However, franchising or selling that content would fall outside the licence and would require the institution to gain further permission.

d. to provide materials indicating the pedagogical value of recorded lecture materials.

I think these ought to go beyond an outline of the benefits (and potential pitfalls) of recorded lectures and encourage academics to see pre-recorded content as a technique to redesign the delivery of their courses, move didactic material online and create more time for face-to-face interactivity and discussion.

When it comes to issues of marketisation, I think that UCU seems ill-informed if it thinks institutions will be able to sell recorded lectures unless they are of the highest quality (both production values and content). There is so much excellent free material already available on YouTube, iTunes U and elsewhere that charging for a simple lecture recording is just laughable.


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  1. great response Adam.

    section 2. from (HE43 Lecture capture, digitisation, and publishing – Newcastle University) “there are serious questions about the pedagogical value of such technologies, given that they may encourage superficial and dependent learning strategies and discourage attendance…”
    In my view this comment is a very weak and unsupported argument that has no academic proof behind it. There is compelling evidence such as a recent research by Dr Gareth Hall from Aberystwyth University (http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/psychology/staff/gbh/) that appears to prove that lecture capture improves learning and, has little or no impact on attendance, and that students would rather go to a university that has lecture capture given the option. I have met Gareth personally and I have heard him talk on this research paper which was very sound and thorough. It would be interesting to see if the UCU is able to substantiate comments like this through any research findings.
    I totally agree that student expectations will be the key driver.

  2. Thanks Oliver – as you say, there is plenty of research evidence (and thanks for that link – always good to have recent UK examples). I’m on our Uni’s UCU exec committee, so I’ll see if I can contribute towards the union’s work on these materials.

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