During the past two years, Loughborough, along with several other Universities, has been involved in a trial project to investigate the use of a system that will record lectures and make them accessible online. Maybe you have witnessed first-hand the uncomfortable sight of a flustered lecturer, fumbling to turn on the machine that will document their every move for the next fifty minutes? It is quite a spectacle, but should this become an everyday occurrence? Should all lectures be available at the touch of a button and only a right-click away?
Technology can be a daunting thing for people who are unfamiliar with it, and straying from traditional methods can seem a bit alien. In the world of education, teaching in universities has always been held through lectures and such for many years. New ways of teaching are developing more and more every day, such as using online presentations, ‘webinars’ and chat sessions with tutors. Before dismissing these somewhat unfamiliar methods, we should consider first how they can in fact benefit us, instead of instantly labelling them as ‘lazy’ substitutes.
Some lecturers publish their lectures onto University learning portals so the students can access it. Although this can be seen as a mere excuse to skip the dreadful nine am on the Monday morning, it also means that the lecture and vital information is accessible for those who actually couldn’t make it. Not only does it allow the genuinely absent students to catch up and stay on track, it also provides the opportunity for the other students to re-watch the lecture again. Sometimes you don’t always catch what the lecturer says, and so watching it again online allows you to be able to pause, take thorough notes and rewind the lecture as many times as you need. The filmed lectures can also be a great source of revision if you ever need to go back to the rusty topics of week one.
Admittedly, filming lectures could promote the stigma of ‘lazy students’ and lack of attendance, but on the whole, the broadcasting itself ultimately allows you to view it more times than if it wasn’t recorded at all.
When you think about it, the discernable flaw seems to be that online resources may obviate the need to attend lectures. However, during the trial, student turnout was surveyed and no noticeable change in attendance was observed, despite students knowing that lectures would be available online.
Yet, it is one thing to look at the statistics for a survey (that is actually rather limited) and another thing to implement the programme. What data and numbers fail to do is get to the very heart of the student psyche. Without being stereotypical, it is safe to say that most students are creatures of the night, whispers of nine am lectures is considered blasphemous, even to the most studious of souls. Can many students resist the temptation to skip an early lecture, when all the information they need is just an arm’s length away? Will they be determined to fight back the pains of a Hey Ewe hangover, when a few extra hours of sleep on a Thursday morning is all they crave for? Statistics are one thing, but apply that to all lectures and I have a feeling the result will be very different.
Lecturers have also shown their concerns. ‘Lecture capture’, as it is called, can only cater for certain pedagogical styles. A lecture which is chiefly interactive or predominates around a whiteboard, for instance, cannot be justly captured and translated onto film. Recording can also affect teaching style. As one Loughborough English Lecturer pointed out, the recording required them to remain stationary, forcing them to stick decisively to their script for fear of not being clear, rather than expanding arguments and opening up queries, which often leads to individual thinking. This has led to the possibility of an opt-out approach to lecture capture, giving lecturers the right to refuse being recorded, though this method is still being discussed. The question of copyright also becomes an issue, since there is no way of stopping students from posting podcasts on the Internet.