Lecture capture. The what, why and how.

Lecture capture is an umbrella term used to describe any technology allowing a lecturer to record a class and make it available digitally. It could be as simple as recording the audio on your phone or as complicated as in-house video and audio recording systems that feed the recordings into a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment).

We’ve been using lecture capture at the University for a number of years now and I’ve personally been involved with Lecture Capture at New College since 2012. We are very lucky to have a fantastic system in place, Panopto, which records both video and audio through our in-house teaching system and then delivers it into our VLE (allowing videographers to make edits and tweeks and to decide on where and when material will be made available to students). I thought this blog would be a fantastic way to talk you through some of my experiences of using this system with our staff and students.

How is lecture capture being used by students?

When I first started making lecture recordings available for students in 2012, I fully understood how valuable a tool for revision this may be. Students able to revisit previous lectures while revising for exams was definitely a good thing in my mind. I wasn’t expecting, however, the variety in the ways that these recordings would be made use of. The first thing which surprised me back then, was that students rarely watch an entire lecture. My vision had been for the students to sit diligently re-watching the lectures and checking their revision notes. Boy was I wrong!

Instead through reviewing the statistics and chatting with students, I have learned that a very different behaviour takes place. After a lecture, students use the recording to go over areas of the class where they were uncertain, forwarding through the recording to get to the relevant pieces. They rarely watch a lecture in its entirety. Instead it’s a note taking and checking tool. Not only that, through the system we use called Panopto, students are able to make notes onto the lecture recording, highlighting, discussing and commenting on the lecture. These notes can be made private by the student or shared amongst their class. I’ve seen many a small study group watching lecture recordings together, pausing the video to discuss points or even to discuss notes other students have made on that piece of the video. Using the recording as a tool to encourage discussion.

How is lecture capture being used by the teaching staff?

As you can imagine, the biggest use of this tool is to record lectures, but it’s not the only way it’s used. Ah ha, that got your attention!

Have you considered live streaming your lectures? At New College we have used our lecture capture system to do this on two courses over the previous academic year where class numbers were just too high to have all our students in a single room. We were able to pre-set our recordings so that lectures would be automatically streamed live and students could watch them in an other room with a teaching assistant available to ensure both rooms had adequate discussion, debate and question and answer facilities.

This also had the unexpected benefit of allowing one of our students to fully participate in a lecture from their hospital bed, now that’s a dedicated and engaged student.

As well as the standard lecture recordings though, we have recorded what I call “talking heads”, where the lecturer is at their own desk recording short pieces to camera, with and without slides, to explain topics, answer tutorial questions and give information to their class which there maybe wasn’t time for in the actual lecture. An innovation this year was also the use of the recording tool to record a lecturer’s mobile device while they taught students to form the letters of the alphabet in a New Testament Greek class (drawing them out on his touch screen). The students then watched these recordings in their own time and carried out assigned tasks before coming to class. Flipping the learning from the classroom to the students place and time of choice.

Has lecture capture affected student behaviour in the classroom?

Copyrigt owner: Paul Dodds 2016 https://www.pauldodds.com/

Absolutely. One common sight in all lecture rooms is the sea of heads, down and pens, frantically scribbling. Little or no eye contact between student and teacher lest the student miss something important (the craziness of that statement, the student won’t interact with the teacher in case they miss a vital piece of wisdom).  Venturing into the lecture theatre a few weeks after we began making recordings available and there was a marked difference. The majority of heads were up, the students looked engaged, listening and only occasionally jotting down a very short note. Although I did see one thing which alarmed me, a definite rise in the amount of students checking their watches or the wall clock. Were they desperate to get out of the lecture knowing that the could just watch it later instead? It turned out no, instead what had happened was that the students had learned that instead of writing copious amounts of notes in class, that the instead made a note of the time when something they wanted to review came up. That way they could find it easily in the recording later.

Has lecture capture had any effect on learning?

This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? After all, why bother going to all this effort is the finished article doesn’t actually enhance the learning experience of the students. I am happy to report that yes, I can say that we have both seen and been told by students of the benefit of having lecture recordings available for study.

I think we can categories the feedback we’ve had from students into two groups, the general group where students tell us that it’s great to be able to re-watch lectures, or to check on things they weren’t sure of. This I think is the biggest amount of feedback we have received, general expressions of gratitude for making this tool available. The second is one which I think is far more important and one we should be striving to make headway on, the students who are less academic than their classmates or those who have recognised difficulties to their study. I get so much pleasure when I’m told:

“Thank you. Just being able to go through things again at my own pace to make sure I truly understand or haven’t misunderstood is so much more helpful than you can realise. I feel like I’ve been put on an even platform with my fellow students.”

So that’s great, but is there any evidence for this positive effect on learning? Well actually yes. In the most basic form, we surveyed our students from a course last semester where recordings were available and asked them outright, has this made a difference to your learning? The results? Well 48% of those who responded said the recordings had greatly enhanced their learning, with 94% reporting some degree of positive impact. They listed; picking up missed points, flexible viewing, reinforcement, refreshment, expanding notes and reflective learning amongst the benefits. One student wrote:

“It was great that I could go back to something I didn’t catch and listen to that part again. That makes me feel way more prepared and more confident for my exam.”

You can’t beat cold, hard facts though and numerically, the exam assessment suggested that the recordings raised the typical lower performance students from satisfactory to good.

Has lecture capture affected attendance?

This is the worry that I hear most often and the reason so many people choose not to have their lectures recorded and made available to students. To be honest it’s a very difficult question to answer. There is so much research out there which suggests that in fact, lecture recording does not impact on lecture attendance but I haven’t carried out any research of my own yet, I am hoping to soon.

There are so many things to take into consideration that it’s very difficult to even comment on this in regard to recent classes. I know that in our most recent survey, 68% of respondents said that lecture capture had no effect on their attendance with 6% stating it made them more likely to attend. 26% however suggested they were less likely to come if they could watch the lecture elsewhere or another time. This is difficult to use definitively though, as through the survey we also know that timetable clashes made it difficult for some students to get to and from the lecture in time, meaning they often missed the first 20 minutes or last 20 minutes and therefore it was possibly not only easier, but maybe more beneficial for them to watch the lecture online rather than try to get to the school in time for the class.

I guess until I have research data of my own to use I should maybe just ask a question. Is it more important that a student attends a physical classroom or that they find a way to make the learning work for them and stick?

Open Education and my adventure with learning
Online classroom sessions
Spread the love


I'm Eli and I blog about the inane things which interest me namely gardening, cooking and cycling and occasionally geeky educational technology things. I live in sunny Musselburgh with my lovely wife Kate and our cats.