A survey by UCISA in 2016 found that 71% of responding HEIs had lecture capture availability – but increasing coverage often comes with increasing controversy.
If you spend an afternoon on Twitter searching for “lecture capture”, you’d likely conclude that: students demand it as a panacea to all their studying woes; institutions want to implement opt-out and automatic recording to replace all disability provision; faculty think that attendance will plummet and they will be replaced by recordings and AI avatars. With more and more institutions adopting lecture capture policies it is timely to now address the concerns that accompany the technology.
Much of the controversy results from a lack of clarity regarding the impact on learning, the expectations regarding changes to teaching approaches, and concerns regarding intellectual property and performance management.
Keeping things clear
In a recent review of the lecture-capture literature and institutional policies by myself and Peter McGeorge, we suggest that transparency is key and that it is vital that consideration of the above factors is not separated from the policies with which they align. Indeed, we argue that when constructed well, lecture capture policies facilitate the creation of a valuable additional resource for learning and at the same time, support and protect faculty.
Evidence may not be a sufficient condition for cultural change but it remains a necessary condition. Regarding the impact on learning, like others before us we conclude there is little systematic evidence that providing lecture capture negatively affects attendance but it may well provide pedagogic benefits. This will come as little surprise to those immersed in the literature, however, most academic staff will not fall into this category.
When policies are introduced, a summary of the key findings from the literature and/or links to review papers (do feel free to cite ours) should be provided, to assuage the fears that recording lectures will have educational ill-effects. Faculty might also be keen to know that the literature shows that students still highly value the chance to interact with them and with other students. Online commentaries claiming “the end of the face-to-face lecture is nigh” are likely extremely premature and do not give sufficient credit to human learning that is geared to work best in a social environment.
The fear of the red light
Related to this is the concern that recording will change the lecturer’s performance (e.g. by being less willing to cover controversial topics, to have interactive lectures, or even to tell jokes and be more engaging) or that not all teaching is suitable for capture (e.g. small-group or discussion-based teaching). Many policies indicate that staff may choose to pause recordings where interactive discussions are taking place or if the lecture content is particularly sensitive, and most of the opt-out policies we identified contained a statement explicitly addressing the issue of lectures versus small-group.
Some policies go further and include statements that guard against faculty changing their preferred teaching methods to accommodate recordings – though that should not exclude faculty using recordings to aid their own development as educators. Expectations concerning the equivalence of the live and captured experience should be transparently communicated, and can also be addressed by the inclusion of a statement regarding whether lecture capture is provided as a supplementary resource.
Against our wishes?
The matter of supplemental use feeds into the most emotive issue; that recordings will in some way be used against the wishes of faculty. We argue that having a lecture capture policy protects faculty. For example, most opt-out policies we identified clearly stated that recordings would not be used for performance management. Even if feasible from a practical standpoint (which in many cases is doubtful), giving access to lecture recordings against the wishes of the faculty that created them would seem to fail to acknowledge that provision of material is only a small part of the educational process that includes assessment, evaluation, and feedback – none of which is delivered by a simple recording – and as mentioned seriously understates the value that students attach to person-to-person interactions as part of learning.
Moreover, any perceived short-term benefits of using recordings against the wishes of academic staff, for example, in the case of industrial action, are unlikely to be worth the potential long-term costs of reducing engagement with lecture capture. Policies that speak to these concerns should be encouraged.
The final recurring issue concerns intellectual property and the sharing of recorded material. In almost all cases the intellectual property of a recorded lecture is the same as all other teaching materials, i.e. it is retained by the institution. Again we argue that having a policy in place is protective. Most institutions allow students to make their own recordings under disability provision and this is likely to happen more often when an official lecture capture is not provided.
If a recorded lecture is shared publicly by a student it is a clear violation of the law and the case for removal is clear, indeed, many opt-out policies also contain a statement regarding not only ownership of IP but that public sharing of recorded materials is prohibited and subject to disciplinary action. If a student shares their own recording it may be more difficult to determine ownership and remove the recording from the public domain, particularly if there is no policy guidance. That students can make their own recordings is used an as argument against implementing opt-out policies – it needs to be recognised that this exposes academics to greater risk (aside from the issue that, in our experience, opt-in policies have a low and patchy ceiling of engagement, regardless of how suitable the teaching is for recording or whether staff have any evidence-based knowledge of the research regarding the impact of lecture capture).
All these concerns are easy to address through institutional policy and providing clarification on these key issues will help increase engagement with assistive technologies and protect faculty against legitimate concerns.
Supplementary, not replacement
As a lecturer, I have recorded every standard lecture I’ve ever given. I know from reviewing my work that parts of my lectures make little sense when viewed on an audio plus slides recording. This is mostly due to a communication style that is heavily reliant on gesticulation. I also frequently include interactive elements, my favourite being an orchestrated fracas that in the following week is used to demonstrate the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. I’m forever thankful that my institution recently approved a policy that states we don’t use recordings for performance management because without the visual that lecture sounds unhinged.
I am comfortable with this because I am confident in the supplementary nature of the recordings, what they will and will not be used for, and I instruct my students on how best to use them. However, given that I am writing an article exalting the benefits of lecture capture, I am not the audience we should have in mind when writing policies and guidance. We should not take for granted that academics will be comfortable or confident in any of these things.
In short, we cannot and should not expect students and staff to follow best practice without being told what best practice is and why, and it is essential to remember that guidelines for educational technology should focus on the education, rather than the technology. We know what the concerns of faculty are when it comes to lecture capture, we know what the evidence says, and we know how they can be addressed transparently. It’s time for faculty, management, and policy writers to all take responsibility for the benefit of our students. Lecture capture is not going away. Good policy can help us get it right.