Ac­tion re­play

Does lec­ture cap­ture aid learn­ing or tru­ancy?

THE (Times Higher Education) - - FRONT PAGE - Anna.mckie@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

The in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture cap­ture has proved, like most tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions in higher ed­u­ca­tion, con­tro­ver­sial.

De­bates over the mer­its of record­ing lec­tures and mak­ing them avail­able on­line for stu­dents have ranged from the is­sue of who re­tains copy­right of the con­tent to the di­vi­sive use of pre-recorded lec­tures to pro­vide “tu­ition” dur­ing strikes by aca­demics.

On­line record­ings can al­low stu­dents to watch missed lec­tures – in­valu­able for those ab­sent be­cause of ill health or those who have dis­abil­i­ties that make at­ten­dance on cam­pus dif­fi­cult – and to use them for re­vi­sion, which is par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fi­cial for stu­dents who have learn­ing is­sues or who strug­gle with the lan­guage. The footage can also serve as a study aid in a flipped class­room set-up.

But crit­ics say that the record­ings en­cour­age stu­dents to skip lec­tures and dam­age the over­all at­tain­ment of those who rely on them be­cause record­ings can lack the per­sonal en­gage­ment that fre­quently drives learn­ing.

Anec­do­tally, some aca­demics have re­ported that in­tro­duc­ing lec­ture cap­ture has caused at­ten­dance rates to drop. Me­lanie O’Brien (pic­tured inset), a se­nior lec­turer in in­ter­na­tional law at the Univer­sity of Western Aus­tralia, told Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion that since lec­ture cap­ture was made com­pul­sory at her in­sti­tu­tion, at­ten­dance at lec­tures in her depart­ment has plum­meted. “One col­league with 150 stu­dents en­rolled has lec­tured to 15 stu­dents. Three of us have lec­tured to empty rooms,” she said.

So­cial me­dia has been awash with posts from aca­demics shar­ing sim­i­lar neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, but con­trast­ing views have been equally well rep­re­sented. The aca­demic lit­er­a­ture on the sub­ject is much the same: a num­ber of stud­ies re­port that the in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture cap­ture has had a neg­a­tive ef­fect on at­ten­dance, while oth­ers re­veal no cor­re­la­tion.

In a pa­per pub­lished ear­lier this year, re­searchers at King’s Col­lege Lon­don found that the in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture cap­ture on one course was fol­lowed by a dou­bling of the num­ber of un­der­grad­u­ates who did not at­tend any lec­tures – and also a dou­bling of the pro­por­tion of stu­dents who skipped all classes, to 40 per cent. A 2009 study in Canada of nearly 900 stu­dents found that 37 per cent of them said that their at­ten­dance was af­fected by lec­ture­cap­ture avail­abil­ity, and a 2013 Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham study re­ported a de­cline in at­ten­dance at lec­tures from 84 per cent to 71 per cent af­ter lec­ture cap­ture was in­tro­duced.

In con­trast, a new study led by Emily Nord­mann, a psy­chol­o­gist who has re­cently moved from the Univer­sity of Aberdeen to the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, found “no com­pelling ev­i­dence” of a re­la­tion­ship be­tween at­ten­dance and record­ing. The study, ac­cepted for pub­li­ca­tion in the jour­nal Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, says that it was the first to look across four years of an un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gramme and that it found “no neg­a­tive ef­fect of record­ing use”.

Other stud­ies have reached sim­i­lar con­clu­sions. Com­puter sci­en­tists at Queen’s Univer­sity Belfast who mon­i­tored the in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture cap­ture on their cour­ses judged that it had not harmed at­ten­dance and re­ported that stu­dents had used the footage to aid their learn­ing, ac­cord­ing to a 2015 pa­per. Mean­while, a So­lent Univer­sity study re­leased the same year found that 79 per cent of stu­dent re­spon­dents said that lec­ture cap­ture would not en­cour­age them to skip lec­tures.

Let’s take roll

One big prob­lem is that the ma­jor­ity of re­search into lec­ture cap­ture re­lies on self-re­ported data, in­di­cat­ing stu­dents’ in­tent to not miss lec­tures, rather than in­for­ma­tion about ac­tual stu­dent be­hav­iour. Some re­cent stud­ies, such as the ones un­der­taken at King’s and Aberdeen, have tried to over­come this by com­par­ing at­ten­dance and at­tain­ment be­fore and af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture record­ings. Other re­search ef­forts have fo­cused on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween how stu­dents use lec­ture cap­ture and the grades that they achieve. A 2012 Aus­tralian study showed that stu­dents who sub­sti­tuted view­ings of recorded lec­tures for phys­i­cally at­tend­ing were found to be at a se­vere dis­ad­van­tage in terms of their fi­nal marks; “more­over, those stu­dents who at­tended very few live lec­tures did not close the gap by watch­ing more on­line”, it said. Al­though sev­eral stud­ies have found no neg­a­tive cor­re­la­tion be­tween use of lec­ture cap­ture and at­tain­ment, these have some­times fo­cused on cases in which stu­dents have used the footage to sup­ple­ment their ex­ist­ing learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Sim­ply log­ging on to a record­ing does not equate with en­gage­ment with ma­te­rial,” said Michael Draper, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of le­gal stud­ies at Swansea Univer­sity, who con­ducted a study that found that lec­ture cap­ture did not harm at­ten­dance.

The 2013 Birm­ing­ham study, which re­ported that even high us­age of lec­ture record­ings did not have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on aca­demic per­for­mance, took a bal­anced view. “Over­all, this ap­proach ap­pears to be ben­e­fi­cial, but may re­duce lec­ture at­ten­dance and en­cour­age sur­face learn­ing ap­proaches in a mi­nor­ity of stu­dents,” the re­searchers said.

