Technology makes preserving and accessing lecture material an easy option these days, and many faculty are now recording the course content they present. The value of doing so is determined by how students make use of these recorded resources.
In response to surveys, students favor having recorded lecture content. And what can be done with recorded materials also makes a persuasive case for making them available. With recordings accessible all the time, students can use the material at their convenience. The recordings can accommodate a variety of different study habits. Students can listen to parts they found confusing in class. They can add content to the notes taken in class. Listening also offers an opportunity to review the material. On surveys, students indicate that they believe having recorded lecture material improves their grades, and they report it doesn't negatively affect their attendance in class.
However, it's that attendance issue that's of most concern to faculty. Will students stop coming to lectures if they can access the same material on their own? The data are mixed, with some studies showing no effect on attendance and other indicating negative effects. And although students believe that the availability of the recordings improves their grades, most of the studies (six are cited in this research) report little or no change in grades. These researchers conclude that the “results do not substantiate the reports of students' beliefs that access to recorded lectures helps them learn” (Simcock, Chua, Hekman, Levin, & Brown, 2017, p. 69).
The most salient issue is how students actually use the recorded material. In the studies that have tracked usage, most students are only watching a fraction of the material that's available.
The students in an Essentials of Mammalian Biology course surveyed in this study confirmed a number of the findings reported elsewhere in the research. Most of these students (87 percent) reported that they attended the lectures in person. Of those responding to the survey, 52 percent claimed they had used the lecture recordings; 55 percent said they only watched one-third or less of the 36 recorded lectures, while 24 percent reported they watched more than two-thirds of them. The log use data confirm this relatively low usage. The course enrolled 267 students and on average only 24 views occurred per day, with the most occurring just before the final exam.
The most common reported use of the recorded lectures was to cover for days students missed class. Most did not watch the recorded version of lectures they had attended in person. In other words, these students were not using the recordings to review course content.
As reported elsewhere, these students thought that the recorded lectures were a useful resource that improved their grades, but that was not the case in this study. In fact, lower grades in this study were associated with lower reported attendance of the live lectures. This research team worries that having recorded lectures may lull some students into a false sense of security.
Sixty-three percent of these students did not indicate a preference for live lectures or recorded ones, 29 percent did prefer getting the material live, and 8 percent preferred recorded lectures. Interestingly, students reported that they attended the lectures for mostly academic reasons. The live lectures helped them understand the course material and keep up with the content. They attended because the class provided the opportunity to interact with the teacher or fellow classmates.
As for an overall conclusion, the researchers offer this. “Although students did utilize recorded lectures, they did not engage with the recordings extensively and valued live lectures more” (p.75).
In this study the live lectures were simply recorded. With the currently popular flipped models, recorded content is often not being presented in class, and that changes the role of recordings in the learning process. Does it change the decisions students make about listening to the recordings? Are they persuading themselves they don't need to listen to all the recorded material? Do they believe they can listen while doing other things? Do they listen at ramped-up speeds? Do they wait and listen to all the recordings just before the exam? Issues such as these should prompt those using recorded course materials to anonymously survey students so that how the recordings are being used can be considered in light of their intended role in the course.
Reference: Simcock, D. C., Chua, W. H., Hekman, M., Levin, M. T., & Brown, S. (2017). A survey of first-year biology study opinion regarding live lectures and recorded lectures as learning tools. Advances in Physiology Education. 41(1), 69–76.