Last November, Steve Bond and I released the findings of the Neurodiversity and Lecture Capture report, where we surveyed 124 LSE students at all levels to find out their experiences with lecture capture and lecture recordings. To get more insight into the issues raised in the survey, we decided to run focus groups in March with undergraduate and postgraduate students who identified themselves as neurodiverse. Four students participated; two postgraduate (Student A and Student B) and two undergraduate (Student C and Student D). Here’s what they had to say.
Lecture Capture and Attendance
While both focus groups were aware of some lecturers’ perception that lecture recordings are an excuse for students to not attend lectures, both groups rejected the idea that they actually deter students from attending lectures. The undergraduate group felt that students’ learning styles and dispositions had more of an impact on attendance:
Student C: “I think just like I said earlier, a lot of lecturers say that they are taking it [lecture recordings] as an alternative to actually attending the lecture, which I disagree with completely, because everyone has a different learning style…”
Undergraduates felt that the argument that students would avoid attending lectures if recordings were available a bit strange:
Student C: “One thing I found a little bit strange is that the reasons that lecturers give that they don’t like recording is that they say that people use it as an alternative to coming to lectures, which I kind of dispute. I don’t think that is the case at all. I mean, if that was a problem, they could release the recordings before exams or something like that.”
“And I have to say the attendance thing; Whether or not the lecture is available online, I don’t think that makes any difference in people’s mind. If they’re not going to come, they’re not going to come.”
The postgraduate group claimed to enjoy lectures, and used lecture recordings only to revisit the lecture:
Student B: “I very much enjoy the experience of going to lectures, but I’m sure that there’s some people who don’t, but for me it really is about repetition.”
Respondents to the Neurodiversity and Lecture capture survey claimed to use lecture capture for three broad purposes: making notes, exam revision, to revisit and reinforce concepts. Analysis of the lecture capture viewings shows that the number of views peaks at week 19, corresponding with the first few weeks start of the Michaelmas term and again in week 47, corresponding with the summer exam season, which seems to correlate with how students’ claims to use lecture capture.
Focus group participants explained how they use lecture capture to reinforce concepts:
Student C: “The main way I commit things to memory is that I’ll just have it [the lecture recording] playing in the background doing something else; tidying my room or something equally thrilling. I think just being able to like, access that, and if you’re not sure about it, just being able to clarify what people have said.”
Student D: “Yeah, I think I would use it as a supplementary, right after class in case I’ve missed something, or didn’t understand something, and then especially during revision. You know, maybe, you were a bit confused about a topic and it would help to go back and look at the recording…”
“I feel like a lot of people, especially kids who have some type of learning disability, a big way to compensate for that is to go back and re-listen, or go over your notes immediately after a lecture, like within that week. That helps me commit it to memory.”
The postgraduate group appeared to interact with lecture recordings at a deeper level, using recordings to not only recap on what happened during the lecture, but also to contextualise other lecture materials and assignments:
Student A: “I also use it for essay writing. So, during the exercise of writing an essay, if there were certain arguments that were made in the lecture that perhaps I erm [missed], then later if they were discussed in the seminar and they’re contentious issues, I like to revisit them and see how the professor actually looked at them. So yes, I use them for essay writing as well.”
Student B found that watching a lecture recording before reading the lecture materials for that lecture helped to contextualise the material and allowed students to interact with it in new ways:
Student B: “And what I did was I listened to the recording right after class, right after I sort of heard the lecture. [I] took notes based on that recording along with the slides that had been presented via powerpoint so I made my own notes. *smiling* and then did the readings, and it really was a mind-opening experience, because all of a sudden, I got the readings! It was just very strange, but it was like, oh, y’know, yeah, if you listen and have a second opportunity to understand what is happening in the lecture, all of a sudden, it blew open the readings in a whole new way.”
