Lecture capture: what can we learn from the research?

This week I presented at the Chartered Association of Business Schools Learning, Teaching and Student Experience 2016 conference in Birmingham. My talk was on the literature review I had done with Carol Robinson at Loughborough University to find out more about how Lecture Capture is being used by Higher Education institutions around the world, and what impact, if any, it is having on student learning.

My slides are at slideshare.net/witthaus/lecture-capture-what-can-we-learn-from-the-recent-literature, and the original paper is at tinyurl.com/lecture-capture-lboro (opens as a Word doc). Because the original paper was published under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) licence, I will include the Executive Summary in this blog post. But first I’ll give a brief summary of some of the responses to my presentation from participants in the audience.

  • Claire Hoy, from Sunderland University, shared some fascinating findings from her PhD research that had included looking at the emotions of students and lecturers when using lecture capture. I’m looking forward to reading publications from her on this topic.
  • At lunch after the presentation, I was delighted to meet one of the contributors to our literature review, Prof. Caroline Elliott, whose investigation into the use of lecture capture at Lancaster University was referred to in our study.
  • One person said that a very popular lecturer at their institution had begun using lecture capture, and there was a dramatic drop in attendance at his lectures. His lecture style had also become more stilted, as he had to stand in one fixed position throughout the lecture. In this instance, it seemed that lecture capture had not added value to the learning experience for students. Others in the audience commented that they had not experienced any significant drop in attendance, and that it was unnecessary for the lecturer to remain within sight of the camera, as long as the audio was clear and the slides were visible.
  • There was one particularly thought-provoking comment from an academic who said that some of his students, particularly international learners, had developed a study style that involved rote-learning from lecture recordings, transcribing the lecture word-for-word and then regurgitating that text back in exams or assignments. There was a brief discussion about the need to include study skills support for these kinds of students.

The executive summary of the full literature review follows. I will be interested in any comments from others who have looked into the use of lecture capture in their own or others’ teaching in Higher Education.

Executive Summary

This report was written for the Centre for Academic Practice at Loughborough University in order to provide a snapshot of how lecture capture (LC) is currently being used in higher education. It draws from literature published internationally between 2012 and mid-2015. The aim was not to provide an exhaustive review of the relevant literature, but rather to provide indicative findings that could inform day-to-day practice in a higher education institution.

It should be noted that, in many of the studies reviewed, data was gathered by self-reporting of students, and not all students responded to surveys, therefore providing only a partial picture. Also, most of the studies were conducted within specific programmes, mostly within the STEM subjects, and so we should be cautious about making generalisations from the findings.

The first finding was that there appeared to be a wide range in the percentage of students who used LC, from as low as 21% to as high as 100% of cohort members. A few studies found that usage increased when the LC recordings were “enriched” with additional online materials, and some found increased usage when LC was made available in formats that lent themselves to mobile access. There were some examples of different usage patterns across different years of study, with first-year students either watching more LCs than students in later years (possibly due to the novelty effect of the technology) or watching less (possibly because they had not yet settled into a “serious” study routine). Very little information was found in the literature regarding advice given to students about the use of LC by lecturers.

There appears to be a great deal of variety in the manner in which students use LC. LC is most often used for revision and note taking. Almost all respondents claimed to use LC as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, lectures. Most students use LC selectively, choosing specific sections of videos to watch. A small number of students watch entire LC recordings – these are often (but not always) speakers of English as a second or foreign language or students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. There is tentative evidence from one study to show that LC is most efficient for learners when the recording contains only the slides and the lecturer’s voiceover (without the video of the lecturer) – this is because the video of the presenter reduces the amount of space available for the slides.

With regard to whether LC has any impact on student learning, the findings here are varied. Some studies found little or no evidence of any impact. Two examples were found of the provision of LC apparently having a negative impact on a minority of students: in these cases, students who used LC as a substitute for attendance at lectures were found to be at a severe disadvantage in terms of their final marks; moreover, those students who attended very few live lectures did not close the gap by watching more LC online. In one study it was found that the quality of student interaction in class dropped when LC was introduced, as students were reluctant to speak up when being recorded. By contrast, in another case it was reported that students’ contributions in class were of a better quality when the class was being recorded.