Martin Ed­wards, who led the King’s re­search, said that even if a mi­nor­ity of stu­dents say that they

will not at­tend lec­tures be­cause record­ings are avail­able, that can still trans­late to a size­able por­tion of the co­hort sud­denly go­ing ab­sent. Dr Ed­wards pointed out that even Dr Nord­mann’s study found that the one course that did not have lec­ture record­ings had sig­nif­i­cantly higher at­ten­dance than those that did have record­ings.

He added that when talk­ing about whether lec­ture cap­ture had a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on stu­dents, it was im­por­tant to note that there was a dif­fer­ence be­tween the in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture cap­ture and its ef­fect on at­ten­dance, and lec­ture-cap­ture view­ing and its ef­fect on at­tain­ment.

“The peo­ple who are so-called deep learn­ers will at­tend lec­tures and use lec­ture cap­ture to boost their study, so it won’t have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on their at­tain­ment. The prob­lem lies with the in­tro­duc­tion of lec­ture cap­ture, which the over­all ev­i­dence shows does trans­late to a drop in at­ten­dance, and those ‘sur­face learn­ers’ who watch lec­tures on­line in­stead of at­tend­ing,” he said.

A 2013 Cana­dian study showed that stu­dents who were iden­ti­fied as sur­face learn­ers tended to re­port miss­ing more lec­tures and us­ing record­ings as a re­place­ment for lec­tures, whereas deep learn­ers tended to use the record­ings as an ex­tra re­source, to help with re­vi­sion, for ex­am­ple.

“The ev­i­dence shows that stu­dents who choose not to go be­cause they rely on lec­ture cap­ture will strug­gle to keep up, and that’s a real prob­lem; it can po­ten­tially dis­ad­van­tage cer­tain types of learn­ing styles,” Dr Ed­wards said.

Dr Nord­mann said that she be­lieved the key take­away from her study to be not the lack of a re­la­tion­ship be­tween lec­ture cap­ture and at­ten­dance or at­tain­ment, but rather the rev­e­la­tion of just how many dif­fer­ent things af­fect at­ten­dance. “It’s ac­tu­ally re­ally dif­fi­cult to draw these big con­clu­sions about the ef­fect of lec­ture cap­ture based on in­di­vid­ual stud­ies. You have to look at the lit­er­a­ture,” she said.

Most stud­ies are a snap­shot of one course at one level of study, Dr Nord­mann con­tin­ued. “Even in our study that looked at four years, we found that there was a dif­fer­ence in at­ten­dance be­tween two recorded cour­ses in the sec­ond year, and I think the rea­son for it was that one of the top­ics was more pop­u­lar,” she ex­plained.

“Cur­rently, stud­ies are only ever com­par­ing a recorded course and a non-recorded course in one dis­ci­pline. But if you com­pare your recorded cour­ses, you will find a dif­fer­ence in at­ten­dance; that’s a re­ally strong sig­nal that it’s not just about the record­ings,” she said. “You can’t say lec­ture cap­ture is good or bad, it’s how it is be­ing used and who it is be­ing used by.”

Per­ma­nent records

Lec­ture cap­ture is al­ready a fix­ture in higher ed­u­ca­tion around the globe. Its use is wide­spread, and many in­sti­tu­tions are join­ing Western Aus­tralia in mak­ing it com­pul­sory, in­clud­ing De Mont­fort Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Hud­der­s­field in the UK.

“Lec­ture cap­ture is here to stay,” said Swansea’s Mr Draper. “In a short space of time, stu­dents are so used to the sys­tem that they are likely to com­plain if it is not avail­able.”

How­ever, he cau­tioned that it must be in­te­grated as part of a strat­egy “that seeks to sup­port stu­dents in their stud­ies or as part of a blended learn­ing pro­gramme, rather than an im­me­di­ate sub­sti­tute for tra­di­tional learn­ing though face-to-face con­tact”. At Swansea, for ex­am­ple, the pol­icy is to “wipe” the lec­tures at the end of the year and to give lec­tur­ers the choice to opt out, he added.

For Dr Nord­mann, the most im­por­tant thing is to start pro­vid­ing guid­ance for stu­dents. “We give them this tech­nol­ogy but don’t tell them how best to use it,” she said. They need to know that sup­ple­men­tary use is best and not to use it as a sub­sti­tute for in-per­son lec­tures, she added.

Most uni­ver­si­ties of­fer on­line cour­ses, so it’s not il­log­i­cal for stu­dents to be­lieve that that is how you can use record­ings, Dr Nord­mann con­tin­ued. “We need to be mak­ing the case for at­ten­dance and lec­ture cap­ture as a sup­ple­men­tal tech­nol­ogy in a way that we aren’t now; we’re com­plain­ing about at­ten­dance but not do­ing any­thing to guide the stu­dents.”

Dr Ed­wards added that one of the ways to coun­ter­act the drop in at­ten­dance was to en­sure that lec­tures pro­vide some­thing spe­cial that can­not be repli­cated in a record­ing. If lec­tures are in­ter­ac­tive – em­ploy­ing in-class polls, for ex­am­ple – stu­dents get some­thing more from be­ing present in the room, he said.

There are good ar­gu­ments for why all lec­tures should be recorded, par­tic­u­larly for stu­dents with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs who re­quire some ex­tra help, he said. “The prob­lem is, there will be a pro­por­tion of the co­hort that will not go be­cause there is a record­ing of it.”

Is ev­ery­one here? Since record­ing be­came

com­pul­sory, ‘One col­league with 150 stu­dents en­rolled has lec­tured to 15 stu­dents. Three of us have lec­tured to empty rooms’

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