Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Are traditional lectures better than watching a video? via @timeshighered #348

Dr Stefan Rennick-Egglestone of the University of Nottingham, writing in the Times Higher Education website last September gives his opinion on "This is why traditional lectures are better than watching a video". While he sees some value in recording lectures, he refers to these videos as "souvenirs of a module", he sees no substitute for the "the enforced regularity of attending a lecture at a fixed time, every week, which can provide a useful structure for learning". Looking through logs of views for his videos, he finds that "many students watch the videos only in last-minute binges before a coursework deadline, instead of during the week in which they were directed to watch them". In my own blog post yesterday I reported that YouTube Analytics from my channel shows similar evidence of my own students viewing videos one or two days before an exam. Dr Rennick-Egglestone also points out the "social nature of traditional lectures" and how they provide a forum for discussion for students. 

Image Source: Slate.com.
While I am in agreement with most of Dr Rennick-Egglestone's points, I do think he sees some value in providing short videos as a "supplement to a traditional lecture" rather than a recording of the whole lecture. I have never recorded a lecture, though I have made a video at my desk by recording a voice-over for one of my PowerPoint notes at the end of a semester when I had not covered all content in class. I have made lots of short videos to supplement my classes - I find that these work well for my students.

The way content is consumed and delivered has changed enormously in the past 27 years that I have been working in education. The first lesson I created in 1989 was delivered on a 5.5 inch floppy disk - it could only be viewed on an IBM compatible PC, and nothing else. Today I could create the same lesson in a fraction of the time and in seconds have it available on multiple devices all over the world. The likes of Amazon Prime and NetFlix have changed the dynamic of how we watch and learn. No longer must we wait a week for the next episode - I think the same can apply for lectures. A lecturer can (as Rennick-Egglestone points out in his article) respond to levels of attention in a classroom, but not online. But I feel that the balance of video versus the classroom is swinging towards video. A good lecture should also make for a good video, while a bad lecture will not improve when recorded. There are many challenges facing lecturers with increased administration and research work as well as teaching. Video may be a help or a hindrance - but it is up to us to make it work. I see more and more of my (particularly younger) colleagues engaging in video creation. One day we'll all be doing it.

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