Saturday, September 17, 2011

Recording can improve a bad lecture! 7 surprising facts about recorded lectures


Universities churn out lectures by the thousands, yet academics, even academics who support the use of technology in education, often go completely gaga when you even dare to question their pedagogic worth. ‘Lecturers’ will go to any lengths, apart from actual research or data, to defend ’lecturing’, confusing a channel of teaching with learning, and form with function.
You don’t have to know much about the psychology of learning to realise that a series of once-only, delivered lectures is pedagogic nonsense. We learn next to nothing from once-only experiences like unrecorded lectures. Indeed, everything we know about learning shows that repeated access to content is necessary for learning.
I am always delighted, therefore, when yet another set of data confirms the obvious fact that students gain when they are given access to recorded lectures.  In this wonderful little study by Pierre Gorrisen, delivered at the ALT conference, they cleverly combined usage data with some survey and interview data to come to some clear conclusions. Their student-centred approach to the problem is refreshing. So what did they discover?
1. Students watch lots of recorded lectures at home
Surprise number one; students watch lots of recorded lectures in their own time. Learners look at content, do what is necessary for learning, reflect, take notes, elaborate and deep process – all the things that are necessary for learning yet extremely difficult, if not impossible, in a long, uninterrupted lecture.
2. No technical problems
Surprise number two; no technical problems. We now live in YouTube world where computers handle video and audio with ease. In another ALT presentation, Dragos Ciobanu, Neil Morris and Alina Secara showed how, at the University of Leeds, they are experimenting with Adobe Connect Pro. All you need is a URL to access their Adobe Connect room, and anyone with a laptop, iPad, iPhone, Android device could participate. It’s not just access to recorded lectures that is easy technically, it’s their delivery.
3. Watch lectures multiple times
Surprise number three; students watch lectures many times. This really should come as no surprise. Repeated, spaced practice is essential for real learning, deep processing, elaboration and therefore recall. Students, if not lecturers, understand this. When you read an academic text or paper, don’t you read things more than once? Of course you do. That’s how reading works. So why deliver a lecture once only?
4. Watch <75% of lecture
Surprise number four; they don’t watch the whole lecture. This is interesting as they found that not many students watch more than 75% of a lecture. Why is this? Well, let’s be honest, most lecturers are not that great at lecturing and tend to have overlong introductions, ramble, go off on tangents and include inappropriate and irrelevant material. Students are smart, so they fast forward. The standard one hour lecture is artificial time period that has nothing to do with the psychology of learning and exists only because the Babylonians had a base-60 number system. Lecturers therefore pad out content to fill the hour.
5. Would like to see ALL lectures recorded
Surprise number five; students want ALL lectures recorded. Damn right. No one would dream of just giving students access to a single recording of a book or paper. That would be lunacy. So why give them unpublished lectures? They want them to learn and revise for exams. It’s that simple. To deny them recording is to deny them the opportunity for learning. It’s what they’re paying for.
6. Improves pass rate
Surprise number six; improves pass rates. Now this is important. The researchers claim, although I saw no data in the presentation, that recorded lectures increase the pass rate. This was confirmed by studies I’ve cited previously from the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Trieste and others. If true, then let’s just get on with it and record them all.
7. Recording lectures improves bad lectures!
Surprise number seven; a recording of a bad lecture can actually improve that lecture….. What a wonderful observation. The fact that you can skip the bad bits, replay and watch it several times actually improve the experience. Now I don’t believe that lectures should hold such pedagogic sway in education. And even if you were to show me that lectures were a powerful teaching technique, I’d still claim that the majority of lecturers are not up to the task. But if you still insist on lectures, why not record them on this one principle only, that bad lectures can be improved by recording?

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30 Comments:

Blogger Henry Stewart said...

Totally with you on most university lectures are not worth attending. My empirical evidence: In my first year at uni I attended every lecture and failed. In my last year I attended very few and got a 2:1. Spent the time doing useful stuff instead.

Can't quite my head round the idea that bad lectures can be better if recorded but anything that takes away the requirement to attend them must be a good thing.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Vics said...