Postgraduate students found lecture capture useful not only to revisit lecture material, but also to try and pick up on syntax, and linguistic cues to try and understand concepts:
Student B: “I mean I’ve just learned how, y’know, I’m moving into the social science from the natural sciences, and it’s literally like listening to a different language, and I find that I don’t gain the language by reading it, I gain the language by listening to it, and listening to the sentence structure, and listening to the syntax, and the tone of voice, and how they’re using the words. It’s much more helpful to gain a complete sense of the language, basically.”
The Postgraduates felt that lecture capture “transformed” the lecture experiences, as students felt a lot more comfortable in lectures, knowing that concepts could be revisited afterwards in case they were missed, allowing them to listen and interact with the lecturer better:
Student B: “Erm, and another comment that I’ll just throw out there was, erm, knowing that a lecture is being recorded makes me more comfortable and confident in class…”
Student A: *nodding in agreement* “Yeah!”
Student B: “Like before, when I felt like… I was nervous! It was the one and only time that I had, the only opportunity that I had to capture what was being said. I was more focused on taking notes and less on listening and digesting and questioning, and having it be an active dialogue, even it’s just in my head, and I’m just listening. Because I’m no longer concerned that I have to note everything down…”
Student A: *interjecting* “Or that you even have to understand everything the first time, which is quite, which is really nice about the lecture recordings.”
Student B: “So it has transformed the lecture going experience”
“And made it more fun, more enjoyable and a different experience. One that adds another dimension to learning.”
The undergraduate group admitted that they would also prefer to do the readings for the lecture after having been to lecture, or watched the lecture recording. However they may be constrained from doing so due to class scheduling and the availability of lecture recordings:
Student C: “I always do my readings before the class itself. So… I dunno… because the way the classes are formatted, you have a lecture in week 17 and then week 18 you have that seminar where sometimes you have that week 17 lecture and then the class follows up the lecture that you’ve had.”
“I think generally, ideally, I’d like to go to the actual lecture first time, and then do the reading, and when you revisit the lecture, you’re like, ok, so that links in here, and ties in there. But like you said *talking to Student D* it’s class-by-class just because it’s weird the way that they do it.”
Both groups had problems skipping to specific sections of recordings:
Student B: “Oh actually, you know, one of the things I wanted to do is just, erm, reverse 10 seconds or 20 seconds and I haven’t yet found, maybe there’s a way to do that, but, like the scroll bar, is very jumpy. I mean you can’t precisely just scroll back one second, or 10 seconds. Like I would get a minute and 40 seconds into the recording and I would want to, y’know, just listen because I missed a word or something, and I had to scroll back all the way to the beginning.”
Both groups also felt disappointed that lecture recordings were not available to download, and wanted to see recordings made available in formats supported by mobile devices, recognising that increasing numbers of students are interacting with lecture materials on a variety of platforms on the move, and use different aspects of lecture capture to learn:
Student C: “One thing that annoys me is that I would like to put it on to my iPod, so I could listen to it on the go, and that’s… it might just be because I’m just not great with computers, but I haven’t been able to do that.”
Student D: “Because, I think you can’t listen or watch the videos on… like I said, I only used it last year, because a lot of my courses don’t have it this year, but to be able to watch it on your iPad, because a lot of students are using portable devices now that they weren’t using a couple of years ago.”
Student B: “Erm, but I am still bummed out that they’re still treated, almost secretively, y’know, you’re not allowed to download them and I take my own voice recordings as well because, I’d like to have a record of it [the lecture] as I realise how important voice is for me and my learning, which has just happened in the past year, maybe year and a half.”
Student A: “…I find that one of the nicest things is actually to be able to take it with me instead of having to sit at a computer for the hour, hour and a half that the lecture lasts, two hours that the lecture lasts, instead of actually being able to go out and, I dunno, move about.”
Availability of recordings
The Neurodiversity and Lecture capture survey revealed that 29% of suggestions on how the LSE’s lecture capture service could be improved were about improving the availability of lecture recordings. 29% of respondents to the survey also reported that lecture recordings were “Rarely” available on their courses.
What was interesting about the focus group feedback was that both sets of students expressed a sense of ownership over recordings, and felt it was unfair when lecture recordings were unavailable.
