Reflecting on lecture capture: the good, the bad and the lonely

reflect-logoWe have been using lecture capture for about two years. I have to say at the outset that I am a big fan. Having said that however, there are aspects of lecture capture that I find problematic. Here I offer some quick and dirty reflections on my experience of lecture capture so far. This is not a scientific study, and I certainly haven’t gone away and done an extensive literature search, so I may well be rediscovering old truths.

The Good. There are many attractive features of lecture capture. These include:

  • Availability for review and revision. This is, of course, the main raison d’être of lecture capture, but it is important not to overlook the value this provides – students can go back over the sections that were unclear the first time.
  • Similarly the recordings can be used by those with legitimate cause to be absent (e.g due to illness, away sports fixture, etc)
  • Recordings can be useful for the lecturer themselves. We know that the first time you prepare a set of lectures you are likely to have recently read around the subject and be naturally “on top” of your material. The second year can be a different challenge – the slides are in the can, but you may not recall some of the wider points you had made to embellish the on-screen text and images. Listening back to recordings of your own lecture from the previous year can help to fill in the blanks.
  • The recordings can also be useful when we have to provide a substitute due to lecturer illness. A few year back, before we had our official lecture capture system, I had to take a semester off due to ill health. Fortunately I had audio recordings which could be provided to my “stunt double” along with the slides. Officially captured lectures can now fulfil this role.
  • In times of absolute need the recording can be officially made available in lieu of the live session. We had to use this route when a colleague was ill during the last week of a semester – there was no time to warm up a replacement and rescheduling was not feasible, so we actually showed a recording of the previous year’s equivalent lecture. I “hosted” the session and was really encouraged by the large proportion of the class who turned up in a 5pm slot, knowing that a recording was going to be aired (and that it was already available to them via the VLE).
  • Recordings can be built into reflection to help improve one’s own teaching or as part of an informal peer review process.
  • The tools for lecture capture can be used to pre-record material as a contribution to a “flipped teaching” model.
  • Lecture capture software (certainly the Panopto tool we use at Leicester) includes remarkably powerful inbuilt stats on usage by students. This can shine light on the aspects of a lecture that they felt needed clearer explanation.
  • You can change the speed of the recording. This might be slowing it down slightly for better note-taking, or it might be speeding it up (one of my students confessed that they like to listen to lectures by a colleague at a quickened pace because the lecture naturally delivers their material at an unduly leisurely pace).

The Bad. So what are some of the less satisfactory aspects of lecture capture? These include:

  • One of the most obvious downsides is the use of lecture recordings as a replacement for attendance at the actual sessions, rather than as a supplement to attendance. This can contribute to a rather pick and mix attitude towards the overall programme (as well as other issues, which I will highlight below).
  • The problems with the growing expectation that a recording will be available are compound when on odd occasions, due to technological or user error, a lecture is not captured. A student relying on this as their only means of listening will be left high and dry.
  • Using lecture capture influences the way we teach. By nature I am a wanderer. armed with my remote and laser pointer I like to be moving around the room. Lecture capture ties the presenter rather more tightly to the podium. Audio recording can be dealt with (we have improved provision of radio mikes) but a laser beam is not picked up on the recorded screen and so you either need to use the mouse as a pointer or change what you say, e.g. “as you can see top right in this diagram…”
  • It has been interesting to see the student satisfaction associated with lecture capture. For a brief window, student feedback was appreciative of the fact that we had introduced lecture capture. In a matter of only about six months this went from an attitude of gratitude to an expectation – there was no credit for providing lecture capture, only criticism when something went wrong.
  • A blood relative (studying elsewhere) has also observed in their context that those who are the least intelligible lecturers live are also those least likely to have mastered the technology sufficiently to make recordings and give you a sporting chance of having a second go at interpretation!

and The Lonely? As noted above, some students elect to use lecture capture as a substitute for attendance. Those that get into the habit of listening to recordings at home are experiencing a different dynamic from the traditional university experience. They are excluding themselves from the corporate aspects of study – the conversations with peers immediately before or after the lecture, the going for coffee r lunch together afterwards. I worry that this privatisation of education can contribute to a sense of isolation with broader consequences for mental well-being.

On balance then, I think lecture capture is a bonus for contemporary students and staff. But we need to fight to counteract the more detrimental aspects. This may include encouraging the students to reflect on their own practice and be aware of the potential pitfalls (and to appreciate that this capacity to revisit material is a privilege that  was not afforded to earlier generations, and for which they should be grateful).


1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post; in general, I concur. Your observation about shifting student opinion as lecture capture gets more deeply embedded is really interesting. I wonder if we will also see shifts in students’ patterns of use of recordings.

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