User-friendly technology to improve recording UU lectures

In 2007, classes were sometimes recorded with amateur cameras. Today, technology has made great steps forward., picture DUB

The Facilities Service Centre (FSC) is currently working on a universal system which is meant to make recording lectures more accessible and efficient. The new service will be installed in 35 larger lecture halls. The project is called Automated Recording, says department head of the FSC Project Bureau, Richard van Vliet. “The word ‘automated’ refers to the current design. If a teacher indicates that they wish to record their lecture, the equipment automatically starts recording when the class starts. Then, after the teacher has approved the recording, they can share it with their students.”

A questionnaire about the pros and cons of recording classes, held among students and teachers in late 2018, showed that 78 percent of respondents indicate that being able to re-watch a lecture is the biggest benefit, Van Vliet says. “After that, benefits that were mentioned include the growing influence on time management (18 percent) and not having to be present at lectures anymore (4 percent). Teachers tend to see the latter as a risk. However, there’s really only a small group of students that expect they’d never go to lectures anymore.”

Simple technology is meant to convince teachers
Since Lecturenet was launched in 2009, teachers have the option of recording lectures on video. It’s estimated that at the moment, around a hundred of the over 2,200 teachers at the university use this service. Every year, around five hundred videos of lectures are recorded. The video can be recorded independently, but teachers can also ask a technical team for assistance. With the installation of the new equipment, the university hopes more teachers will record their lectures, says Renée Filius, head of education of the Department of Academic Affairs: “Recording lectures is seen as a service we provide students. Important functions are repetition and clarification of the material. Evaluations show students use this most often in case of complicated or unclear presentations, or just before exams.”

Filius says the lecture videos are also regularly used to provide extra support to students with a disability. Filius: “The size of this group is often underestimated – around 20 percent of students at university have a disability.” International students, who might not be entirely fluent in the language of the lectures, can also benefit from the repetition of the information that’s made possible by recording the lectures, Filius says, as do Dutch students who are abroad for exchange or internships and therefore cannot be physically present at the lectures. Plus, watching your own lecture videos can be useful for teachers, too. “People can use the videos of their lectures to check out their own classes, to evaluate, or to select relevant bits, edit them and provide them elsewhere.”

A refresher of all information for the exam
Although it’s as yet unknown when the new video system will be introduced, students Irene and Jesper hope many teachers will use the system when it’s there. They like re-watching lectures. Third-year Biology student Irene usually does this when she’s studying for exams. “That way, you’ve got a great refresher of all the information, with the teacher’s explanations along with it. I do take notes in class, but I can’t write down everything. Teachers tend to go through the material quickly in class, and the PowerPoint slides don’t always have text on them. With teachers who don’t record their classes, I always miss some parts of the material, or there’ll be concepts I don’t quite understand when I’m studying for my exams.” Master’s student Computing Science Jesper watches an average of one lecture per study block. “I do this when I wasn’t able to go to a lecture, or when I read back the PowerPoint slides and don’t understand something.”

Irene and Jesper view re-watching their lectures as a useful tool, but notice that very few of their teachers actually record their lectures. Irene: “In my first year, around half of my teachers recorded their lectures. In my second year, only a few of them did. Now I’m in my third year, and I feel like this year, barely any lectures are being recorded at all.” Jesper: “I only recently started with my Master’s, but I haven’t seen a single teacher use a video recording system. During my Bachelor’s, it was an exception to have a lecture recorded, but when it did happen, I did watch the videos sometimes. I would like it if more lectures were recorded.”

The two students say they wouldn’t skip out on lectures if they’re being recorded. Irene: “Watching the videos of lectures helps many students increase their understanding of often difficult material.” Jesper: “I never skip lectures with the idea to just watch the video of it later. There’s always a different reason whenever I miss a class.”

Lecture videos enrich education
At the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, recording lectures is almost the norm, say teachers Lisa Dietz and Jillies van Maaren. They’re satisfied with the current options, but welcome improvements. They almost exclusively see the benefits of recording lectures, for both students and education.

Dietz: “I give six to seven lectures a year, and I always record them. Us teachers want to transmit a lot of information in 45 minutes, and sometimes you’ll miss something when you’re a student.” Being able to watch a video of the lecture also helps students who learn by listening rather than reading, says colleague Van Maaren. “Students can find the material in the books, of course, but being able to listen to a teacher ties in with a different learning style, and also offers a different perspective than a book.”

Other benefits, Van Maaren says, include the repetition and the fact that students aren’t constantly busy taking notes, but can truly listen. “What does the teacher really mean? The students can listen to the details of the lecture at a later time.” Students will also be able to plan their education in a way that fits in with their schedule, she says. “A lecture that’s planned for late afternoon, but you’re completely drained of energy? Go and relax, and watch the video at night, or the next morning, when you’re refreshed and awake.”

The videos of the lectures can also help relieve workload pressure when a colleague is absent, Van Maaren says. “A video of last year’s lecture can then be used instead. This could also be a choice within the planning of a course: not all lectures would then be ‘live’, some could be available online only.” And the videos also help improve one’s own education. Dietz: “I can watch and listen to my own classes from previous years, so I know what I did to explain specific material to my students then.” Van Maaren agrees that this is very useful, and says teachers should realise it might be rather confronting as well. “Sometimes it turns out you have an unwieldy – or even wrong – way of explaining something.” She says this is one of the reasons she feels it’s important that teachers