This article is more than 4 years old

Capturing the lecture?

Lecture capture has become hugely controversial in recent weeks, but how can it be done in a way that benefits students and staff. The answer, according to Emily Nordmann, is deeper understanding.
This article is more than 4 years old

Emily Nordmann is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen.

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.

Intellectual property

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.

21 responses to “Capturing the lecture?

  1. Great post Emily. We’ve approached lecture capture as a teaching & learning enhancement tool under an opt-in policy.

    We’ve seen year on year growth of lecture capture use & much of the uptake by staff comes from seeing the benefits it brings to student learning (especially during periods of revision).

    You may be interested in our openly licensed Digital Pedagogy guide to lecture capture which is intended to give our academic staff a fact based introduction to lecture capture.

  2. Yes, speaking as a Leeds Beckett lecturer I can confirm that recorded lectures are seen as a positive move by students. The ‘watch’ rate is quite low though – suggesting that it’s used as a catch-up by those who need it and not as an ‘alternative’, which is what we want.

  3. That’s great to hear that lecture capture use is increasing and fantastic resources to support it as well. Our review focused on policy but I’ve noticed a few excellent examples of guidance, I think I might try and extend our database of policy to include support resources as there’s a lot of good practice out there that would be useful to collate into one place.

  4. That’s really interesting Barbara, we noticed the same thing in previous empirical work ( – the viewing time was much lower than we were expecting also suggesting that the students were using it to look at specific parts of a lecture they were having difficulty with rather than sitting down to watch the entire thing as a replacement.

  5. Great post Emily, as is the paper you wrote with Peter McGeorge too. I’m currently looking at the literature around lecture capture and particularly interested in how we can instruct students to get the most benefit out of it. I’ve found a lot of studies that report on students’ viewing behaviours, but not as much on the advice given to students around lecture capture.

    You mention you instruct your students on how best to use your recorded lectures and wondered whether you would be willing to share this guidance, or perhaps you know of some good resources that you can provide links to? I’m sure this is probably varies on a discipline by discipline basis, but I suspect there will be some generic guidance e.g. don’t use them as a replacement, don’t take verbatim notes, etc… use recordings to review difficult concepts, etc…

  6. The idea that subsequent sharing of captured material online is illegal, and therefore addressable by policy is naive, to say the least.

    Are you seriously suggesting that it will be possible to trace the source of a shared lecture ?

    Likewise, the prevalence of online bullying and trolling is such that the risk of exposure of lecturers to this is mightily increased, surely. But, maybe you are able to share the risk assessment you undertook before implementing this policy ?

    More generally, how about the risks to students and staff if/when discussing difficult and controversial subjects, and/or subjects controversial in home countries which may not be the UK.

    Corruption. Political populism. AntiSemitism, Gender. Nationalism. International Relations. Child Abuse. I put it to you, in these cases what you suggest is not best practice, but worst practice, and in some cases potentially unethical practice, putting students and academics at risk.

    An example. If I teach about International Business, and as part of that, I talk about corrupt business practices in country X or Y. My colleague, in another department, goes to country X or Y for research into, I don’t know, the politics of the country. They will be safe if my lecture is placed in the public domain ? By a former student from that country, maybe ?

    Practically, your discussion of IP is just plain wrong, and while you might like it to be the case, it is not the case in law that my, for example, projecting a book-cover onto a screen in a lecture gives the university the right to make a video in which that image is shared in perpetuity even strictly within the university. And, just, at a basic level, who is the ‘we’ you speak of ? Not for me, or for any of my colleagues.

    Finally, in employability terms, real life, in the workplace, is not recorded to be subsequently revisited. Paying attention, note taking, being able to formulate and articulate real questions in the here and now appropriately are essential skills. We continually deskill our students.

  7. ?Policy on lecture capture must support and suitably facilitate appropriate teaching and learning strategy. That is, Education Strategy must articulate an approach to embedding technology practice not bolting it on. Approaching and implementing lecture capture as though it were merely a technical exercise will cause crash-and-burn scenarios. Institutions that misunderstand or misread the specific context of a recorded output, or fail to attentively and objectively monitor and manage learner performance in relation to lecture capture and non-capture will be failing in their responsibilities to students.

    ?Does lecture capture perhaps provide an opportunity to co-create course/module content by integrating learner feedback on a lecture performance in a successive recorded lecture, in the form of a good old TV style ‘points of view’ rant?

  8. In my previous role at Aberystwyth University I was instrumental in the adoption and installation of lecture capture or as I prefer to say event capture as the technology allows so much more than capture lectures.
    The points you raise in your blog were, still are, and probably always will be valid. There was a reluctance to adopt LC for reasons you list and the drop in attendance, fear of being made redundant, a fear of technology (by some) and the valid point about ‘tricky’ subjects raised by Bill M Cooke were most cited.
    It is my experience that if, as you point out, a vigorous well debated policy is established and all stake holders are consulted and their views and concerns taken seriously, there is no reason not to adopt LC and take advantage of all that it offers to staff and students.
    The sorts of things it offers are:
    Revision tool for exams or checking a missed fact etc. second language student aid, catch up aid if unable to attend due to illness or nowadays work patterns, study anywhere any time with your lecturer, note taker aid (some versions) and so on.
    At Aber we noticed that attendance did not drop, viewings of captures spiked just prior to exams and several students said it had allowed them to continue with their course when recovering from long periods of illness or other domestic matters. Without LC they said they would have dropped out.
    What is apparent and never claimed is that LC is a replacement for attendance or face to face learning. This was supported by a study group review conducted by Dr Gareth Hall across subjects and student years. This was a small study but it was consistent with findings at other universities that he was liaising with.
    The thorny issue of IP kept raising its head but as you say this can be addressed by rigorous procedures and policies. What is not mentioned in your blog and I think is trickier is the one of Performance Rights here is a link that deals with this
    Finally the way I piloted LC was to request a lecturer who was not in favour of LC to be a guinea pigmy reasoning was that if she became a convert it would help in persuading others to adopt it. It came as no surprise to me that the pilot was a great success and that lecturer became an evangelist for LC. One of the main benefits was that students seemed to have a better understanding of material, especially the harder parts of her subject. This was borne out by the fact that she experienced a drop in the number of e-mails and visits about the more difficult aspects of the subject. LC is not perfect but in my opinion is a fantastic enabler for students who use it the best way that suits their learning style and when attendance is just not possible.

