Lecture Capture: will my students show up?

One of the recent game changers in Higher Education in the UK is the introduction of lecture capture.  Across the sector, the use of lecture capture to record live lectures is now commonly adopted with 86% of universities in the UK using lecture capture. It is now being introduced more widely in the university where I work, so naturally there has been much debate and discussion about the potential impact of this initiative on student attendance and on student learning. Much discussion has focused on a deficit model particularly that attendance will drop and students will rely on recordings for cramming.

I wanted to understand better what we know from research on these issues and what are the implications for academic practice? So that’s what this blog post is about.


Before exploring lecture capture specifically, simply looking at evidence related to student attendance and student performance, the literature shows a positive link between these two factors. In a meta-analytic review, attendance was found to have a strong relationship with final course grade and importantly was a better predictor of academic performance than for example study habits, study skills and standardized admission tests. Interestingly, research in a medical education context where the teaching sessions were highly interactive, showed a mean attendance rate of 89%. A positive correlation was found between attendance and overall examination score (r = 0.59 [95%CI, 0.44-0.70]; P < .001). Distinction grades (above 60%) were obtained by students with attendance rates of 80% or higher.


Figure 1. Correlation Between Total Attendance Rate and Overall Examination Score with the line of best fit (Deane and Murphy, 2013)

Further research from a randomized experimental approach suggest that on average, the effect of attending lectures corresponds to a 9.4 percent to 18.0 percent improvement in exam performance. It’s not a surprise to recognise that student engagement and attendance has a positive impact on their learning success. So what about lecture capture where recordings of lectures are available to students? Will the face to face lecture be replaced by a recording, which is possibly how many students might think?

Attendance and performance with lecture capture

A study on attendance and lecture capture was carried out with 396 first-year students attending a mandatory course on biological psychology. All the lectures were of a traditional university style with a teacher in front of the class covering content.  Four different groups were identified when it comes to attendance and using recorded lectures: non-users, viewers, visitors and supplementers.

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Student membership of these categories was not fixed and changed between semesters. A large number of students used the recorded lectures as a substitute for lecture attendance (viewers). In the first assessment which focused on developing a knowledge base, the students who used the recorded lectures as a supplement scored significantly higher. In the second assessment which focused on higher order thinking skills, no significant differences were found between using recording lectures and attending lectures. A correlation study on time spent and exam score for the first knowledge base assessment found that only watching online lectures (viewers) had the lowest correlation and only attending lectures (visitors) had the highest correlation. The supplementers who had an increased time on task did not result in a higher exam score. Again, as in other research attendance at face-to face lectures is a strong predictor of academic performance. Recent research within a UK context investigated the impact of attendance, lecture recording, and student attainment across four years of an undergraduate psychology programme. For first year students, supplemental use was beneficial but only stronger students could overcome the impact of low attendance. Weaker students did not observe grade improvements from additional use of recordings if their attendance was poor. The predictive aspect on student attainment was only found for first year students.

The benefits of lecture capture

The positive appreciation by students of having recorded lectures available will not come as a surprise to my colleagues. The ability of students to review recordings available during a course particularly where they have difficulty understanding new content or terminology is a beneficial support tool. I know from student feedback where I work that some students don’t like gaps deliberately placed in lecture slide handouts. There are a number of issues at play here, some students are anxious that they have missed important points, others are over relying on studying just with the lecture slides and incomplete versions don’t support this and obviously those who don’t attend won’t have heard the lecture unless they have a recording. Research within a health science context where there is a high content load examined lecture recordings where a podcast and the lecture slides were available. Some students did listen to the podcast during other activities (e.g. commuting) but most accessed the resources and viewed the lecture slides on a computer. The flexibility with this approach and being able to hear the lecture again were the most useful aspects from students.

Implications for practice

The goal in higher education is to support the development of independent adult learners, equipped with the skills and competencies to thrive in a competitive global market. The student population in Higher Education is diverse, with widening participation, this includes more mature students, international students, students with a disability, students from under-represented groups (e.g. Black Minority Ethnic) and students who are first in the family to attend university. With respect to attendance, students may choose not to attend for a variety of different factors, the time of the lecture, the timetable schedule for that day. I know that some students will actively decide not to attend a lecture because of commuting time and costs especially if there are few activities scheduled for that day.

Do learners understand the importance of lecture attendance?

I know that we tell them it is important but actually sharing evidence on the relationship between lecture attendance and student grades. I am doing other research where I have interviewed successful students and attendance is mentioned a lot so sharing student quotes could hopefully hammer home the point. An informed choice for adult learners is what I am getting at here. It also reminds me of feedback and students being aware of what feedback is and noticing it within their educational experiences. We have to support students in navigating this new university world they find themselves within.

How can we advise students on using lecture capture?

A recent pre-print of a publication from Emily Nordmann et al. provides practical recommendations on lecture capture for staff and students; also provided are helpful infographics that are freely available to download and use (highly recommended). Local guides are essential to communicate expectations with students, for example “7 ways to get the most out of Lecture Capture: A Guide for students. It’s about messaging and involving students in different ways.

Will lecture capture change teaching approaches?

The cons – The concern is that lecturers may feel inhibited to be creative with their teaching, try out new initiatives or tell jokes. The common policies on lecture capture include guidance that staff pause recordings for any interactive discussions with students or any confidential topics are not included in lecture capture. There’s tensions about recordings being available to view and how they might be used. It would be a shame if lectures became less interactive, lacked energy and were didactic in delivery. Actually, I am not sure if I could watch such recordings anyway, probably just fast forward to the parts I am interested in hearing and leave the rest.

The pros- I believe there’s an educational opportunity here, to critically discuss the purpose of the lecture and how it is delivered. If a lecturer is the only person talking during a lecture, then I do think a recording can suitably replace the lecture. Would I attend if I can listen to it all online at a time that is more flexible and suits me better? Interactivity within lectures, using technologies such as mentimeter for large class sizes to promote inclusive activities, ensuring that learners are not passive participants in a lecture will engage students better but also promote meaningful learning that isn’t so easily captured with a recording especially if the interactive aspects cannot be recorded for privacy constraints.

There’s a lot to think about with lecture capture and if you have any comments please tweet @suzannefergus or leave a comment below