From Inside Higher Ed: I’ll Take My Lecture to Go, Please
It looks like students can be open-minded after all: When provided with the option to view lectures online, rather than just in person, a full 82 percent of undergraduates kindly offered that they’d be willing to entertain an alternative to showing up to class and paying attention in real time. A new study released today suggests not only a willingness but a “clear preference” among undergraduates for “lecture capture,” the technology that records, streams and stores what happens in the classroom for concurrent or later viewing.It doesn't surprise me that some students would have a "clear preference" for downloadable lectures, but 82%?
In a way, this is a logical step. Distance education programs since the 1960s have had a television component and many still do, although many are still talking heads with PowerPoint instead of talking heads with whiteboards and charts. There are also the university lecturers on YouTube, which Virginia Heffernan ranks in the New York Times Sunday Magazine ("I'd give it an 85: the beat is good, and you can dance to it.")
But--and this is not news--unless you're delivering a rigorously ordered lecture and allow no questions, a classroom session can't be captured as a static performance. It's not a Puritan sermon; it's more a call-and-response, with reactions from students helping to shape and guide what gets said. If students don't come to class, what will happen?
Even if the classroom experience can be recorded and put into iPod video form, if no one shows up in the classroom, preferring to listen to the class later, we won't have any student responses and nonverbal reactions to help make the class a really good one.
Teachers aren't exactly performers, but we are closer to that model--the comedian or actor or singer--than to the model of the, ahem, politician who reels off what's on the teleprompter and refuses to take questions. We need that energy. Some days we give more of it than we take, and some days we get energy from the students. It's an ecological system, and I worry that the studentless classroom translated to video form will mess up that ecology.
Having said that, I've recorded (or have had recorded) video lectures and indeed whole classes for distance learning on occasion. For one class, my predecessor told me how the classes would be used, for he'd heard from the students about this. "They like the videos," he said. "They write to tell me that they watch them when they're ironing, and they fast-forward whenever the students talk or things get dull."
I guess our lectures deserve to be fast-forwarded or skipped through if they don't hold the interest of students, but maybe, just maybe, the students in the classroom had something useful to say that some--not all--of the distance students were too busy ironing to hear. (And did they take notes? I didn't ask.) Somehow, though, it's disturbing to think that a class could become like a TiVo version of Days of Our Lives or Family Guy.