As more faculty are recording and uploading every class lecture, IT leaders must advocate for quality over quantity—or face the consequences
A year after higher education pivoted to remote instruction, video learning remains at the forefront of teaching and learning. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an advice piece in which the professor-author describes his journey to recording and sharing class lectures for student review. He refutes the classic faculty fear that posting recordings will empower students to skip class and lists the benefits for absent students, language learners, and any student who needs to hear something one more time to get it.
As a former instructional designer, I was happy to see an actionable, evidence-based argument supporting student-centered learning. Plenty of educational research validates the author’s observations that, overwhelmingly, students use available lecture recordings to review content and prepare for assessments and not necessarily to skip class.1 However, as a higher education analyst, I know that practice policies related to lecture capture and video storage are more complicated than the article suggests. They deserve more thorough consideration than many faculty are giving it.2
On the face of it, recording and storing classroom lectures sounds good, for all the reasons mentioned in the advice column. However, pedagogical experts know those classroom recordings are not necessarily the best things for student learning, and long-term video storage can be problematic in its own right.
Classroom lecture recordings are not a pedagogical panacea.
The research promoting classroom-recordings-as-a-resource exists in a small pedagogical world where lecture recordings are the only tools available to complement in-person lectures. If that were true, then it follows that anything is better than nothing.
However, instructional designers will tell you that lecture recordings are not enough and, quite frankly, often less helpful than text-based alternatives. Language learners usually prefer text-based lecture supplements because they include word spellings. Text-based options are also more convenient for students with unreliable internet access or limited technology. Finally, students seeking clarification benefit from keyword-searchable transcripts, study guides, additional examples, and alternative representations of the content. The idea is to create online resources that are different, complementary, and conceptually equivalent to in-person lecture materials. A lecture recording is just a carbon copy.
It is hard to produce consistently high-quality in-class video recordings that students want to view. Consider the following challenges.
- Audio quality. Even dedicated lecture-capture equipment can be challenged by student participation or professors who move around the room, especially if they forget to repeat student questions into a microphone.
- Interactive sessions. A quality in-class learning experience typically involves fluid movement between whole, small-group, and individual learning activities that do not translate well to lecture recording unless significant post-production editing occurs.
- Accessibility. Classroom recordings are only as clear as the quality of their captions and transcripts, which is challenging to maintain in the presence of multiple speakers or garbled audio.
- Needle in a haystack. Most students who use lecture recordings to review content do not need to hear the entire lecture. Unedited classroom lecture recordings can leave students frustrated as they fast-forward and rewind, looking for just the right moment.
Long-term video storage at scale strains campus resources.
Unless significantly compressed, video recordings take a lot of cloud storage space. Last year many institutions were hit with unexpected bills from LMS providers because they used the LMS to store the class recordings from remote instruction. These institutions added video content management systems to the academic technology stack, negotiated additional storage from video conferencing providers, or simply paid the bills.
Video content management systems are a good idea—not only for storage but for optimizing the searchability, quality, and learner experience. However, as our dependence on video learning grows—and it will—cloud storage becomes a sustainability concern. Long-term storage of every class lecture on campus will only add to the problem.
Mandatory lecture capture raises IP concerns.
Even before COVID-related closures, some institutions had initiated mandatory lecture capture and storage. Some faculty are beginning to question institutional motivations, especially when their IP policies distinguish between presented and recorded lecture content and identify all recorded content as institutional property. Most current protections for faculty IP are founded on academic convention rather than copyright law, and situations like the dead professor teaching online signal a reckoning on the horizon. While potential opposition is never a reason to avoid policy change, institutional leaders should anticipate and address faculty IP concerns before enacting mandatory lecture capture.3
Recommendations for IT Leaders
As other campus leaders and faculty promote routine lecture capture and storage, IT leaders need to be a part of the conversation—not only to work out logistics but also to support pedagogically effective, sustainable, and transparent policies and practices. Here are some places to start.
Advocate for instructional design teams.
Instructional designers know that stored classroom recordings are rarely the most effective tool for student success. Support their work with faculty to design asynchronous content that can better reinforce in-person sessions. If faculty choose to record and store their classroom lectures anyway, instructional designers help faculty optimize production and leverage technologies like the video content management system to create the best learner experience possible.
Optimize the academic technology stack.
Instructional designers and faculty are more likely to create quality asynchronous content with (or instead of) classroom recordings if they have access to the necessary learning technologies. Authoring tools and video content management systems help faculty produce engaging, interactive content.
If stored lecture recordings are the campus norm, optimize the technologies used to support them. Accessible players, video search capability, and content organization via optical recognition technologies impact usability and learner experience. Video captions and transcripts should also be top of mind—especially since quality transcripts can double as study guides.
Record, don’t store.
Finally, remind your colleagues that, in some cases, a quality transcript to accompany presentation slides is worth more than the classroom lecture recording. Unlike video recordings, transcripts are accessible, keyword searchable, easy to review offline, and inexpensive to store. Keeping a video recording just long enough to create a transcript (and, incidentally, for absent students to view) may be the solution everyone needs.
1 The same research indicates a statistically significant number of students will stop attending lecture if they have access to recordings. However, the meaning of this finding (and whether or not it matters for learning outcomes) is a different conversation altogether. Not every in-person class session is worth attending, and not every student has to be seated in a classroom to learn.
2 Oh, the irony. In my last blog post, I argued against lecture capture as an antiquated term that undermines the technological affordances and pedagogical possibilities of video production, editing, and management applications. However, I use it here for its only legitimate purpose: to describe the specific act of capturing and storing in-person classroom lectures.
3 Thanks to Sarah Silverman for reminding me of the IP issues surrounding lecture capture in a recent Twitter conversation.