Undergraduates felt that it was unfair that lecture recordings were not available for every course, as they also allowed students to keep up with fast moving lectures, particularly in qualititative subjects:
Student D: “A lot of the qualitative courses don’t really offer them, but sometimes I feel like they go so quickly when they’re speaking. Erm, ‘cos there’s so much information to cover in an hour that I found that me recording my lectures is what I have to do.”
The undergraduate group also felt that making lecture recordings available later had a negative impact on their learning strategy:
Student D: “The only thing I’d like to see is, instead of releasing it right before exams, because honestly, that would get really really tough. I wouldn’t use it as an alternative to going to class, but to have to tab something in my notes from week 3, and then all of a sudden, it’ll be week 23, and to have to go back and remember, oh, just what have I missed?”
The postgraduate group felt that it was their right to be able to have better access to recordings, and use recordings to suit their own learning style:
Student B: “Erm, y’know, I do feel as if it’s my personal right to have access to that [lectures] when I’m not going to misuse it, and post it online, or do anything inappropriate with it. I wish that I had more free access.”
“…I’m like, y’know, LSE has this facility, it’s something that they promote, it’s something that people are aware of, this is for me personal use. It’s for my learning, and I don’t wanna have to defend that to anyone, and rightly or wrongly, maybe wrongly.”
The majority of respondents to the Neurodiversity and lecture capture survey (62%) reported that they did not self-record lectures, however the ones who did, tended to record audio only (93%).
The focus group students reported making recordings only in audio format, but also gave an insight into why some students may be put off from recording lectures themselves:
Student C: “Yeah, I do. But I would like… I mean obviously, I don’t have these fancy systems or anything that are connected to, right next to where the lecturer is speaking, so it requires me to find a certain seat in class where I can get the best audio. I think it’s a lot for a student to worry about trying to get the information, y’know.”
The undergraduate group provided more details on the issues with producing lecture recordings themselves:
Student C: “I have a dictaphone thing, but you need to be near-ish the lecturer, and you know, the acoustics of the lecture room needs to be decent *laughing*. I like quality sound. Also it’s, y’know if you’re trying to make notes at the same time you’re, y’know, trying to control the dictaphone, y’know, it’s a distraction! You wanna be focusing just on the lecture, not making sure you have the audio file. And also that seems a bit unfair, because then only you have the audio file, and it’s just not really fair on other people.”
Both groups also reported not being comfortable recording lectures to avoid potential embarrassment or harassment from lecturers and students for doing so:
Student D: “I also, erm, I know some professors will say “oh, unless like you have a student ISSA [Individual Student Support Agreement], or something then, erm, you have to come and get permission from me and then you can record. But if you’re sitting there with a dictaphone, then, I dunno, I think that when you have a student ISSA, you have an element of privacy that you would like to maintain. Y’know, in case somebody sees that you have a dictaphone or recording thing when the professor has said that, then, I dunno, I just feel that’s a bit of an invasion of privacy. Why do they have the right to know that I do have an ISSA or something like that?”
Student C: “I’d agree with that actually, yeah. It’s quite a personal thing.”
It wasn’t just the lecturers that neurodiverse students felt they had to justify their condition to. Our undergraduate focus group students were also aware of comments by other students in the lecture theatre, making neurodiverse students less likely to use specifically provided technology to record lectures:
Student D: “Well I just think that’s, I mean, all students are aware that, y’know, that is the requirement that you do need to have a neurodiverse condition to be able to record. Then when they [other students] see you recording, then, I don’t like it when students come up to you and are like “oh you get extra time on your exams, you’re so lucky!” It’s really off-putting because, y’know, out extra time that we have to use, or the arrangements that we have, are really so that we can be on the same level playing field as they are because they don’t have a [neurodiverse] condition. So it almost kinda seems like you’re getting called out for it, or kind of, I dunno. I think it’s an invasion of privacy. It’s my business.”
