Many institutions seem to be completely obsessed with lecture capture technology as a method of generating flexibly accesible learning content. For me though the large scale implementation of lecture capture is probably one of the costliest and strategically misguided educational technologies that an institution can adopt. Now before I go on let me say that I wouldn’t be here now if not for lecture capture. I used nascent lecture capture technology at a UK university in 1994 to record myself and then used the recording as part of a succesful job application to be an academic at an Australian university. In fact I don’t have a deep seated dislike of the technology itself, just the way that it gets used. It certainly has some uses, like getting a job.

Furthermore I don’t believe that the lecture is dead. I just think that it is vastly overused in higher education and that most learning can be delivered in better ways. So just mostly dead. I do, for example, believe that there is a place for capturing important presentations given by a visiting subject matter expert. This means having one or two venues equiped to record a presentation. What many HE institutions have done is to invest heavily in technology (not usually in staff development) to record in large numbers of venues.

The other thing I should say before telling you why I think lecture capture is so bad is to say that I think that associated technologies such as desktop capture actually have great promise and, with appropriate staff development and leadership, can lead to much higher quality material that leverages off the existing skills of academics.

So why is this widespread use of lecture capture so bad?
Large scale recording of lectures perpetuates an outdated and increasingly discredited passive learning experience. Before all the great lecturers jump up and down and say how great lecturing is you have to admit that you are the exception and not the rule and most academics, although they may be good educators, are poor presenters in the lecture theatre.
The technology does nothing to engage the student who instead of sitting passively in a lecture theatre checking their text messages will now sit passively in front of a screen at home checking their text messages.
Traditional lectures aren’t designed for online delivery. They’re too long. Their length is designed to fit in with the timetabling constraints of the buildings in which lectures take place not for any pedagogical reason. Why should this physical constraint be allowed to migrate its way into flexible online delivery?
Using the technology takes away technical effort, funding and other resources that could be better used in consolidating other enterprise wide educational technologies and in providing more widely available and timely staff development and support.
Why do the technocracy promote wide scale lecture capture?
1. They say the students love it.

Well, lets face it, the students are starved of any decent content that they can access flexibly (uploads of bullet pointed Powerpoint decks do not count as useful online content). It is not surprising that students say they like it. But wouldn’t they much prefer richer content designed specifically for online flexible delivery? This could be short desktop recordings of 10 to 15 minutes made designed to help develop a particular point and that fits in with a students attention span and/or their ability to study flexibly from the workplace in a lunch hour for example. Or it could be any other sort of quality content that conveys ideas and information efficiently.
For me, the ‘students love it’ argument doesn’t wash. Students love getting the notes before the lecture and being given exam hints (oops, I meant guidance) but that doesn’t mean that either of these are good practices.

2. They say the staff love it.

Well that’s patently untrue otherwise utilisation rates would be higher. The fact is that a relatively small number of academics like the technology. Probably because they consider themselves to be particularly good at lecturing.

3. They say it provides flexibility and doesn’t involve any staff development

The argument is that staff can deliver their material online but still maintain their traditional delivery practice as well. That is to say, all they need to do is click a button and they’re delivering material online. I’m not really quite sure why an ability to avoid providing staff development is seen as a positive attribute for an edtech but it would seem to the case here. Actually, I do know the reason, it’s because staff development involves cultural and organisational change within a higher education institution and that is much harder than installing servers and recording devices.

I’m sure there are lots of other reasons that edtechnocrats promote lecture capture that I’ve missed and there are probably quite a few more reasons why it should be considered the worst used educational technology than I’ve listed. What do you think? Am I wrong? Am I right? What other educational technologies might vie with lecture capture for the worst educational technology? Clickers comes to mind for me but I’ll save the devices that try to turn academics into game show hosts for another post.