Lecture Capture Fail

Just watch the pretty roses....

Just watch the pretty roses….

There’s an article online by Mark Smithers called ‘Is lecture capture the single worst educational technology use in higher education?’  My instinct on reading this was to jump up and down several times screaming ‘YES!’  You can read the article here, by the way.

Now, it’s not like me to dismiss anything that is doing the rounds in the learning tech zeitgeist. Keep an open mind but be critical of everything is my motto, so I have embraced the world of MOOCs despite people regularly reporting high attrition rates, have taken on board the fact that the flipped classroom is not quite the new black that everyone was raving about 3 years ago, but is still a useful umbrella term that has some great elements within, and am genuinely surprised that, after all the hype, Google Glass has been dissolved. This despite the fact that Augmented and Virtual Realities are constantly at the top of the ‘new, emerging and life-changing’ technological charts.

But lecture capture has always riled me. The thought of filming a 3 hour lecture then slapping it onto a virtual learning system and expecting students to watch this in their own time seems more like a punishment than a good idea. I felt myself falling into a coma halfway through the first Lord of the Rings film…but then again, I’m not a fan of Tolkien.

Learning should be at least a little bit active – passively watching a film of a lecturer reading PowerPoint slides on a Friday night when you could be doing something – anything – else is just cruel. And lecturers, by and large, are not natural performers. Nor did they go into the business of lecturing to perform or entrain. As Smithers says:

‘The technology does nothing to engage the student who instead of sitting passively in a lecture theatre checking their text messages will now sit passively in front of a screen at home checking their text messages.’


‘Traditional lectures aren’t designed for online delivery. They’re too long. Their length is designed to fit in with the timetabling constraints of the buildings in which lectures take place not for any pedagogical reason. Why should this physical constraint be allowed to migrate its way into flexible online delivery?’

I also have a sneaking suspicion that staff and institutions feel; the benefit of lecture capture more than their students. By filming your 3 hour diatribe on connecting muscles in the lower leg once, you never have to repeat the lecture again! Just point students towards the film and bingo! Plus – you’ve ticked the all-important ‘I have met the needs of students in the 21st century by taking this online approach’ box. Hurray for you!

That’s not to say that lecture capture is all bad – as I said earlier, I do try to keep an open mind and think critically, and the chance to watch a lecture in your own time that you maybe couldn’t attend at the time of filming is very convenient, as is the option to pause, rewind and re-watch sections that may need to be repeated for consolidation. And yes-in times of increased workloads and larger class sizes, lecturers need the time freed up by not needing to repeat ‘live’ lectures. In fact, they need any free time they can grab. But I do remember the first instance of a recorded lecture I saw, and it still makes me cringe.

The lecture theatre had a built-in lecture capture system which could be switched on and off by the lecturer by simply pressing a button positioned conveniently upon the lectern. When the lecture was over, the film would be automatically sent to IT Services, where they would process it and send it to the lecturer as a film file compatible with the VLE. So far so good.

I took a look at the film in question and was totally amazed. The camera used was static and trained at the lectern (which had a lovely bowl of roses perched on top. This is pretty much all I remember about the film). The lecturer introduced herself and the title of the lecture then immediately stepped away from the podium and towards the large screen displaying her accompanying PowerPoint presentation. The camera, being static, did not follow her. What ensued was a 3 hour film of an empty lectern and a bowl of flowers, and the disembodied and barely-audible sound of a lecturer who had stepped away from both the lectern and microphone. What a gripping learning experience it was…

So, with this in mind, I invite you to read this: my second paper for the INTED2015 conference, looking at how I have developed a ‘bite-sized’ and more interactive framework for lecture capture. You can find it here.

4 thoughts on “Lecture Capture Fail

  1. Hi Bex, I enjoyed reading your article. At the Institution I work at we capture various activities such as Lectures, Seminars and other events. I agree I wouldn’t personally watch a 3 hour lecture again BUT the technology means you can skip to parts that you struggled with or speed the recording up. Students really appreciate it from a revision perspective and students who have learning difficulties again really value it. Non native speaking students find it a wonderful resource and staff can also use a personal capture version which allows them to screen capture on their laptop/tablet and engage in classroom “flipping” activities. Further details on our service, here: http://teaching.ncl.ac.uk/recap/


    • Lecture Capture has the potential to be a wonderful resource, and for all the reasons you mention. However, it has a tendency to be used lazily-as in the example I mention in the post. A great shame!


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  3. Pingback: The Lecture is Dead. Long Live Lecture Capture! | Bex Ferriday's Edutechy Wonderland

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