The Impact of Lecture Capture on Student Attendance and Results: Findings from an empirical research project

A guest post, from Steve Bailey of the University of Kent (UK)

I’ve been conducting research into the effects of lecture capture as part of my Masters thesis, one of a growing number of studies exploring this area in more depth. Why do I think academic interest in this subject has grown so rapidly in the last few years? Well, I’d say there are two main reasons. Firstly, Universities aim to be research-active in both their subject disciplines and in the act of teaching itself, and so any new teaching practices or innovations in existing practice are likely to become the subject of empirical research. Secondly – and the main reason for my own interest in researching lecture capture – fear of change can lead to misconceptions about technology in education. Of course, in some cases this fear is well-founded, and so research can help to identify and quantify any problems so that further research can investigate potential solutions.

My research into the impact of lecture recordings on live attendance and academic performance was prompted by the findings of existing research which I investigated prior to the University of Kent’s internal pilot of lecture capture, and by the concerns raised by academics when we piloted the service. There were claims (but little consensus) from previous research and anecdotally from academics that students would stop attending live lectures if they were recorded, and claims from software companies and some prior research that access to lecture recordings improved students’ results. I decided to investigate both of these claims during our internal pilot for my Masters dissertation.

My findings indicated that many of the worries that academics have about huge drop-offs in live lecture attendance may be unfounded. My research showed that the availability of lecture recordings does no harm; in only one of the three sample groups was attendance lower than in the control group, by an average of 6%, but in the other two groups attendance was actually higher, so there’s still some ambiguity in the results. I’d like to repeat the study with a different methodology to see if the findings are more conclusive.

This issue of lecture attendance is often a barrier to the uptake of lecture capture. Historically, this was because students who didn’t attend lectures had poorer performance, and so there was some concern that if lecture recording decreased attendance this may be to the detriment of the students’ grades. My research suggests, however, that the majority of students are using the recording not as a substitute for the live experience, but as a supplement to their study. Resistance to lecture recording also assumes that for those who would choose to watch a video rather than attend in person, the recording isn’t a suitable replacement for live attendance, which is not necessarily the case, provided that the absent student actually engages with the content of the recording.

My experience and research leads me to believe that both the physical and the recorded lecture will continue to be relevant to students, but will necessarily evolve over time – lectures are becoming more interactive due to the technologies available (and often required due to increasing student numbers), and teachers will find more and more uses for lecture capture tools like Panopto. At the University of Kent, we’re already finding Panopto is used to record student presentations, module introductions and assessment feedback, and I think we’re just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with educational multimedia. Blended learning approaches, facilitated by technology, are already a necessary part of education and likely to increase in the future.

As well as examining attendance, I also looked at how recorded lectures impact on student results. I found that students who viewed the lecture recordings had higher marks than those who did not in all three sample groups, but this was statistically significant in only one group. I also found that students who watched recordings sooner and in fewer sittings had improved exam performance. I plan to go back and analyse some aspects of the data more closely to see if there are any further conclusions to be drawn.

Despite a large and growing number of studies, research in this area is still in its early phases and there is much still to be done. Once we’ve established if lecture recordings are beneficial to student learning, we can then investigate why this is the case. If we can identify types of usage aligned with success then we can start to quantify this via usage data to measure impact, and encourage students to model this behaviour to help them improve. Conversely, if we can define “bad” usage then we can identify student who may be at risk of failure. Of course, each step of this would need to be carefully analysed and checked regularly to ensure we’re measuring the right things, and that any interventions are truly beneficial, and so the cycle of academic research goes on…

Published: February 26, 2014

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