Debate Against: Not All Lectures Should Be Recorded

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Of course, to some, recorded lectures have advantages: to computer scientists with excessive amounts of equations to scribble down, or those who are ill and can use them to catch up on material. The issue is that we cannot take these benefits and generalise so that ALL lectures must be recorded.

The first reason is due to sensitivity. In Philosophy modules, a whole range of sensitive issues from global poverty, abortion, animal abuse and sexual exploitation are visited, and students are encouraged to enter discussion within lectures. If, however, we recorded lectures students would feel like their views could be taken out of the classroom and manipulated out of context. Lectures would no longer be a safe space for discussion. There have been several instances of this too, leading to students being sued by lecturers and classmates for taking material and presenting in uncharitable ways outside the classroom. One recent example – involving a politics lecture regarding Trump can be seen here. We can already see that this issue stops any generalisation on recorded lectures being made across the whole university.

The second issue is that it would inevitably effect attendance. Students are likely to adopt a “I don’t need to go, I’ll watch it later” attitude. Naturally, some may say ‘why does this matter if that’s how they learn’? The issue is that this approach substantially limits discussion in class as there are less people present to discuss their views and challenge ideas and concepts. The lecture environment works in a unique and distinct way to encourage discussion in such a way that cannot be transferred to recorded lectures. This issue is certainly not exclusive to Philosophy: it would apply to much of the humanities, law, psychology, education, human geography and so forth.

Some people may just reply ‘but we would only use them to revise – it would not change anything’. As published by LSE, statistically this is shown not to be the case. 83% of students use recorded lectures because they missed class – with only 17% using them exclusively as a reinforcement or revision tool. Of this 83%, 15% openly admitted the recorded lectures made them “not want to get up for lectures”, and this is only the percentage that openly admitted it. Furthermore, for those that constantly used recorded lectures – suggesting they are not attending the actual lectures – the LSE study also found their average grades to decrease by roughly 11 marks. Some, admittedly, suggest this just shows those not understanding watch them, but the strength of the correlation between lacked attendance and recorded lecture viewing suggests otherwise. Or maybe more acutely, those watching recorded lectures are more likely to struggle to understand content due to the possibility of asking questions being removed. Either way, it seems clear that recorded lectures, despite beliefs, have a negative impact on education and achievement across many areas of the university.

There are also a series of practical issues. Firstly, lecture recordings, from my discussions with lecturers, make them stick to a stagnate teaching style which avoids incorporating discussion, questions or simply moving around the lecture rooms. Maybe this could be solved by audio rather than video recordings being used? But then the people this is most meant to help – like those dealing with complex equations – will find these near useless. Even on the practical level, then, no universal solution arises and instead further problems are caused (none of which mentions the cost and staff time recorded lectures would require across the whole university).

Recorded lectures should thus not be introduced as a general policy across the university not only due to practical issues, but the complex issues of sensitivity and decrease in discussion quality across many subject areas of the university.

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I'm a third-year Philosophy and History student whose interests (outside my love for Tudor history) pertain to issues on equality, sex and moral ethics and education. I'm also Philosophy Academic President 2016-17. @russb005

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