The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

One of the common difficulties students have in traditional lectures, especially the ones with large number of students where interaction between lecturer and student is more problematic, is the inability to listen carefully to the lecture and simultaneously to take notes. This is especially true for international students, where language and cultural barriers often impede students from following the material being covered and contribute to poor performance.

Recent technological developments have created the opportunity to record lectures so that students can replay them at their leisure on their computers or other electronic devices. Although there are several types of apparatus that allow for the recording of lectures (the portable digital video cameras described in section 2.4 are but one example), the focus here will be on technologies devised specifically for a classroom environment.

The most sophisticated systems for lecture capture are capable of automatically capturing audio, video (from a fixed camera) and any output from the computer (including slides) and other devices connected to the projector such as visualisers, interactive whiteboards or tablet PCs.[1] The video files are stored on a media streaming server and can be made available in various ways including via Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs).

The lecture capture system integrates with existing technologies and lecturers are not required to do anything in order to have their lectures captured as the whole system is totally automated. At the end of the lecture, the recording is automatically remotely stored and a link to the recording is made almost immediately in chronological order within the appropriate unit in the VLE, and an announcement made to students. The lecturer has, however, control on when the lecture recordings are made available to students and while most lecturers make their lecture recordings available immediately, others decide to limit the viewing to the period immediately before the final exam for revision purposes. Alternatively, one could make the materials available for a fixed period after the lecture encouraging students to view them early and keeping them ‘on track’ with the sequence.

Students can watch the synchronised recorded lecture including PowerPoint slides and movie clips as frequently as they like and choose whether they watch using high or low speed connection and whether they view lectures using their ‘smartphones’, tablet PCs, MP4 players, laptops or desktop PCs.

An example of a streamed recording available online is presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Example of lecture capture (Echo360)

The use of this technology is quite controversial among academics. The detractors cite a number of potential problems with its use and make their resistance quite clear. Among the reasons commonly put forward are the possibilities that the technology will discourage students to come to class and that the lecture recordings will make lecturers redundant.

Our experience to date is that lecture recordings have no significant impact on student attendance.[2] A student-designed questionnaire involving more than 200 students on the use of ECHO360 in 2011 showed 70% of students stating that the lecture recordings had no impact on their attendance as they felt that they were ‘missing out’ if they did not attend the lectures. Most students (87%) stated that attendance was much more a function of the quality of the lecturer and the module content. This suggests that lecture recordings will not make lecturers redundant. Students like to be in the classroom and take part in the activities; ‘they feel they are missing out if they do not attend, irrespective of video recording taking place’ (Lowe, 2011).

The survey also showed most students using the recordings to go over material that has troubled them and to write up notes. Most students felt the recordings were particularly useful in modules with large mathematics content, in lectures which included case studies and in lectures with large student numbers.

Finally, a very different model for using lecture recording is being increasingly practised and explored in the US. This is known as the Flipped Classroom Model where students watch and listen to recorded lectures for ‘homework’ (asynchronously) and class time is used instead for collaborative, active and experiential learning. Partly this is driven by the desire to optimise use of precious class time (therefore this is less relevant when lectures are supported by tutorials) but largely by the emphasis on active, and often personalised, learning and engagement.

[1] The Echo360 system is the market leader for lecture capturing systems. Although Echo360 is a proprietary product, there are free (but less sophisticated) open source video streaming tools available.

[2] See White (2009) for similar experience to ours plus using ‘clickers’ (see section 2.2) also motivated attendance.