“So I use my iPhone, so that it’s not so obvious. I have received a recording device from the Disability and Wellbeing Office, and I have just been more uncomfortable using it even though the sound might be better, because I don’t wanna have that…”
Student C: *interjecting* “You don’t wanna go up and put it [recorder] in the front.”
Postgraduate students also felt that having to place recording equipment at the front of lectures compromised their ability to maintain the privacy of their condition:
Student B: “I don’t want that to be constantly on the table… But yeah, it’s that fear, that anxiety of just having it be a whole issue of having me to explain what my learning style is, and that it’s helpful for me, it’s for my own personal use, and I won’t, I’m not out to get them, and won’t post this online, y’know, make a YouTube video.”
Whilst the postgraduate group claimed to make recordings only for private use, the undergraduate group admitted sharing their recordings, and felt they had a right to do so, which reinforced the concept of ownership of recordings.
Student C: “Yeah I do share it with my friends.”
“It’s… if I want to share it, I will, but it’s also nobody’s business that I have this neurodiverse condition. It just is what it is. I don’t really like that it has to become this big thing.”
Having recruited only four students, we cannot say that this sample is representative of every neurodiverse student at LSE. However, combined with survey data and analysis of data from the lecture capture system, we could spot some common themes.
The focus group students and respondents to the Neurodiversity and lecture capture survey both claimed that lecture recordings are an important tool in the learning strategy, as it allowed students to revisit concepts, watch the lecture at their own pace and interact with reading lists and lecture materials in a more contextual way. Focus group testimonies also highlighted the importance of multi-sensory interaction with lecture materials.
Instead of providing an excuse to skip lectures, the focus group participants saw lecture recordings as an essential learning tool which facilitated better in-class interaction and reduced the anxiety of missing out on lecture concepts. Students appreciated the ability to revisit sections they didn’t understand, and even use recordings as a way to troubleshoot issues to avoid having to contact lecturers to clarify issues.
Students felt that they had a right to be able to access lecture recordings, as recordings featured strongly in their learning strategies. Students felt that it was unfair that lecturers did not trust students to use lecture recordings responsibly, and felt it was unfair to justify their learning strategy when LSE has already invested in, and is committed to, providing lecture recordings. Therefore sporadic access to lecture recordings, whether due to lack of availability or time-restricted availability of recordings, removes context from lecture materials and puts pressure on students.
The testimonies from the focus students of making their own recordings helps to explain why so many respondents to the Neurodiversity and lecture survey chose not to make lecture recordings. The hassle, embarrassment and potential harassment from students and lecturers form a strong disincentive for students to record lectures at all, let alone in video. Students also felt that having to constantly justify their learning styles to lecturers and peers was unfair and an invasion of their privacy. When it comes to sharing recordings, undergraduates felt that they had a right to share their recordings with their peers, whilst postgraduates seemed to indicate that their recordings were more for personal use.
Lecture recordings clearly have an impact on the learning strategies of neurodiverse students, but lack of consistency and trust is stopping the system being used to its full potential. In the Neurodiversity and Lecture capture report, we recommended providing better training to lecturers to produce better, more consistent recordings. What the focus groups have highlighted is that trust also needs to be fostered between lecturers and students about how to use lecture recordings appropriately. Students need to understand that myths around lecture capture stem from genuine concerns harboured by lecturers that student attendance would reduce. Lecture recordings do not offer the ability to interact with lecturers face to face, and students should respect the effort lecturers put in to produce engaging lectures. Lecturers should also recognise that the majority of students do not see lecture capture as an alternative to attending lectures, but as a useful addition which could transform the lecture and actually lead to better engagement in class.
We should all recognise that differences in learning needs and styles are inevitable within a diverse student body, such as that at LSE. Lecture capture and recordings are an increasingly important tool in the learning strategies all students, and making lecture capture more accessible, consistent and building trust around its use benefits both students and lecturers.
Karnad, Arun and Bond, Steve (2013) Neurodiversity and lecture recordings. Learning Technology and Innovation, London, UK http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/54434/