Lectures / seminars Policy & strategy Teaching

Lecture capture part 1 – jewel in the crown or cuckoo in the nest?

Alistair McNaught considers the arguments for and against large scale lecture capture as a disability solution. A jewel in the crown or a cuckoo in the nest?

Crowns.Cuckoo wearing a crown

Lecture capture is being increasingly seen as a jewel in the crown of accessible mainstream practice. Many organisations are looking at lecture capture as a way of minimising the impact of changes to the Disabled Student Allowance. These changes will remove certain categories of non-medical help support – like notetaking support – from thousands of learners. The obvious “solution” is to record all lectures so that notetaking is ‘outsourced’ to the technology.

In theory, this means that learners can concentrate on understanding the concepts as they are presented rather than worrying about the awful multitasking involved when trying to listen and process the current information whilst trying to legibly organise, express and write what was said two minutes ago.  It also means learners can revisit the lecture at any time.

Make no mistake; lecture capture is excellent for accessibility. In theory.

But it has downsides. These include the following:

  • cultural acceptance. For a range of different reasons, not all lecturers will be happy for lectures to be recorded. Some of the reasons will be more robust than others but implementing a sitewide, default policy of lecture recording is not something that can take place overnight even if you wanted it. The paper Student Hopes, Instructor Fears is a nice summary of common issues.
  • pedagogical impact. Commonly reported concerns of lecturers include lecture recording encouraging learner passivity or forcing lecturers to adopt particular presentational styles.
  • accessibility benefits. Depending on the system you use, you may end up with a lecture recording that creates as many barriers as benefits. How easy is it to navigate to a particular point? Is the playback system accessible to assistive technologies? How would a deaf learner access the narrative content? A video without a text summary or transcript may be of limited use to some learners.
  • storage and management. How many lectures take place a day? What are the technical implications for the rooms in which they take place or the storage that they require?

Each of the above issues can be solved and there are a wealth of studies showing real benefits from lecture capture but it is nonetheless a high stakes investment and may represent a lot of accessibility ‘eggs’ in one basket. And this is where the cuckoo analogy comes in.


Cuckoo wearing a crown

If all your attention is focused on the Big Solution it may be squeezing out the little solutions waiting to hatch. Many of the simple things that – in themselves – would contribute to the quality of the final lecture recording may be neglected. There are three simple things I suggest should be in place as a prerequisite for lecture recording. They have minimal cost and maximum sustainability.

  • Do all staff know how to create an accessible Word document and an accessible PowerPoint (or if they use other tools to they know how to maximise the accessibility of the output)?
  • Are lecture notes and presentations from every session on the virtual learning environment? Accessible notes and presentations will kickstart any accessibility requirements for the lecture recordings.
  • Are staff confident in flipped teaching models or active learning? If they are they will make much more creative use of the opportunities lecture capture provides.

Finally, consider the wider context of your aspirations for the students. Jisc’s work on the digital student experience has created an excellent benchmarking tool with the National Union of Students. By improving the digital literacy and confidence of learners we can help them access the plethora of tools, plug-ins and assistive technologies that support productivity for everybody.

See also Opt in? Opt out? Is this the question? and Lecture Capture – part 2 – sample approaches.