Video the top teachers

March 20, 1998

I WAS very disappointed to read the dismissive, knee-jerk reaction of the co-directors of the Centre for Higher Education Practice (THES, March 13) to the suggestion that videos of outstanding lectures should be made available nationally. One expects a more considered opinion from those who offer themselves as experts on adult learning than "it is worse than useless".

Students cannot learn by interactive means all day long - it would be exhausting. They also need time, and stimulus, for absorption and reflection. What really matters, whatever the activity - reading a book or watching a video - is that they are mentally engaged.

The live lecture may be overused as a method of communication, but it will remain a central plank of higher education for some time. Many lectures are awful, and so there is a real need for improvement, to engage students more effectively. Video can help in two ways, by allowing lecturers to see themselves in action, and by providing examples of good practice. Videoed lectures would also give students more opportunity to reflect on the different ways different teachers discuss the same issues. Programmes could be made which include activities to reinforce learning. Students can discuss them in small groups, because videos, unlike lecturers, can be stopped and rewound if understanding falters.

A. J. P. Taylor showed the world how an academic on the small screen can engage an audience. Production and playback technologies are now much cheaper and accessible. Fears that recording lectures would do away with jobs are misguided - the logisitics of any such attempt are awe-inspiring.

I hope the new Learning and Teaching Institute will not reject the idea. It would alienate the very staff we need to bring on board, and possibly discredit professional development itself.

C. M. O'Hagan

Dean of learning development University of Derby

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