I just passed all my exams and came away with a 1st class honours; my uni doesn't record lectures but because it was part of my study needs agreement as a disabled student I was able to voice record them.

I went over those recordings several times while revising, fast forwarded the waffle and points I already knew and understood and guess what? I got all 'A' grades (numeric 72 as UoH scores 'em now)

2 of my friends didn't review the recordings I gave 'em because sound quality was not great and it was hard to match to the class slides but guess what - they both say they wish they had because they got 'C' and 'B' grades respectively.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Mary Jo Bell said...

If a student needs to record lectures because of a disability, what is the best method to use to do this?
Thanks!

6:43 PM  
Blogger Mary Jo Bell said...

If a student has to record lectures because of a disability, what is the best method to use to make recording?
Thanks!
Mary Jo.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Tom Johnsosn said...

I totally agree with you about recording everything. Why not go further and sidestep the lecture altogether? For example, vodcast or podcast from home (or a beach). I write specific ways to do this here: Vodcasting

7:13 PM  
Blogger Terry McAndrew said...

Answer to "If a disabled student wanted to record a lecture..."

1. Make sure the staff are legally and technically up to date: http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/news/detail/2011/Recording_Lectures_and_Screencasts_webcast

2. Check you have necessary permission either individually or through institution 'blanket' agreement for disabled students.

3. Use it privately.

4. Consider devices to optimise recording/notes e.g. Livescribe pen or a tablet PC with Onenote (depending on the nature of the disability) to help jump to the key points and generally navigate.

5. Get the lecture professionally captured and indexed if possible to save your valuable time.

In general I disagree with Donald about the value of lectures because of too many anti-lecture generalisations - in the right hands a good lecture can be very stimulating and convey enthusiasm for a difficult topic. Lecturing improves the teacher. Lecturing co-ordinates. A one-off can focus attention and gather students to take part in a discussion. The fact that it has to be refreshed for next year provides opportunity for it to get updated and not just 'played again'.
Which students are replaying lectures, when, why? - this needs to be answered before we make too many sweeping assumptions.

Releasing the video post event can certainly assist but to turn all course lectures into online videos as replacements would swing the pendulum too far the other way IMHO.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

I agree that some lectures are warranted, just not the vast majority as currently delivered as slabs of instruction in HE. One offs are fine. Not sure about the 'generalisations' charge, as I base my views on research - Mazur, Bligh and so on. not anecdote. In both studies I reference the data provides answers on who and when.

7:35 PM  
Blogger dctidb said...

Actual presentation appears to be here: http://ictoblog.nl/2011/09/07/analysing-the-use-of-recorded-lectures-by-students

9:15 PM  
Blogger Millie The Geography Teacher said...

I'm not sure that loosing face to face contact with students is the way forward at FE, but I am starting a trial with the coveritlive app and Mixlr, which broadcasts live radio, streamed through the blog. It is being used as a stretch and challenge workshop for students, and saved as a vodcast afterwards, but enables real time interaction with the text and image function on coveritlive, and with an embedded presentation, hopefully it will be easy to sync the replay of voice and text. I do think that recording yourself as a teacher improves the content of your lecture, as I worry that with the ability to replay lectures, you need to be getting it right and keeping it interesting throughout to maintain student engagement.

10:53 AM  
OpenID louiselee22 said...

As Millie the Geography teacher said perhaps lecturers do put more effort in preparing and delivering their lectures when being recorded (just as people tend to look happy when the camera is on). There is a greater sense of accountability there. Just imagine combining this technology and the technology of "rate the professor". :)

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Dragos Ciobanu said...

Nice to get a mention, Donald :).
As Terry pointed out, recording lectures can be an effective self-development tool - so while having my audience in mind, it's also nice to have something valuable for myself in this whole business. I find it interesting that video analysis is ubiquitous in competitive sports, but not very popular in academia (which can also be a very competitive environments).

