Back in January I wrote about lecture recordings (http://www.possibilitiesendless.com/2015/01/on-the-recording-of-lectures/) which was a bit of a ramble about their use as a revision tool. I’ve been thinking more about it recently as I’m drafting a paper for Keele’s JADE publication (https://jadekeele.wordpress.com/) and it’s timely because we’re starting to look at campus wide lecture capture. Over the past 6 months I’ve visited several universities in England with lecture capture as part of a team from Keele. The key differences between the institutions were the technology used to capture the lectures but the end result for the students is mostly the same: a recorded lecture appears on their virtual learning environment.
One thing that has become clear is that there are limited resources out there on how to make the most of recorded lectures. From my data, my students seem to understand that a lecture recording exists as a backup rather than a replacement for the lecture. They indicate that it’s good to be able to go over specific bits again and again if required rather than watch the whole thing. Of course my survey was to a self-selecting bunch that turned up to the class in question which was at a poor time. I’d back that up – a typical science student has around 100 lectures per semester and they cannot hope to re-watch them all boxset style to revise. Further evidence for the usefulness of specific bits of the recordings comes from students who request screencasts on specific topics and emphasise that they want short screencasts. Even with good use of powerpoint titles to create an index for my recordings, many students would prefer to have something more specific than wade through the full recording to re-watch a bit. There is some pretty awesome analytics available for some forms of lecture capture that can show which bits of a full recording are watched the most – this would be very useful in redesigning content.
So if lecture recordings are just a backup, why should we spend time on the student development side of things and help students make more of the recordings? As with all suggestions of this type, we’re talking about making an impact with a subset of students. There will be a few students for whom pointing out how to use a recording to enhance written notes, or planting the idea that you don’t have to watch the full thing, just the bits where your attention wained, will be very useful indeed. And there will be a few students that need reminding that familiarity with a procedure is not the same as being able to carry it out. Alongside requests for screencasts go requests for more and more model answers. I’m not convinced by that either – I think that many students can follow a model answer but remain unable to carry out the procedure on an unseen problem. Familiarity breeds contempt, in this case, contempt for the actual knowledge and conceptual understanding necessary to succeed. There are many studies that show mixed and often contradictory impact on students achievement which may or may not be down to lecture recordings (because these things are near impossible to prove to any degree of reliability).
Why then are lecture recordings really popular with students? Like popular to the degree that institutions invest substantial sums of money in the provision. Is the notion of a backup for a lecture so important? And what does that say about how students view the content that is being delivered in that lecture? It certainly isn’t irreplaceable. It is valuable, particularly if you consider a more traditional lecture to be a guided tour of essential knowledge with a subject expert as tour guide, but you can get that knowledge by other means (Thanks to JaneB for that specific idea: http://what-was-i-doing.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/lectures-as-important-part-of-teaching.html). Is it just a function of the netflix/boxset mindset where binge watching is a thing that you do? Or is it a tacit acknowledgement that so much content is conveyed in so many non-ideal teaching rooms/times/circumstances that knowing you can just watch it again is the ultimate intellectual comfort blanket? And perhaps that allows your mind to wander, guilt free, during a lecture.
In any case, we need some good resources to help students make the most of lecture recordings. We can’t assume that our standard advice for making the most of attending a lecture is sufficient – we need to point the way to add value to the whole endeavour. As I’m going to be trying to write some resources of this type later in the summer, if anyone has any they would like to share, drop a comment. I’d also love to hear your tales of the effectiveness of lecture recordings.