Debate For: All Lectures Should Be Recorded

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Lecture recording has always been something that has been discussed ever since we gained the technology to actually make it happen. The topic has been brought up frequently at the SSLC (Student Staff Liaison Committee) meetings that I’ve attended, just to be shot down by worries that lecturers would just be lecturing to a camera, while students would be free to lie in (recovering from their hangovers) and peruse lectures at their leisure, instead of actually turning up.

In this article I will attempt to address these issues and say why we need to have lecture recording rolled out across the university. I also talked to Dr Rob Maunder, a lecturer in ECS who has been recording his lectures for 5 years now, for his opinion on the subject.

So where to begin? First of all, I should expand on what I actually mean by lecture recording. I believe that lectures should be recorded digitally using a microphone, and a capture of the projector input, ideally accompanied by a video of the white board (or black board for the maths students out there!) to record important notes and examples. This system would automatically start recording lectures according to the university timetable, so lecturers need not worry about whether the recording system is working or not. These recordings would then be uploaded to Blackboard automatically.

The benefits to having such a system are obvious; the main one being that students would be able to access material covered in lectures which they would only have had in the form of their hand-written notes (or otherwise just some vague recollection of showing up). This is especially important when revising, as students can peruse lectures at their own pace and fill in any gaps in their notes. Another massive benefit would be that those with disabilities such as dyslexia, hearing impairments, and other impairments preventing them from taking notes effectively, would find this really helpful – especially when the government has cut £30 million of funding to the Disabled Students’ Allowance, asking universities instead to provide the funding for note-takers and other essential services and equipment. One more positive side effect of this may be huge dives in cases of fresher’s flu as students could actually not attend lectures if they are ill and not have to miss important lectures*!

*unsubstantiated claim – to be taken with a grain of salt.

This leads to why we do not currently have lecture recordings being mandatory yet, even with massive backing from the majority of students. Essentially there are three main reasons given by lecturers as to why they oppose lecture recording:

It will encourage students to skip physical lectures and instead study from home. To this I would reiterate what Dr Maunder said to me: he has never seen a drop in attendance since he started recording. He also teaches the same cohort at 9am just before another lecturer takes over to teach them, and has not seen extra students turning up to the 10am lecture. I believe that this is common sense really – why would anyone pay £9,000 a year just to watch a pre-recorded lecture? You would lose out on so much, such as the ability to ask questions (or the ability to just look confused until the lecturer catches on and re-phrases what they just said). There have also been many studies on this topic which show that there has been little to no effect found of lecture recordings affecting attendance.

There are concerns that recordings may be used for use in academic performance reviews. The university should declare that this would not be the case, as I don’t think that lecture recordings could even be used effectively for this purpose. The recordings would never be a substitute for attending the lecture physically and I don’t see why we can’t just continue assessing lecturers the same way we do now even with this new system in place.

There are also some concerns that recordings could be used to replace lecturers. This would never work as students would be far less likely to engage with a video, and it really goes against many of the reasons many students attend physical universities. I believe that the recordings would be best used as a supplement to physical lectures.

I also decided to do a bit of research and found that many universities already offer automatic lecture recording such as Loughborough, Warwick, and York. I also found that Edinburgh, Oxford, and Sheffield are rolling out lecture recording services from the 2017/18 academic year onwards (Southampton really needs to catch up!). Students definitely find these services extremely helpful – Dr Maunder showed me the comments made from his module surveys and the consensus was extremely positive towards having access to lecture recordings, with many students saying that they wanted more lecturers to do the same.

It’s clear that there are so many benefits to having a lecture recording system in place. We as students would have so much to gain from being able to catch up on missed lectures. We would be able to review lectures to aid revision, re-visit anything that was a bit confusing the first time round, and catch up on missed lectures due to illness or personal reasons. The good news is that the university are already taking steps to make lecture recording more widespread, but at the moment it is at the discretion of individual lecturers on whether or not to record lectures.  So it is up to us as students to put more pressure on our university to make lecture recording mandatory for all lecturers, either through petitions or through our union. Only then will we be able to see recorded lectures as the norm at university.

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Part time engineer, part time animal activist.

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