Giving students the option of watching videos of lectures online can lead to dramatically increased absence rates, a study has warned.
Researchers at King’s College London found that the introduction of lecture capture on one course led to a doubling of the number of undergraduates who did not attend any lectures – and a doubling of the proportion of students who skipped classes, to 40 per cent.
Their paper, published in the International Journal of Higher Education Research, says that this in turn led to a significant drop in student attainment.
The study will add to the debate about the merits of lecture capture, which is increasingly employed by universities around the world as a tool to complement traditional learning and to aid revision, as well as to support learners with disabilities.
The King’s experiment looked at two cohorts of students studying for the same BSc course: one before recordings of lectures were introduced and one after. Three matched lectures that were examined showed a substantial drop in attendance after videos were made available.
The students in the first cohort, who did not have access to lecture recordings, also had significantly higher coursework grades, the paper says.
Martin Edwards, reader in organisational psychology at King’s and co-author of the study, said that the experiment “demonstrates the problems with universities and students heavily relying on lecture capture as a replacement for lecture attendance”.
“We know that attendance is important for good grades. One of the reasons is that physical presence is a fundamentally richer learning experience than accessing it on an electronic device – and it is certainly a fundamentally richer learning experience than not watching it at all, which the availability of lecture capture may well encourage,” he said.
Average viewing figures for the lectures during term were not high, indicating that students who were missing lectures were not then following the course in real time. Instead, viewing was highest during the revision period after teaching had finished. But, although some students were able to recover what they lost from missing lectures, the study found that, overall, most were unable to, Dr Edwards said.
“This is a problem because courses are largely curated in a certain way to help with learning in a sequence and lectures provide a key touch point for information about assessment,” Dr Edwards said.
The paper’s findings contrast with those of some previous studies, which found that introducing lecture capture had little or no impact on attendance.
Dr Edwards added: “We’re not anti-lecture capture. We know that it can be helpful for those students with particular learning needs, but [these issues are] something universities need to be aware of.”