Lecture capture – don’t fight it, feel it

Lecture capture would be a strange choice of hill for me to die on since I work at a university that doesn’t do lectures, and have no experience of it. But Sheila MacNeill started a twitter conversation about it, and I think it captures some broader ed tech issues, so here I am, weighing in with my ill-formed opinions.

  • Does it benefit students? – students seem to like lecture capture. The evidence on whether it impacts on attendance is mixed, but it is useful for revision, for those who struggle to take notes for whatever reason, and to go over complicated topics. So in general, the basis is that learners who are in a lecture based environment, like it as an additional service. This should be the main factor.
  • Understand the relationship with employment – Melissa Highton has talked about how recent political issues have brought ed tech like lecture capture to the fore. Unions have a role to play here in not resisting its implementation, but in ensuring that when implemented it is not used to undermine strike action or impact upon employment.
  • It reinforces lectures – yes, possibly and I’ve seen this as an argument against it. But unless your institution is implementing a direct strategy to move away from lectures, then lecture capture is the least of the factors. Unless estates are converting lecture theatres to different types of learning spaces and there is extensive staff development under way to move away from it, then assume lectures are around for a while yet, and lecture capture makes no difference either way.
  • It’s not as good as bespoke content – producing specific online learning material is probably better, but at scale this becomes difficult. Some staff will do it, but it is a considerable extra burden, which would require significant resource to realise across an institution. Also, there may be some value in the lecture having an experiential element – students will recall that the lecturer moved over here when they said this, and this was the point where they were distracted in the actual lecture, etc.
  • Use it as a stepping stone – like the VLE it is likely that lecture capture will end up being an end point in itself, rather than a step on the path to more interesting practice. With this in mind, ed tech people should work hard at the start to make it part of a bigger programme, for instance running development alongside for the type of bespoke content mentioned above, or thinking about flipped learning, or making the lecture a collaborative resource, etc.
  • It’s boring – we should be doing more exciting things in education! This is true, but it’s not an either/or, lecture capture is useful to students here and now. Boring but useful is ok too.
  • Evaluation is key – people have lots of views about lecture capture, often based on beliefs or anecdote. So it’s important to evaluate it in your context, particularly for questions such as “does it impact attendance?”, “do students use it?”, “how do students use it?”, “do students who use it perform better?”, etc.
  • It’s not a replacement – some of the objections are that it is a misuse of technology, that if you are producing online learning content then pointing a camera at it is like filming a play to produce a movie. But this is to misunderstand how students use it I think. For them it is an additional resource which complements the lecture, they may miss the occasional one knowing they can catch up, but in general they still value lectures. It’s like students who record the audio of a lecture, they now have a back up.
  • We like it – after being at ALT-C last week, lots of people commented how much they appreciated the keynotes and other talks being live streamed. We didn’t say that live streaming prevented a move away from the conventional keynote, or that it reduced attendance, or undermined labour. So, if we value it, why shouldn’t students?

I appreciate that it’s a complex issue, and no technology should be seen as inevitable, but there is a certain logic to lecture capture. As we found in the OOFAT report, technologies that link closely to university core functions tend to get adopted. Lecture capture is about as close as you can get. In this case educational technologists can help it be implemented in a more sustainable, interesting and sensitive manner. So, in the words of Primal Scream, don’t fight it, feel it.

[UPDATE: Here’s a few references people pointed me to on Twitter, giving a mixed picture of effectiviness:

Witton, G. (2017), The value of capture: Taking an alternative approach to using lecture capture technologies for increased impact on student learning and engagement. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48: 1010–1019. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12470

Edwards, M.R. & Clinton, M.E. A study exploring the impact of lecture capture availability and lecture capture usage on student attendance and attainment. High Educ (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0275-9

Nordmann, E., & Mcgeorge, P. (2018, May 1). Lecture capture in higher education: time to learn from the learners. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/ux29v]


  • Rebecca Ferguson

    THere’s also an accessibility element. For students whose physical or mental health means they have to miss some lectures, lecture capture is an essential tool for keeping up with their course. One student with depression and anxiety, catching up with several weeks of lectures via lecture capture asked me what happened to students like them back when I was an undergraduate, before this technology was in use. My answer was that there was no workaround and those students would have fallen behind and eventually dropped out.

    • mweller

      Good point Rebecca, I was thinking more of those in the lecture theatre who might struggle with note taking, but as you say, there are some who won’t even be in the hall to start with for various reasons.

      • Christopher Crossley

        Perhaps lecture capture would help the H880 persona, Minji, who suffers from depression and anxiety? (For those not in the know, H880 is an Open University module entitled Technology-enhanced learning: foundations and futures, for which Martin and Rebecca are module team members.)

        • Matyas Baan

          It would, I believe. This is a great example for how personas can help with assessing a technology from perspectives other than our own. Personally, I wouldn’t find it very helpful, but that’s just me. And being an educator shouldn’t be about thinking about my own preferences as a learner.