  9. This is a nice balanced argument, thank you. I have most recently been talking about using the facilities of some lecture capture systems to enhance pedagogic practice – enabling interactivity. But, I have also been talking about the analytics gathered by these systems and how they an be used by lecturer’s to reflect on their practice and help identify areas of confusions ‘flagged’ by students. In some systems quite literally. In some of the literature it has been noted that students with disabilities can use these systems too much, and it has a detriment to their learning. By viewing analytics re: notes and views it is also possible to identify and potentially address these issues. In my mind at least LC is an extra tool in the box to enhance our practice and better suppor our students.

  10. Hi Ross, I’m lucky in that I lecture on cognitive psychology so the guidance is part of the lectures rather than being stand-alone (although there is a little bit in the induction lectures for the 1st years). One of my jobs this summer is to create this kind of stand-alone guidance, in the meantime I think York have a particularly good example of support materials.

  11. If I might add, here’s a proposal the WonkHE community would surely support.

    Why only capture lectures ? The value to effective management and leadership of transparency, and good communication, is well known, and undisputed.

    So, let’s capture more University processes to facilitate the learning and commitment of front line staff.

    We could record and capture meetings of Senates, University Councils, Senior Management Teams, Faculty and Departmental Committees, PSS meetings, Strategic Planning Meetings.

    Of course, some business would need to be ‘reserved’, but this would be no more of an issue that it would be in lecture capture. Indeed far less of one, given lectures are supposed to embrace issues of controversy, while meetings in the sector are alway consensual and productive.

    There would be no hardware costs, either, just a matter of using the equipment that is there.

    Let’s do it !

  12. Hi Bill,

    These are valid concerns. I would argue, however, that in practice, this risk is no less present in situations where the provision of a Lecture Recording had not made available for download.

    The prevalence of Laptop Computers, Smartphones and Tablets with the capacity to make audio or video recordings is food for thought. Students attending a lecture face few technical constraints that would bar them from making and subsequently sharing their own recordings. I would argue that where a Lecture Capture has been provided and downloads have been disabled, that the operation of making an un-authorised second generation copy via a Screencasting solution and sharing this on the internet is actually probably more cumbersome than them doing the former. Ergo, I’m not entirely convinced that Lecture Capture introduces this risk or even really exacerbates it.

  13. Hi Bill, the best lecture capture policies do explicitly state that not all lecture content is appropriate for recording. For example, the Aberdeen policy states that

    “Staff should record all lectures unless there is a particular reason not to. Opt out may be appropriate if a large part of the lecture:
    Contains confidential or personal information;
    Is commercially or politically sensitive;
    Includes such a degree of interaction with students that recording is not viable;
    or Is delivered in a way that makes recording unsuitable.”

    So we’re in complete agreement that not all lectures are suitable. My argument is not that everything should be recorded. My argument is that we should record all content that is appropriate and good policies that explicitly address concerns such as yours can help by providing clarity.

    Regarding the recording of management meetings etc., many of these will have have good reason not to be recorded that fall under the reasons above, just like lectures, however, this is entirely feasible when appropriate. For example, at Aberdeen we do record our Senate meetings in full and these are made available to staff. This is not an argument against lecture capture, this is an argument for raising this issue in your Senate.

    On the issue of deskilling our students, I’m afraid we’re just going to need to disagree. Our School has recorded ~90% of all lectures for years and there are many institutions, including those in the Russell Group, that have automatic, opt-out recordings for all lectures and all subjects and I don’t see any evidence of the dystopian educational nightmare you speak of. Yes, the way that everyone consumes information is changing but the idea that lecture capture is going to lead to us deskilling out students does somewhat remind me of the time my grandad worried that I would be no good at maths because I wasn’t being forced to memorise the values of sin, cos and tan and was permitted the use of a calculator. In fact, I’d argue that on the subject of note-taking, lecture capture may well encourage best practice because there’s no longer the pressure for students to write down verbatim what the lecturer is saying. Instead, they can concentrate on summarising the lecture in their own words, which leads to better learning. There is a debate on this issue about whether students should use laptops in lectures (the theory goes that because the increased typing speed makes it easier to make verbatim notes, it encourages shallow rather than deep processing of the material), however, this is quite independent of the issue of lecture capture.

  14. “in employability terms, real life, in the workplace, is not recorded to be subsequently revisited”. Where I work, meetings are minuted and/ or audio recorded, verbal instructions are followed up with email action points, trainings are available to review… I don’t think it’s the case that there is no subsequent revisiting in ‘real life’.

  15. For distance learners, like myself, the changes can’t come soon enough. Recording and making these lectures available will bring us much more connection to the life of the university. I think it can, and will, be done sensitively.

  16. Great post! Agree with every word! Especially the deskilling point. By making things more readily available and simplifying and over-explaining (I am speaking for my workplace now and cannot vet for others , of course), we are dumbing down out students; it is a misservice.

  17. Was replying to Bill M Cooke (@BillCookeIII) above, not the original article.

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