As it currently stands, the recording of lectures is not a mandatory requirement in any one of the University’s departments. As a student with a disability, I find it hard to believe that there are subjects I wouldn’t have been able to study, simply because of a lack of accessibility.
The lack of accessibility to universities is a worldwide issue for people with disabilities, and the lack of access to recorded lectures is merely a drop in the ocean of limitations disabled students face. And not only is it that these students who often rely on recorded content, those with mental health problems and learning differences also need access to these types of resources.
Due to my disability, I was able to secure a Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA), which provided me with my own recording equipment. During my first year I was able to attend pretty much all of my lectures, however in many of them I faced issues concentrating, staying awake, and understanding the content. As I still managed to get to the lectures I was able to record them myself, but this factor was aided by the fact my student accommodation was close to where I would have my lectures.
In my second year, I’m not going to be as close and won’t have a free bus pass to utilise, so on days when I’m feeling really fatigued I may be less likely to be able to make it out of the house to attend my lectures. Ultimately, if this were to happen, I would come to rely on recorded lectures, or face falling behind.
This story is all too familiar to other students like myself, who face daily struggles with disability and mental health. I believe that being able to access recorded content is fundamentally important to the academic success of these students. It’s a simple fix, yet many departments still struggle to understand the importance of consistently providing access to recorded content.
After talking to fellow students, I found out that some ‘lecturers were definitely discouraged’ by their departments to record their lectures as a method of incentivising attendance. Quite frankly, I think this is a terrible way to encourage attendance, and if it’s felt that actions like this are needed, then maybe the lecturers should be thinking of ways to make their topics more interesting, rather than creating a standard practice of inaccessibility. In all likelihood, many students who would frequently miss lectures would do so regardless of whether or not the content was available online.
Now that’s not to say that all departments are as ableist as each other. Several people I spoke to shared good experiences, where all lectures are recorded, with some lecturers even opting to provide transcripts to their students. In my experience, it’s been a mixed bag. In my first semester, I had a lecturer who would record his own audio and input it into his presentations, which were uploaded to Blackboard. Whilst, at the same time, I had a lecturer who didn’t even know how to use Panopto (the university’s recording software), and would regularly upload recordings with no audio attached.
Ultimately, the university should ensure teaching staff are trained properly to use Panopto, or other recording equipment/software if necessary. By doing this, the quality of study for all students, not just those with disabilities, learning differences and mental health problems, would be improved.