There were several situations in which a positive relationship was found between the use of LC and student learning outcomes. Students perceive the greatest value for LC in courses that move quickly, rely heavily on lectures, and for which the information provided via lectures is not readily available from any other sources, as well as courses which emphasise the assimilation of information rather than the development of applied skills (an important distinction in medicine and related subjects, where many of these studies took place). LC was also found to have a positive effect when the teacher used it as a tool to “flip” the classroom and asked students to view the LC before coming to class. In several of the studies, students who were non-native speakers of English emphasised the value of LC to them, and this sentiment was echoed by learners with dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

A positive relationship was also identified between learners who used LC and certain approaches to learning. In one paper (Brooks et al, 2014), learners were categorised according to their usage patterns (i.e. how often they viewed the LCs, and at which points in the semester), and it was found that students categorised as “High Activity” outperformed their peers by up to 16.45%, while students in other clusters obtained more or less the same grades as each other. Other studies concluded that there was a positive effect only for those students who use LC as a supplement to regular lecture attendance, and that LC appeared to be correlated with “deep” learning as opposed to “surface” learning.

The overwhelming majority students, when asked, say they do not view recorded lectures as a replacement for attending live lectures. This finding was borne out by several studies which included evidence from analytics on lecture attendance and LC views. In one case, increased attendance at live lectures was reported, on the basis that learners felt more confident about their grasp of the subject matter from having viewed the LCs. However, in several studies, lower attendance at live lectures was found to be a direct result of implementing LC. There is some discussion in the literature about contributing factors here, especially around the notion that learners who skip lectures tend to be “surface learners” (as opposed to “deep learners”, and that these learners do not generally compensate for missing lectures by watching the LC.

A few examples were found of lecturers changing their teaching style as a result of the introduction of LC. These generally revolved around the concept of the so-called flipped classroom (teachers providing lecture content for students to read or view before coming to class, and changing their teaching style towards more active, learner-centred learning in the classroom). Other opportunities for innovating in teaching related to the use of LC by lecturers for reflection on their teaching style, and the creation of additional materials to support learners’ independent learning from LC.

A few further points arose out of the literature that are worth highlighting. It is clear from the comments made by students throughout the literature that the provision of LC is perceived as strongly enhancing their learning experience. There is evidence from one study that if LC is mentioned as being an integral part of the learning and teaching approach in marketing brochures or on programme websites, it may influence students’ choice of programme – or even institution to study at. One study also found that LC was particularly useful for students on work placements.

Certain recommendations arose out of the literature – sometimes implicitly. For example, there is a gap in the literature regarding the nature of the advice given by lecturers to students. This might be especially important in the case of first year students who seem to be less consistent in their viewing patterns. Guidance given by lecturers to learners as to how to make effective use of LC may help here. In addition, at-risk students can be identified through a combination of tracking views on the LC system and tracking attendance in class, and automated alerts could be sent to them with advice on recommended behavioural changes, or information about support mechanisms available.

Another important consideration for institutions is the growth in mobile access to LC by students, which suggests that institutional platforms and tools used to deliver LC to learners need to be mobile-friendly.

The paper concludes with responses from the literature to a number of statements from academics in an earlier survey at Loughborough University, where concerns were expressed about the use of LC. It is clear that lecturers need to be supported in the adoption and implementation of LC – not just from a technological point of view but also in terms of their questions about potential copyright infringement, their worries about the potential drop in attendance if LC is introduced, and any other concerns they have about the possible impact of LC on the learning and teaching experience. For LC to have the greatest possible positive impact on learning for students, lecturers, managers and support staff need to jointly create a learning environment that is conducive to effective use of LC and that limits the risks.

For the full paper, see tinyurl.com/lecture-capture-lboro.


About Gabi Witthaus

Learning and Teaching Facilitator for School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University; also consultant (Art of E-learning). Previously Research Associate at University of Leicester (Beyond Distance Research Alliance and Institute of Learning Innovation); Distance Learning Manager at Bradford University School of Management. Masters in Training and Development (USQ, Australia); Masters in English Education (Wits University, South Africa). Currently undertaking PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement through Lancaster University.
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3 Responses to Lecture capture: what can we learn from the research?

  1. Pingback: Lecture capture: what can we learn from the research? - e-Learning Feeds

  2. MJ says:

    This is an excellent meta-study, and a clearly-written report, which addresses the concerns of teaching staff about lecture capture. Many thanks for sharing.


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