Time to broaden how we talk about lecture capture

Discussions on the use of lecture capture frequently start with, or turn to, the question of whether there is any adverse impact on lecture attendance. This question has also been the subject of a substantial number of research papers and overall there appears to be no systematic ill effect. This is not to say that there is never an impact – some studies have found that the provision of lecture recordings reduces attendance by 10 – 15%. However, there are more studies that do not find the two are related and reviews of the literature conclude that, taken as a whole, the research does not support the view that recording lectures impacts attendance.

Despite the evidence, the relationship between lecture capture and attendance remains the key pedagogical concern of academic staff. It is important to note the caveat of pedagogical concern – increasingly the sticking points with lecture capture are policy issues regarding intellectual property and the use (and potential misuse) of recordings that are another subject for another article. However, when it comes to attendance there is clearly a disconnect between evidence and opinion that is proving difficult to overcome.

From my research and my experiences talking to lecturers and policy makers on both sides of the fence, I believe that one of the contributing factors to this impasse is the way in which we talk about and conduct research on lecture capture.

Whilst there has been much excellent research, a large proportion of it takes a descriptive approach (I include my initial work in this category) rather than embedding the design and interpretation within a wider theoretical framework. The result of this is that the pedagogical implications and potential of lecture capture can feel disconnected from existing educational and cognitive theories of learning. That is, how and when students use lecture recordings is often discussed as separate from their other learning strategies and behaviours. I believe that this has contributed towards the debate stalling at the binary question of whether to record or not, rather than considering lecture capture as part of a wider conversation about teaching and learning.

My colleagues and I have adopted the framework of self-regulated learning for our continuing research as we hold that it provides a comprehensive theoretical basis with which to examine how to maximise the pedagogical effectiveness of lecture recordings. Put simply, self-regulated learning suggests that effective learners are those that take control of their own learning through forethought and preparation, the use of a varied set of deep learning strategies, and self-reflection, as well as being influenced by motivational factors like self-efficacy. Viewed through this lens, lecture attendance becomes a question of effort regulation and ensuring an appropriate environment for learning. Whether a student watches targeted sections of the bits they don’t understand or mindlessly plays the full thing speaks to metacognition of their own learning. If a learner uses the recordings to add to their notes and pauses the video to add in information from additional sources rather than watching passively, this encompasses elaboration and critical thinking.

Crucially, self-regulation is malleable and there is a large literature investigating the effectiveness of interventions and how to design teaching activities to create and environment in which self-regulation is encouraged. By situating our discussion of lecture capture in this framework, we not only avoid the accusation that we allow technology to drive pedagogy, but we can draw upon this work to use lecture recordings to promote self-regulated behaviours more generally. By doing so, we can also help manage the well-meaning but erroneous concerns that recording lectures is a new threat to education,  rather than a technological manifestation of an age-old problem: how to encourage students to take control of their learning.

Emily Nordmann will be giving a keynote presentation on this topic during the Media & Learning Conference on Thursday 6 June.


Emily Nordmann

School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, UK