I was invited to speak at the Echo360 conference this week about some research I have conducted into the use of lecture capture. The research is yet to be published so I don't want to say too much about it yet but I think that there are two things I can give away which are not likely to surprise anyone:
1. The availability of online resources for a lecture (including but not limited to lecture capture) was one of two significant predictors of lecture attendance.
2. Students had some pretty sophisticated ways of using lecture capture and in many cases this was even where they had attended the live lecture.
These findings are quite consistent with previous research which has looked at both attendance and types of use. The literature on attendance shows that whilst some students will maintain attendance, there can be a significant drop with the availability of lecture capture. This is not surprising to those of us who lecture, especially if we have the 9am on a Monday slot!
The issue of attendance has been a sticky one since lecture capture first materialised with many academics expressing concern about the decrease in attendance. Given some research has shown attendance predicts attainment, this is not necessarily surprising because we do want our students to do well so we can rightly be annoyed if we perceive that they are 'not helping themselves'. The experience of the live lecture is also likely to be diminished for those who do attend when 13 out of the 140 taking the module turn up and sit at the back of a 400-seat lecture theatre (it is also embarrassing when it is a guest lecturer). However, somewhere in the conversations around lecture capture some quite polarised views have emerged where some academics see lecture capture as only being used by those who don't attend. My own research, and that of others shows that even those who do attend the live session often use the lecture capture to i) make better notes, often combining sources e.g. lecture and textbook and ii) to revisit difficult parts. It may be clear from what I have written so far that I am quite pro lecture capture - yes it can decrease attendance but on balance I think it can be beneficial to all students - provided they know how to use it effectively. And this is a big if - one we don't have room to discuss today.
However, after the Echo360 conference I started to reflect a bit more on the extreme views this technology provokes. If lecture capture is used how I, as an academic, want to see it used, then every student would attend the lecture and listen and participate and then use lecture capture only to consolidate their notes or revisit tricky parts. They could also use it as a substitute for attendance if they are at death's door and cannot make the live lecture. Wouldn't that be perfect if all students behaved that way?
Wouldn't it also be perfect if every lecture was revised and improved upon year on year for example, revisiting slides, revising them having reviewed module feedback and watching the lecture capture to see if some explanations could be made clearer. Oh and of course all lecturers should also do a comprehensive literature search for all their lectures to provide updated reading lists and everything must be on the VLE 48 hours in advance. Now I like to think I am quite a dedicated teacher and I do revisit all my slides and tweak them (with module feedback in mind but I have never watched my own capture in full - I find it cringe-worthy). I update my reading list sometimes depending on the topic and I definitely get everything on the VLE in advance so I manage around 75% of perfect and I work long hours to achieve this.
And this is where I get to my point. As an academic I expect students to be perfect, to never take short cuts and always be dedicated. But even if I strive for this myself, I never really attain it so why do I think they should. In the case of lecture capture I am 100% certain that there are some students exhibiting that perfect behaviour I outlined above, maybe only 5-10% but I wonder how many of us academics are achieving the perfect behaviour too - again I suspect around 5-10% in most universities. Add into this the fact thatmost academics have received some kind of teacher training whilst students have often not received any help in understanding how they can learn effectively from lectures,and I cannot help but think we are being a little bit harsh on them when some choose to take short cuts that are clearly available.
No one is perfect, including academics, and whilst we should all strive for perfection and praise it when it occurs, we might also accept that it is human nature to take short cuts sometimes. If we don't want students to take them there are several ways we can support them in making the right learning choices (as we see them) rather than just taking away lecture capture. Most of these ways involve training them in learning effectively and making our lectures so engaging and interactive that they see true worth in attending live. But until we do that, perhaps it is time to cut them, and lecture capture, some slack.