Lecture capture – educational issues

An announcement about the lecture capture pilot project on a University mailing list (learningandteaching-info) generated many comments about its educational value. If you have any comments or further questions, please add a comment to this page.

Will recording lectures reduce attendance?

Research evidence from the US and Australia indicates that there may be a reduction in attendance,  but the context is generally large-cohort didactic lectures. As a Harvard
University student publication said  “The real solution to poor attendance at lectures is simple: high quality, interactive, and engaging lectures.” (Harvard Crimson Staff, 2006).

Local, recent experience is that there is little impact on attendance: “I’ve noticed some predictable differences between first-year undergrads and Masters students in their attitude and use, but overall I have been surprised at the lack of impact on attendance.” (Jon Copley, SOES)

For more references, see this 2009  review of podcasting research from the University of Sussex.

Will students think that just ‘watching the recording’ is enough?

Only unmotivated lazy students. The research evidence is that most students use it to review the lecture and revise; for example Jon Copley found around 80% of students listened to or viewed his podcasts – ranging from 50% in a L1 module (234 students) to 100% in a M-level course (40 students). A paper from the University of Leeds describes students actively using recordings to re-attempt worked examples; pausing at key moments and then resuming to check their working.

Audio and video podcasts of lectures for campus-based students: production and evaluation of student use. Copley, J.T.P. (2007)  Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44, (4), 387-399.

Lecture capture: Making the most of face to face learning. Simon J. Davis, Anthea Connolly, Edmund Linfield. Engineering Education: Journal of the Higher Education Academy Engineering Subject Centre, Vol 4, No 2 (2009)

Will it lead to even more ‘death by PowerPoint’?

Poor use of PowerPoint is a separate issue and typically involves slides crammed with small text, unreadable colours and tutors who just read the words on the slides. Zzzz.  The answer is training, advice and feedback on good practice. Some tutors may need to adapt their slides to view acceptably on video, but in that case they needed to be improved anyhow.

Is video of the lecturer worthwhile?

The paper from the University of Leeds (above) discusses the value of the presenter “talking with expertise and enthusiasm” and making “extensive use of body language and gestures to illustrate and make points during lectures”. Feedback on lectures recorded in the School of Chemistry here is similar – students value seeing the lecturer. Of course the same may not be true for tutors who are less dynamic – and some tutors may not wish to be videoed.

Will it change the way I teach?

Possibly. You may need to write on a visualiser or SmartBoard rather than on the whiteboard. You may need to stay near the lecturn if you have a wired tie-clip mic. You may decide that pre-recorded short videos will enable you to include more discussion, worked examples, case studies or problem-solving into your face-to-face teaching.

Will teaching staff be replaced by recorded lectures?

“Anyone whose teaching could be replaced by a video should be.” but I am sure that does not apply to you. There is no evidence at all that this is an issue anywhere in the world.

Is lecture capture ‘pedagogically neutral’ ?

This was a conclusion from the Carnegie-Mellon white paper on lecture capture:

“Studies to date indicate that the use of lecture webcasting for the purposes of archive and review are pedagogically neutral. While lecture webcasts do not directly affect student performance, there is some evidence that their availability improves the student’s educational experience by reducing stress and providing an additional resource for the student’s study toolkit.”

but it immediately went on to say that:

“To improve student performance and learning outcomes, instructors must think creatively about using webcasting technology to free up valuable classroom time for more interactive discussions and activities.”

What about in-class discussions on sensitive issues?

Lecture capture of in-class discussions needs careful handling since all participants need to be warned in advance that the session is being recorded and given the opportunity to opt out (i.e. have any of their comments edited out of the recording). Everyone also needs to sign a consent form, although one form could cover the whole course. Editing the recording would be a time-consuming hassle and might also make it harder to follow the debate. Discussions on sensitive issues, for example in medicine, health sciences or social sciences, are even more challenging and it is probably advisable to simply not record these at all.

What about students’ note-taking skills?

Keith Fox (Biological Sciences) commented that “I increasingly find that students sit passively in lectures, with little incentive to engage, because they know that they can check it again later. Despite producing handouts, powerpoint etc (and getting some of the best student feedback in course questionnaires) I get students coming to me saying things like “I didn’t understand your notes” – to which I explain that it was MY handouts, but THEIR notes that they didn’t understand.  Life doesn’t have a pause/replay button and we should help them to develop the key skill to take accurate notes during the action.”

Active note-taking during lectures is a useful aid to learning, and that the best students will then review and rewrite those notes that evening to consolidate their memory and learning. I suspect that most students who do take notes try to copy down almost everything the tutor says, and then don’t look at those scrawled notes again until revision time. It would be a good idea to train students to take notes effectively. The question is, why didn’t they learn this at school?

Lecture capture enables students to make notes from the video, pausing and restarting to give themselves time to think about what was said and what they need to write. Of course they will need advice about how to use recordings to learn effectively, but that is part of the project. This technique is especially useful to students with English as a second language or students who have dyslexia.


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