Jun 5 2008

Lecture capture evaluation: report of the focus group

Methodology and design

A focus group was conducted in place of the survey that has previously been used to evaluate video lectures. A series of open ended questions were devised in order to gather opinions about student experiences of lecture capture including both video and audio lectures. This report includes student feedback, problems and issues and the value of recorded lectures as a learning aid.

Three students attended the focus group, so generalising about their experiences is difficult but their experience was varied and offered valuable insight. The first student recorded lectures himself with an audio recorder with permission from his lecturers. He said that the lectures were so inspirational that he wanted a recording to be able to listen to them again and again. A second student had access to recorded lecture material centrally provided by the Media and Communications department. The third student had access to both audio recordings (podcasts) and video lectures and could comment on the value of both types of recordings.

Value of Lecture capture

All three students commented on the value of recording lecture material. In particular they said it was extremely useful for revision. One student found recorded lectures very useful for a statistics course, commenting that they were especially useful for postgraduates who have to work and study at the same time. All students mentioned that recorded material was useful if you couldn’t attend a lecture or you want a recap, saying it’s “like having your lecturer with you any time you want”.

The students commented that were more likely to dip into certain parts of the lecture rather than watch the whole lecture again. This approach was particularly useful for revision but also really helpful for grasping a point they might initially not have understood. Students talked about how lectures could be extremely content rich or ‘dense’ and that the ability to go back and review the material really helped their learning.

Audio verses video

The student who had access to podcasts and video lectures commented that video lectures are much easier to follow than audio lectures. He said:

“Podcasts have the effect of nearly dosing off, you try to concentrate but all you see is the PowerPoint slides…because you lose the personal touch, you don’t see the face, you don’t see someone moving, interacting”.

Being able to see more than just PowerPoint slides was particularly valuable in economics courses for example, where the recordings are of limited value if you can’t see the graphs or additional notes the lecturer makes. However, one student felt that audio would be sufficient in his subject, which was not so reliant on visual material. Overall, in terms of retaining interest, the video lectures where the lecturer and the PowerPoint could be seen were preferred.

Access and Quality Issues

Students reported no real problems accessing video lectures both on and off campus. That said, later on in the focus group the students stated that the recorded lectures should be easier to find. They thought it would be helpful to have a podcast web page, perhaps under departmental headings or an archive of recordings. Another student commented that it was difficult to find the statistics lectures on the Methodology Institute website. In terms of navigation, the students did not report any problems with the format of the videos. One student felt it might be nice to divide the video into chapters, although he appreciated this would involve considerable post-production work.

In terms of quality, it was felt that the audio could be improved. The audio quality of public lectures in large theatres was noticeably better than some of the recordings from classrooms.

Value as a learning experience

One student commented that it was reassuring to know that certain lectures in statistics were being recorded, so they could go back and revisit the material. Another student found many of his lecturers inspirational and knowing there was a recording of the event allowed him to enjoy the lecture without having to take detailed notes. Again it was commented that being able to review the material for a second or even third time was valuable to ensure they grasped everything that was being said. The students felt this was especially good for students for whom English was not their first language.

The challenge of taking notes and listening to a lecture properly was mentioned by students, who felt it was “Humanly impossible to make notes in full” without listening again. This student felt you might miss around 35% of what was said during a lecture. They found it both reassuring to know the video lectures were available and extremely helpful for their revision. Students also commented that being able to listen to the lecture again often saved the students from needing to consult their lecturer with questions at a later date.

Lecture capture and attendance

The students were asked specifically about whether lecture capture affected attendance and certainly some of the students had friends who didn’t attend some lectures because they knew it would be available as a video lecture. Students tended to skip those subjects that were perceived as less interesting or more generic if they knew it was being recorded. However, in general the students we questioned talked about enjoying attending lectures and didn’t think the recordings had affected attendance overall. They reported that even if they didn’t attend a lecture they still needed to dedicate the time to listen to or watch the recording, so it was really easier for them to attend. As one student said:

“You need to go to the lecture to make it real, solidarity with your friends…you want to see the people, ask questions and see your friends asking questions.”

Future Developments

The students were keen to see all lectures at LSE recorded if possible and they also thought it would be useful to have access to recorded lectures after the course finished.

Students were asked specifically about whether they might be interested in listening or watching the lectures via mobile technology, such as on their mobile phone. Two of the group felt this might be useful, although they felt they were more likely to listen to public lectures and inspirational lectures on the bus, rather than material you needed to concentrate on in detail.

JS / SL

May 2008

About Jane Secker

Digital Literacy and Copyright Advisor at LSE's Centre for Learning Technology
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