Why are lectures still not being recorded at the University of Edinburgh?

On October 27 2016, many students found out via the Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Facebook that “every lecture, university wide,” would be recording in the academic year 2017-18.

15 months later, the new lecture capture system, Media Hopper Replay, is not being used on a university-wide basis.  Many students are now questioning why, despite the technology being readily installed, they are still not being provided recorded lectures.

According to University’s Information Services website, the answer is simple: the service was never going to be instantly available. “The new service is being rolled out over 3 years and will be available in 114 core teaching spaces for the start of the 2017/18 academic year.”

In an interview with The Student EUSA Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, admitted that there was “miscommunication in terms of what the lecture recording policy was going to be.

“The current policy is an opt-in process, where individual academics are the people deciding whether or not they record their lectures. The policy that is being introduced will be an opt-out policy, where automatically all lectures will be recorded.” It seems that installation of new equipment and implementation of this new policy could not be achieved simultaneously within the 15 months since the change was announced.

In fact, the University is currently undergoing a consultation about the proposed new policy, with students as well as University staff being asked their opinions about lecture capture.

Archer is clear what she wants from this consultation: “It’s really important that as many students respond to it as possible, preferably in favour of an opt-out policy.” She refers to students limited by illness, mental health issues and childcare constraints, as well as those with Special Educational Needs or those for whom English is a second language, as people for whom universal lecture recording would be beneficial, “making education accessible for all and providing equality.”

Regardless of the new policy not being provided for all lectures, it has been instantly popular at the University: around 190,000 lecture views to the end of December 2017.

However, several lecturers and course organisers have spoken privately about their reservations regarding compulsory lecture recordings, with concerns ranging from its effects on lecture attendance, to legal problems arising from copyright and intellectual property issues, to its effects on lecturers’ ability to express themselves freely in a lecture environment. As one History lecturer put it, “Have you ever thought how your speech and attitude would change if you were recorded all the time?”

Publicly, it appears that the decision to record lectures is being taken on a School-by-School basis, with ten Schools having made at least 200 recordings since the system launched, while others, such as the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, have decided not to record lectures this year. In September HCA undergraduates were emailed to inform them that the School does “not feel we are quite ready for such a big and important project, so this year, as a School, we are not recording lectures or putting them on Learn.”

Students have some sympathy with lecturers’ concerns. “It definitely does decrease turnout for lectures,” says Third year Politics student D’Arcy Lawson Baker. But, as someone whose lectures have mainly been recorded for the last two years, she says, “I’m hugely appreciative that my lectures are recorded because I find it helps me a lot when I revise or am writing coursework.”

Second year Physics undergraduate Sean O’Brien agrees that his lectures being recorded is a positive thing. “I have lecture clashes and it enables me to do a mix of courses that I’d not be able to do otherwise. Students know they’re not as good as the real thing, so I don’t see them being used as an excuse for not going to lectures.”

Archer agrees with this last point: “There have been research projects carried out from other universities who use [lecture recording], mainly in America where it has been rolled out on such a large platform, and there is actually no evidence to show that attendance is affected by lecture recording.”

The lecture recording consultation runs until February 19. Responses can be submitted to the University here: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/display/LRec/How+to+respond+to+the+consultation

 

Photo: Andrew Perry

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The Student Newspaper 2016