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Research on lecture recordings – the value of small-scale qualitative approaches

By Ruslan Ramanau

Providing access to recordings of university classes, such as lectures and tutorials, has become a mainstream trend in higher education of the last two decades. Recent reviews of literature on the use of lecture recordings (frequently also referred to as ‘lecture capture’) in university (Banerjee, 2021) and business education (Ling and Knight, 2023) throw some light not only on current state of knowledge on the subject, but also on the challenges of research into educational innovations and transferring their insights to other settings.

Both sets of authors note the variety of approaches to defining lecture capture and in their reviews either concentrate on a narrower definition of the phenomenon, where it is described as a recording of a face-to-face class accompanied by slideshow and audio-visual material (Banerjee, 2021), or on a broader context of lecture recording use, where face-to-face teaching and asynchronous access to digital resources complement one another.

An overwhelming majority of empirical studies on the topic have a rather generic focus on benefits and drawbacks of lecture capture or on student accounts of using lecture recordings, which tend to be largely positive compared to the views of instructors, who are typically more cautious about integrating this technology in teaching.  Given the extensive body of research on the topic (e.g. Brecht, 2012; Ebbert and Dutke, 2020; also see Banerjee, 2021; and Ling and Knight, 2023 for reviews of literature) one would expect a reasonably conclusive body of evidence on the effectiveness of lecture capture, but both of these literature reviews conclude that:

  • Research which highlights both benefits and drawbacks of lecture capture use is quite extensive;
  • Relationships between the use of lecture capture and student academic performance are inconclusive, as there is a significant number of studies showing that this technology could lead to improvement, decline or make no difference to academic performance;
  • In similar vein, the extent to which lecture capture affects student attendance also remains rather unclear (Ling and Knight, 2023).

Third, much of the empirical research on lecture capture does not provide sufficient detail on the context in which lecture recordings are being implemented, such as:

  • Duration and content of lecture recording (Banerjee, 2021);
  • Relationships to assessment or assessment design (Ling and Knight, 2023);
  • Comparisons in technology use within groups of learners, e.g. comparing higher achieving students to those with lower levels of attainment.

Interestingly, it is the blurry picture of lecture capture research to date and limited generalisability of its findings that leads both authors to call for more nuanced, smaller-scale qualitative studies (Banerjee, 2021; Ling and Knight, 2023). Such studies should pay greater attention to the contexts in which a specific implementation of lecture capture is situated, including institutional, disciplinary and course contexts. Surprisingly, despite much wider proliferation of fully online instruction in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the case for scholarship of lecture capture in online learning contexts is even more compelling due to a dearth of studies exploring the wider implications of using lecture recordings for student belonging and well-being, including mental health (Ling and Knight, 2023).

Despite not employing full-fledged lecture formats in teaching, The Open University (OU) provides access to recordings of tutorial events, an approach that has proven to be quite popular with its students (Calvert et al., 2020). Given its large scale and use of tutors in the delivery of its programmes and courses, the OU could be an interesting site for scholarship on tutorial recordings from the comparative perspective, where differences in practices across various disciplines, levels of study and individual tutor groups can be explored to help gain deeper insights into how specific educational context shapes the use of this technology tool.


Stephen Moss

Professional Biography

 Dr Ruslan Ramanau is a Senior Lecturer in Management and Online Education at The Open University Business School.