University of Huddersfield gives tutorial filming plan green light

Staff raise ‘serious reservations’ about the impact of proposal to record tutorials

July 5, 2016
Crowd film on cameras
Source: Getty

The University of Huddersfield has approved controversial plans to video student tutorials despite academics’ concerns that it will harm classroom learning.

While several UK universities routinely film lectures by staff, Huddersfield’s new policy for the widespread recording of larger teaching sessions is set to extend significantly the idea of “lecture capture” in UK universities.

Under the new rules, passed unanimously by the university’s senate on 22 June, Huddersfield will ask lecturers to record lectures, tutorials in teaching labs and other timetabled taught sessions. But lecturers will be given the final say as to whether to make a recording.

The move follows pressure from the institution’s student union for more recorded materials, which, Huddersfield says, will be invaluable for revisiting teaching sessions and would not lead to lower student attendance.

Some 84 per cent of 758 students who voted in a union poll in June approved the move, whose backers say it will particularly help students with learning difficulties or who have English as a second language.

However, staff at Huddersfield have voiced “serious reservations about the effect this could have on student participation and attendance”, according to a University and College Union spokesman.

Some 77 per cent of staff believed that the widespread capture of lectures and tutorials will lead to a “stultified and less spontaneous lecture experience”, according to a recent UCU poll of staff at Huddersfield.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) felt recording would lead to an “uncomfortable and self-conscious experience for staff and students”, while 80 per cent believed that students would be more reluctant to participate in lectures, the poll of 304 staff found.

Some 85 per cent of staff surveyed believed that lecture capture would create “a lot of extra work”, including editing classroom materials.

Guidelines published by Huddersfield state that students’ questions should not be recorded “due to ethical considerations”, with staff required to repeat a question themselves before answering it so that any recorded lecture makes sense to viewers.

Small group tutorials and other seminars that are “almost wholly discussion-based” would not be recorded owing to similar “ethical and practical problems”, and nor would some workshops, the guidelines also state.

Huddersfield’s UCU branch welcomed the university’s recent decision to allow a “clear opt-out for all staff” if they believed recording was unsuitable.

“The university finally agreed that the ultimate decision on whether to record the lecture should be left to the discretion of teaching teams and individual lecturers,” the UCU's spokesman said.

“This decision recognises the lecturer’s autonomy and professionalism, putting trust in him or her to make an informed decision without the threat of disciplinary action,” he added.

About 15 UK universities are thought to have some kind of institution-wide lecture capture policies.

Several more are trialling schemes, with faculty at the University of Oxford able to opt in to a lecture capture scheme from this autumn.

A Huddersfield spokesman said staff supported the plans, which would take effect from September 2016.

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