The vision for the pilot that I started at Leeds is (I like to think and do my best to achieve) much bigger than lecture capture, though. My main aim was to make it easier for colleagues to tune into the wider research community, as well as do many other things to make their lives easier (e.g. online open days and informal chats to make sure students have realistic expectations of their courses; collaborative real-time editing of research papers and presentations; research presentation dressed rehearsals; online masterclasses for students and/or staff with inspirational folks that are so difficult to get hold of and so interesting that you don't really want to miss a minute of what they have to say; stimulate and recognise the value of the back-channel in lectures, however distracting some may claim it is - I personally think it is distracting only if it is completely ignored by the presenter who keeps throwing information at the audience like there's no tomorrow.

Anyway, in case folks want to watch/skip/pause/ffw/see these recordings in action, here are a few links:
- the ALT-C presentation on Adobe Connect for lecture capture and much more: http://adm-leeds.adobeconnect.com/p4oenxpphy4/
- the ALT-C presentation on smart pens (Terry's already mentioned Livescribe): http://adm-leeds.adobeconnect.com/p1mvjalu2dl/
- the ALT-C presentation on interactive voting in lectures with clickers or SMS/web/Twitter: http://adm-leeds.adobeconnect.com/p63t00m2dil/
- instructional design presentation given by Dave Anderson http://adm-leeds.adobeconnect.com/p11873994/ at the Articulate 2011 conference: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/articulate/conference2011/

PS: forgot to mention that I also subscribe to the idea that a well-polished lecture recorded in HD with flawless posture, camera angles and on-screen animations which gives the impression that there's nothing else you'd ever need to do to master the subject apart from watching it, is of little value compared to one which is less flashy, but sets out challenges and tasks that you're dying to try and solve using everything you can get your hands on, and the send in your solutions which you know will get picked up in the next session...

1:14 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Dragos - really appreciate this considered response. I wholly agree on self-development, widening the applications of this technology and the fact that high quality stuff is not the point. Indeed Nass and Reeves at Stanford (study in published in The Media Equation)showed that the fidelity of the video is NOT important. However, they also found that audio quality IS important.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous John Egan said...

Very interesting ideas--with which I largely agree--but what's your evidence for these claims?

6:23 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

John - I'm genuinely puzzled. This was a piece of research, at a University, the findings of which were presented at the ALT conference. As I explained they took usage data, surveys and student interviews. As for some of the other claims, I've spoken and written about this many times using Bligh, Gibb, Mazur and many others to back up my claims. On the other hand I've seen little or nothing but anecdote in support of lectures as a pedagogic technique.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Dragos Ciobanu said...

That's what the BBC representative confirmed at Learning Technologies 2010 in one of the free sessions when talking about their experiments with live satellite feeds: people would put up with patchy video and appreciated the effort of bringing live images from remote areas, but they really couldn't stand crackly audio and I think even switched the channel...

Fascinating how the mind works... makes me think of Oscar Wilde: losing a parent is tragic, losing both is careless... (or thereabouts ... I know, I have Google, but I exercise the right to be lazy :)) :)

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Dragos Ciobanu said...

(after reading some of the latest comments ;)) Oh, and I don't know how folks will react when "the book" no longer is the gold standard, and the living, breathing blog recognised, recommended and commented on by practitioners in a particular domain takes over. I feel we're well on our way there and I bet publishers are already thinking up devious plans to delay that...

I honestly can't think who would nowadays want to write a static book anymore (though I joined such a project recently, so I should keep quiet I guess...). But seriously! Why want to project an artificial image to the world, as you were at one particular point in the past, and not as you are in the present? I say that after meeting quite a few "heavies" in one of my former roles and realising they were nothing like what they were projecting in their writings... the result was that I kind of left that field altogether... ;)

4:30 PM  
Anonymous John Egan said...

Sorry--didn't mean to puzzle you!

But what's the actual citation for the paper? You've alluded to it, but wanted a full citation.

Thanks!

10:13 PM  
Blogger Leon Cych said...

Embedding notes and links and opportunities for feedback in a recorded talk, interview, lecture, seminar can be twice as effective again. Use somehting like soundcloud or time=NmNs or viddler to make this media non-linear as well.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Leoen - couldn't agree more. First citations. It's always amused me how academics can lecture while being completely sloppy on citations, yet hammer their students when they assess their work. I think this is because it's easier to skim essays looking for weak citations, rather than engage in directed, commented feedback encouraging critical thinking. Paul Black certainly believes that this lack of skill on feedback is endemic in education. But as you say, there's lots of opportunity for expanded thinking through links, which enhance even the worst of lectures.

