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?