Blog: Why Lecture Capture Grinds My Gears

Now, you are going to have to stay with me on this. I don’t usually get into a rant, I love the vast majority of things at Royal Holloway and I often applaud the amazing work going on – but this isn’t always the case, and when things aren’t going well it can be infuriating.

So bear with me here, there is a certain issue that just won’t go away, won’t advance and quite frankly, it is embarrassing that we’re still having the conversation about it.

This year the College launched a Digital Futures initiative – a panel looking at how the College can embrace IT in all aspects of their work - and yet they still haven’t worked out how to record lectures, a project that’s been in the pipeline for an eternity.

Lecture capture (as it is officially known) is such an age-old debate now that it would be a hard sell to class it as an ‘innovation’ topic. But for many students, it is viewed as a necessity and an expectation. This was abundantly clear from the feedback of your reps at Academic Rep Conference last week and also from conversations I’ve been having with students generally around campus.

But what is it?

Lecture capture is exactly what it says on the tin – it is the idea that lectures are recorded, enabling students to either revisit content that may have been complex or access it if they were unable to attend a lecture in person due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness or travel problems.

Market research conducted via analysis of the Heads of eLearning Forum (HeLF) survey on lecture capture in UK Higher Education in 2017 concluded that the vast majority of universities (86%) have lecture capture. The ability for students to benefit from lecture capture is now seen as an expectation when they arrive at University – it is embedded in the way that students are now interacting with their learning and is viewed as a crucial element of their educational development.

A clear lack of standardisation

Royal Holloway is classed as an institution that currently ‘opts in’ to lecture capture – meaning that there are no minimum standards or standardisation at all between programmes and departments and it falls to individual lecturers to determine whether you can have it or not! I’m currently auditing all programmes and departments to understand the true picture but based on my research so far I would strongly suggest that those programmes that do provide lecture capture are in the minority.

Obstacles to lecture capture at Royal Holloway are far from uncommon and we have been debating them for an embarrassing number of years. The current assumption is that lecture capture would undermine the academic integrity and usefulness of lectures – which is simply a replacement for the previous excuse of intellectual property in my opinion. This summarises how the issues with lecture capture are tied up in a fundamental cultural issue at the University – one that is grounding itself in its approaches and refusing to move forwards to develop and enhance educational experiences for students, which is totally at odds with their Digital Futures initiative.

Instead of continuously focusing on the barriers (and having the same old conversations over and over), we should be focusing on the reasons why lecture capture is so crucial in today’s world and therefore the solutions required to get us there. Here are some of the top reasons why lecture capture should be implemented:

  1. Revision! How many times does it come to exam season and suddenly you realise that you could really do with looking back over a lecture? Similarly, this is heightened with students that have modules in first term and are then assessed with examination in the summer – a whole term without learning the content means a quick refresh of some lectures can be incredibly useful.
  2. Accessibility and equality! Too often we hear of cases where students have, through no fault of their own, missed a lecture due to an unforeseen circumstance. This could be illness, this could be that the commute onto campus was particularly difficult, it could be a range of issues as long as my arm! With lecture capture, these issues could be quickly resolved, with quick communication, the student could look at the uploaded lecture and not miss out on any content.
  3. Breaking down barriers! For some, it is very difficult to keep up with the pace of lectures. This could be due to a language barrier, a learning disability or simply because the lecturer is packing in so much content in a short space of time. Having the lecture recorded and then available would mean that students could go over the lecture again to ensure that every detail is noted down.

The message is clear:

  • Lecture capture doesn’t replace lectures, it enhances them.
  • Lecture capture isn’t a move away from learning, it is a move forward to keep up with learning.
  • Lecture capture isn’t a petty issue, it is a fundamental aspect to grant all students greater access and a higher quality of teaching.

If you want to get in touch with me to tell me about any of your experiences in this area I’d love to hear from you. It’s my role to represent your academic interests and I can tell you that I’m not giving up on this particular issue!

Jack O'Neill // Vice President Education