Everyone likes online videos. I do, that's why my YouTube channel is closing in on 1.5 million views. At least, I like good online video. But what does that mean? It certainly doesn't mean the lowest common denominator of talking head video - plonking yourself in front of a webcam and droning on because that's the easiest thing to do. And it certainly doesn't mean any video longer than five minutes. All of which means that the idea of "lecture capture" is wrong headed.
Alexa.com reports that people average 17 minutes per day on YouTube and watch 12 videos, that's 85 seconds per viewing. Here's a graph which shows YouTube's own data for "audience retention", i.e. the length of time people pay attention to online videos before stopping or skipping ahead. What do you think this data says about the concept of "lecture capture"?
Ah, you say, but people sit on their sofas watching David Attenborough with rapt attention for an hour. Well first of all, you're not David Attenborough. Second, you don't have 1% of 1% of the budget or the time that the BBC or Sky spent on making that program. But most important of all, you don't understand the difference between lean forward and sit back media. The interactivity of an integrated control bar in online videos banishes the passivity of watching linear video on a big screen such as a television and encourages use of fast forward skipping. Online, all attention spans are short.
The Atlantic recently ran a piece titled Lectures Didn't Work in 1350—and They Still Don't Work Today. It's hard to know where to start listing what's wrong with this article. First, it's not about higher education or about lectures at all, it's about primary and secondary education where lectures (rightly) don't feature as a mode of instruction as far as I'm aware. But even if you apply it to higher education, the whole piece conveniently ignores the rather obvious fact that lectures have indeed worked since 1350 - that's why students pass rather than fail. It is simple minded twaddle to simply ignore this. And in an age where technology increasingly threatens to distance us from each other, the physicality of the lecture room increases its impact and its value. Sitting in front of a recording erodes that valuable link between staff and students.
So what's my problem with lecture capture technology? The very name. The idea that a lecture can be captured and bottled is laughable and shows a fundamental misunderstanding. This technodeterministic language cements the idea of technology replacing rather than augmenting pedagogy, the wrong-headed notion that disruptive technologies kill older technologies. This is demonstrably false - TV didn't kill radio, and radio didn't kill newspapers, etc. Instead, in the real world we have the Lindy Effect - the longer a technology has been around, the longer we can expect it to survive. Lectures are here to stay, so the question is, how do we use new technologies to augment and improve lectures, not to replace them?
And that's where the use of technologies such as Echo360 and Panopto come in useful. We use them to produce short (less than 5 minute - look at the graph) high impact videos covering the threshold concepts that students struggle with. And we use those recordings to augment and improve the vital lecture experience. Give 'em the old TED razzle dazzle. More importantly, we make these technologies available to students and we challenge them to make their own videos explaining threshold concepts. Instead of sitting passively in front of recorded lectures students become active partners in transmitting knowledge. And we stop pretending that technology solves problems. Technology doesn't solve problems, people do. But technology can cause problems, such as increasingly passive learning. Let's not let that happen. Let's encourage the use of online video. Let's stop talking about lecture capture.
But don't take my word for it:
- Jones, S.E. (2007) Reflections on the lecture: outmoded medium or instrument of inspiration?. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(4), 397-406
- Mulryan-Kyne, C. (2010) Teaching large classes at college and university level: challenges and opportunities. Teaching in Higher Education, 15(2), 175-185
- Mark Smithers: Is lecture capture the worst educational technology?