Written by Dominic Whaley
The Higher Education sector of the United Kingdom has seen vast changes occur in its cultural make up throughout the dawn of the 21st century. From the advent of the internet, to the increasing move away from physical media and the ability to record lectures much has changed. It is the latter of which that is the focus of this piece.
Lecture capture systems represent a historic point in the nature of education. Whereas before students were limited by the fact that physically attending lectures was the primary method used by institutions to disseminate knowledge, this is no longer the case. Traditionally this was seen as the optimum method of instruction, however, a recent trend among education specialists is the growing popularity of the “flipped classroom” or “flipped learning” (Brame, 2013).
Rather than lecturers simply standing in front of the class and reading out their presentation to a passive audience, flipped classrooms instead encourage the students to watch or read pre-prepared materials beforehand, so that in the class itself a far more active lesson can take place. While universities have used seminars throughout their history (particularly in the humanities), they have only filled a marginal part of students’ timetables. What flipped classrooms aim to do is fuse the emerging technologies such as lecture capture along with the traditional seminar format to encourage an active culture of learning within the physical confines of the lecture theatre.
Lecture capture systems have enabled this method of instruction to truly take form. Previously the pre-prepared materials may have been limited to reading a chapter of a book, or perhaps question sheets, but now lecturers can quickly upload a ten minute video which can serve as an introduction to the upcoming class. This means that rather than spending time introducing the topic within the lecture itself, the lecturer can jump straight into the subject matter and discuss with the students their own theories on the matter, or aid in explaining the more complex issues in far greater depth, thus greatly enhancing the learning experience.
Despite its obvious positives, there has been a certain level of resistance in some departments implementing lecture capture systems and transitioning to “flipped learning”. However, in both my own discussions with educational development specialists, as well as within the research literature an important point has been raised. This is that there must be a cultural shift within the institutions which welcomes these new formats, especially towards lecture capture and how it can be used to the greatest effect. But, before we explore this theory, we must delve into what the key issues are in this great debate for the future of higher education. We can then understand the need for a shift in perception, in order to assuage these doubts.
The first issue raised by many faculty members are the fears that lecture attendance will fall simply because the lectures can be accessed online. This line of thought goes that students will not see the need to attend if they can simply stay at home. The studies though do not support this line of thinking, instead they demonstrate that students treat lecture capture as a supplement rather than a replacement to physical attendance (Boffey, 2010). Boffey states that students reported that they valued lecture capture as a supplement to face-to-face lectures. Lecture capture for the students was instead a vital tool for revision and affirming the knowledge imparted to them by the lecturers themselves.
Further surveys indicated that the existence of lecture capture had no impact as to their decision to attend the class (Pale, 2014). Students were either going to attend the lecture or not regardless of whether they could access the information at a later point. In fact those who benefit most from lecture capture are students who have difficulties with traditional lectures, such as students with disabilities, foreign students and those who are taking joint honours courses. Deaf students or those who do not share a similar language may on occasion find the traditional lecture format more difficult, however they can now go back and watch the lecture with subtitles to ensure that their colleagues have no greater advantage. Joint honours students sometimes have module conflicts that would prevent them from being able to attend all of their classes. Lecture captures allows for more flexibility with timetabling. These groups, who are vital to the lifeblood of higher education, now have greater access to resources which they could have potentially missed out on previously.
For some, the most important factor to consider is whether lecture capture and flipped learning has had any impact on results. It is all well and good discussing student surveys, but do students always know what’s best for them? Multiple studies have been carried out to test whether there is any tangible benefit? The results, as we shall see, speak for themselves.
In 2010 a study was performed on the performance of students in a therapeutics course, whereby lecture capture was implemented to see whether there was a noticeable difference in examination performance. This data was then compared with historical control groups to judge the outcomes. What the researchers found was remarkable. In the final examination the students actually scored higher (Leadbeater et al. 2013; Ford et al. 2012; Bollmeier et al. 2010). The accessibility of online lectures allowed for students to further their revision strategies alongside the usual workshops and notes. If any notes were missed in the lectures themselves, students could always return to the lectures. For revision purposes, lecture capture provides a vital tool which aids students in achieving the grades they deserve.
If flipped learning proves popular among students, and lecture capture increases the quality of exam results, then why might there still be resistance among faculty members? From a lecturer’s perspective these new methods and technologies could be seen as increasing workload, due to the training involved as well as the need for editing lectures and preparing material. However with companies such as StreamAMG ensuring that the entire process is as smooth and easy-to-use as possible, the possibilities these methods are truly opening up to the higher education sector are vast.
These new methods are transformative to higher education institutions, in that they facilitate a cultural shift in both students and lecturers. The students go from being passive learners, yet pressured to ensure that they do not miss that one off lecture, to being able to digest the content of their course to the fullest extent and also at times at which the content is in its highest demand, such as exam season. Meanwhile the lecturers also enter a more self-reflective sphere. With lectures becoming more and more dynamic, lecturers are no longer relegated to standing in front of the class and reading. Instead their classes become a place of discussion, where they form much greater personal interactions with their students, the noble goal that academia always sets itself to achieve.
Perhaps in the future these methodologies will also trickle from higher education and into the schooling system. A landscape where homework is performed within the lesson itself, with the teacher guiding their pupils in activities while the background knowledge can be watched at home in a comfortable setting, maybe even tricking them into thinking it’s not homework! With admin tools the teachers could ensure that their pupils are indeed watching the content they send out, while parents can gain a much greater understanding of what their children are learning about. This may seem a long way off, but cultural shifts occur at a gradual pace and it is up to the higher education sector to lead the way in this new millennium of educational innovation.
Boffey, R., Gerrans, P., & Kennedy, S. (2010). “Using Digital Lectures to Assist Student Learning”. eCULTURE, 3(1), n.p.
Bollmeier, S. G., Wenger, P. J., and Forinash, A. B. (2007) ‘Impact of Online Lecture-capture on Student Outcomes in a Therapeutics Course’, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 74, 7, Article 127.
Brame, C. (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [27/10/16] from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/flipping-the-classroom/.
Pale, P., Petrovic, J., & Jeren, B. (2014). “Assessing the learning potential and students’ perception of rich lecture captures”. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(2), 187-195.