9:25 AM  
Blogger whitedj77 said...

Did you ever give out the citations for this research?

3:43 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

http://ictoblog.nl/2011/09/07/analysing-the-use-of-recorded-lectures-by-students

3:48 PM  
Blogger jennifersign said...

I completely agree about recording lectures. When I was in school it was so hard to follow these lectures. Teachers would go on and on. Now they have digital smart pens like the, Anoto Digital Pen. I wish I had one of these pens while I was in class, would've made note taking a lot easier.

7:51 PM  
Blogger IK said...

I agree that recording a bad lecture can make it better, or rather, less bad. As you and many others have suggested though, the lecture is fundamentally flawed. Rather that recording a 2 hour lecture (groan), better surely to cut to the chase, and record 15-20 minutes of relevant information. Better yet 3-5 minute grabs.

Ian K.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Couldn't agree more. The research described in this post shows that lectures contain much that is irrelevant and much that is padding. Almost every lecture I've ever seen could do with shortening and editing down, especially my own!

3:39 PM  
Blogger Bose said...

I do agree with all the points you have to say, the world has gone technical and why would any one with internet take advantage of recording the lectures and watch them online.Lecture Feedback Form

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

• If lectures are recorded, there is a real danger that students will tend to focus only on them – remember, lectures should just provide the framework of the topics and sometimes the demonstration of a technique. Lectures’ main function is to lead students towards the understanding of concepts and its application in practice, by providing “questions” rather than “answers”. Therefore, they should read the recommended text and other books and be encouraged to do their own research – what kind of students are we supposed to form? The ones who will be expecting to record the meetings they will probably have with their bosses, so they can replay them as much as they wish?!

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

• If lectures are recorded, there is a real danger that students will tend to focus only on them – remember, lectures should just provide the framework of the topics and sometimes the demonstration of a technique. Lectures’ main function is to lead students towards the understanding of concepts and its application in practice, by providing “questions” rather than “answers”. Therefore, they should read the recommended text and other books and be encouraged to do their own research – what kind of students are we supposed to form? The ones who will be expecting to record the meetings they will probably have with their bosses, so they can replay them as much as they wish?!

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All comments must be approved by the blog author." Does that mean if the author does not agree with it, it will not be published?!
This is democracy!?

8:28 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Anonymous (why?)
This is a confused set of arguments. Why should physical attendance lead to further work any more than virtual attendance. In fact, attendance at lectures is low, and when students do attend live lectures they are often bored, quickly lose attention and do poor note taking. The evidence from those who record lectures is that it increases attainment. I also question the idea that lectures signpost or are largely about 'questions' as you claim. I've attended a great many lectures in many subjects in eth UK, US & Europe and have not, on the whole, witnessed this. What I have seen, and the evidence is there on YouTube EDU and iTunes U, are thousands of very poor lectures that slab out content from textbooks. I have run large businesses and believe me no one in their right mind would hold a meeting where one person talks from a chalkboard for one hour?!
PS
The 'application'of knowledge you mention does not come from lectures it comes from the application BY THE STUDENTS.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Anonymous (why?)
This is a confused set of arguments. Why should physical attendance lead to further work any more than virtual attendance. In fact, attendance at lectures is low, and when students do attend live lectures they are often bored, quickly lose attention and do poor note taking. The evidence from those who record lectures is that it increases attainment. I also question the idea that lectures signpost or are largely about 'questions' as you claim. I've attended a great many lectures in many subjects in eth UK, US & Europe and have not, on the whole, witnessed this. What I have seen, and the evidence is there on YouTube EDU and iTunes U, are thousands of very poor lectures that slab out content from textbooks. I have run large businesses and believe me no one in their right mind would hold a meeting where one person talks from a chalkboard for one hour?!
PS
The 'application'of knowledge you mention does not come from lectures it comes from the application BY THE STUDENTS.

9:42 AM  

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