Lectures: To Record or Not to Record?

Ellie Wright and Esther Kearney look closely at the debate on whether lectures should be recorded or not

As technology advances, different methods of teaching are becoming available to universities across the country. Impact’s Ellie Wright and Esther Kearney have gone at the heart of one of the university’s most heated debates around this: should lectures be recorded or not?

Many people can relate to the suffering involved in waking up for a 9am lecture. Possibly you’ve hit Crisis hard the night before? Or, maybe you’re still suffering from the dreaded Freshers’ flu. All in all, the idea of staying in bed is far more appealing than dragging your tired body onto campus for your lecture. In this sort of situation, a recorded lecture would really provide some comfort.

So, what should you do? A) Stay in bed and worry about what you’re missing Or, B) go along to what seems like another pointless lecture, where you’re spoken at for an hour – without taking a lot of the information in. One moment you’re listening to Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the next, seriously considering buying your lecturer a new tie – that doesn’t involve the colour “mustard”.

For some students, missing a lecture isn’t a problem because they are recorded and posted online to access at any time throughout the academic year. However, not all degrees get this luxury.

“The pressure of not attending a lecture is automatically lifted”

Recording lectures has many positive effects to students. It provides a re-usable learning tool during critical periods of revision, and even acts as a safety net when you’re feeling unwell. The pressure of not attending a lecture is automatically lifted, and instead of worrying about what work you’ve missed, you can worry about whether your chicken will defrost in time for dinner.

Lectures are a form of passive learning, where the lecturer speaks, clicks to the next slide, and speaks again – rarely engaging the room full of students that have turned up to be inspired. Research proves that active participation is the most effective way of learning. Close attention is lost after 10-20 minutes[1] (and that’s not allowing for 3 hours of sleep and a hangover). This prompts poor note-taking: either because the lecturer is talking too fast or because of a focus-lapse. Either way, note-taking is self-taught and doesn’t allow time for those who are struggling with the fast pace.

“Recordings allow for an informal environment, with the chance to rewind back if something is confusing or attention is lost”

What’s more, relying on three pages of A4 scribbles during exam season doesn’t do anything to calm the nerves. However, recordings allow for an informal environment, with the chance to rewind back if something is confusing or attention is lost, and therefore help compile a much better set of notes.

But the real question is, who essentially becomes laziest because of recorded lectures? Lecturers or students? Generically, we feel obliged to say students, because in most ways, it is true. We would much rather have the option of sitting in bed with a cup of tea, listening to the lecture online instead of behind a desk in the lecture room, concentrating hard on word for word details.

“Skills such as: note-taking, organisation and time-keeping are all lost by encouraging this lazy lifestyle”

This automatically gives students the unspoken option to “opt out” from lectures, and as attendance drops, depersonalised learning becomes a real issue for the university. Why pay £9,000 a year to listen to a video recording as a primary source of learning? What experience are you gaining from this? Skills such as: note-taking, organisation and time-keeping are all lost by encouraging this lazy lifestyle. Online recording allows lecturers to easily reuse their material from previous years, instead of actively researching to find new information.

It is difficult to decide whether recording our lectures will develop our learning. Admittedly, the educational institution should change overtime to meet the evolving needs of its students. But despite the recordings of lectures being an advantage to many students, are students really gaining the most out of University education this way?

Esther Kearney sat down with the Student’s Union Education Officer, Cassie O’ Boyle, to hear her opinions on the debate over whether lectures should be recorded or not.

Do you think lectures should be recorded?

“Absolutely, a 100 %. And there is a tonne of reasons why.

Obviously, the first one being revision. For students that have a disability, whether that’s mental health or an accessibility issue, it means that if they have to miss a lecture, or even if they go to their lecture, knowing that they have that lecture recording to catch up and go back over is vital.

Also for students that don’t speak English as their first language, a lot of our insight shows that many international students go to their lectures and listen but find it difficult to understand everything the lecturer says. Therefore, being able to stop and start it and go over it to understand everything a bit better is key.

Essentially, there are so many more reasons to why these things should be recorded than what people may initially think.”

Do you feel attendance will drop if all lectures are recorded?

“There are research papers that have been looked into, and as far as I’ve read and understood there is no solid evidence that lecture capture has an impact on attendance. I’ve visited other universities and recently went to a conference in Leicester and they haven’t seen a drop in attendance and they’ve mandated lecture capture across the whole university.

I think there is a wider issue around attendance that is unrelated to the learning resources that we use. I think if you’re not going to attend a lecture then you’re just not going to, regardless of whether it’s recorded or not.

Obviously, there are outliers to the rule and we can’t speak for everybody. I personally don’t think it affects attendance and if you look at schools and departments that have been doing it for years they haven’t had issues in attendance dropping. I spoke to a lecturer in Economics last year and his attendance actually went up when he started recording them.

So, I think there is a concern, but I think it’s a wider concern on attendance in general and how to monitor it than it is about lecture capture.”

Are all course lectures now being recorded or are there still some that aren’t?

“After the campaign last year, Beth and the university came to the decision that we would be opt-in for this year. This means that we will strongly encourage to use pilots across different schools and departments to measure viewing statistics, when people viewed recordings etc. They’ve also put out/are putting out a staff survey to gather feedback on reasons why lecturers might not be recording them.

So, we’re doing all that this year and then moving to an opt-out system next year which means all schools and departments across the university will have to do it within reason. If lecturers decide to opt-out then we’ve come to the understanding that they’ll have to provide other resources e.g. videos that will be put up on Moodle.”

Why are some lecturers against the idea of recording lectures?

“I think there’s issues around the way lecturers teach. Lecturers are concerned with things like if they have to stand behind a lectern because some lecturers prefer to move around. As a university we need to make sure that we have the technology to accommodate them, such as roaming mics and things that need to be in place to cater to their style of teaching.

Previously, there have been issues around training and understanding how to use the system. The IS department are now providing training for all academics. There have been issues before with the microphone and recordings not working and IS are very aware of this and are working on it. This is a reason why they probably weren’t recorded before.

There were also issues surrounding performance rights and ownership of work.  In other institutions there have been some cases where students have taken copies of audio or video footage and made them into other things i.e. making a meme. In other institutions this has raised issues of who has access to this information and what can people do with it?”


Ellie Wright and Esther Kearney

With thanks to Cassie O’Boyle, The University of Nottingham SU Education Officer


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[1] http://theconversation.com/uk


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