        • mweller

          Hi Christopher – yes, good connection to H880! There are lots of students for whom lecture capture is enormously useful. It is not uncomplicated though, and there are negatives to it also. I think the approach at the Uni of Edinburgh has been the right one in deploying it.

          • Mark Allenby

            What strikes me here are two key questions.

            1) What’s the point/purpose of recording the lecture?
            2) How is that point/purpose communicated to the learners?

            It is relatively easy to capture a lecture, either as audio (I-tunesU style) or video. And from an institutional point of view, it can look good – “see how accessible we are!” But without clear thoughts around the purpose of the capture and a clear way to communicate this to the learners, it is more like the Emperor’s New Clothes than effective pedagogy.

  • Robert O'Toole

    That’s a great summary. Thanks Martin.

    I’ve been thinking about how to use lecture capture for my Design Thinking undergrad module, starting in January – which as an academic technologist is a case of me thinking about what advice I would give to me (the lecturer).

    First consideration is that (at Warwick) it is cost free and painless. So I can easily have lectures recorded and pushed into Moodle as a back-stop, in case a student is ill or can’t get to campus. And i’m entirely comfortable with that. The lectures will be very interactive, so in no way is lecture capture a replacement. But it helps.

    Second consideration is that, in the case of my module (and there are many like it, how many we don’t know), lecture capture is no good as a revision tool towards the end of the module, because there’s little point rewatching the lectures for revision purposes. The students can’t get much value from “box-setting” or “binge watching” the lectures at the end, or watching a lecture on its own out of context. The reason for this is very significant.

    It’s not an “accumulative” module – the kind where each week we pour another load of content into the kids heads, then move on to another load of content (which you might argue is very bad practice, but might be appropriate in a smaller number of cases). The lectures build on each other. The weekly workshops and tasks transform the student’s understanding of what we do in the lecture. It’s a continuous transformative synthesis that builds, and through which the students have to make their own synthesis in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Hopefully by week 4 they would rewatch the lecture from week 2 and just find it simplistic and frankly a bit boring.

    Perhaps we can say their are two kinds of module/course: accumulative, and transformative (is there a better word). The latter is might be more important, because it is pedagogically far more powerful.

    But hang on a minute, I’m not thinking that lecture capture only has the minimal value for my kind of module (the back-stop). It could do a lot more. What I’m after is an approach in which we (me and the students) can more actively use the recordings. I want them to remix, mash-up and critique together. That would be really good. But what I’m finding is that the current lecture capture tools just aren’t good enough. They can do it. Echo 360 is trying hard. But it looks like usability is just not good enough yet. Even topping and tailing a recording is unintuitive for me as an academic technologist. I suspect my students will have their own technologies that can do much better (at Warwick, and considering the course i’m teaching, it will be majority MacBook). They will probably also have experience with YouTube tools. But we’re not letting our recording system interface with those tools.

    So I suspect my academic tech self can’t help my lecturer self as well as should be the case.

    • mweller

      Hi Robert, sorry your comment went to spam. The case you make about it not working for certain pedagogic approaches is a good one. Your musings on how to make better use of it are worthwhile – it’s the case that we need to be building on it continually. I think there is value for students in revision, even in your case as it reminds the student of what they did and thought at the time – it can act as an experiential trigger at least.

      • Robert O’Toole

        Yes. And the more recent developments that allow students to add comments and bookmarks onto lecture recordings are especially valuable for this use. More active listening/watching needs to be enabled and encouraged.

  • Sam

    This blog post in response to the Edwards & Clinton (2018) article may be of interest… http://talesfromtheteachingtrack.blogspot.com/2018/06/some-thoughts-on-edwards-clinton-2018.html

    Also, geographers have been getting exercised on the issue of compulsory lecture capture, for example – here’s Edinburgh geographers arguing against it: https://juliecupples.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/default-lecture-capture-in-defense-of-academic-freedom-safety-and-well-being/

    • mweller

      Thanks Sam, some good points in the Edinburgh post, although I think it plays the ‘we know best for students’ line a bit too strongly – I’m not sure many academics really know what it’s like to be an undergrad these days. The need to deal with complex, possibly contentious content point is a strong one though I think.

  • Juliette

    I’ve had some long discussion with my mother about this – she has decided not to have her lectures recorded. One of her big concerns is that it discourages students to ‘keep up with the course’ – if they know the lectures are there to watch any time, it’s tempting for them to get more and more behind. It’d be interesting to know if there is any evidence for or against this.

    • Robert O’Toole

      Yes, that’s a real issue. It very much depends on the type of teaching – if it’s the kind of course in which every lecture builds on the last, and there’s a chance that a student who misses a lecture will not understand the later lecture[s], then that is really a problem. However, there’s also the case where a student misses such a lecture through no fault of their own – in which case having the lecture recorded is a good thing.

      My suggested solution is to use a “nudge” at the end of every week – ask the student to do some small action to confirm that they have seen the lecture in one form or another. 99% of them will not lie! And it will encourage them to be more diligent. The act could be as simple as ticking a box in the VLE, or it could be something more, like writing a short personal response to the lecture.

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