Mini-series: Inclusive education and lecture recording

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In this week’s post of the lecture recording mini-series, Jeremy Knox (lecturer in digital education) and Yuchen Wang (research assistant on the PTAS project ‘Lecture Recording for Inclusive Education’) from Moray House School of Education, share some of their initial findings on the impact of lecture recording on the inclusivity of teaching and learning at the University…

For students at the University of Edinburgh, it perhaps can be hard to imagine what our campus would have been like before, when diversity was much less welcomed and celebrated in the community. Many of us, including members of staff, have also benefited from the ethos of inclusion. Ensuring equitable opportunities for people to realise their aspirations has become an increasingly important agenda in higher education. Nevertheless, making education inclusive and accessible requires hard work. Without quality support, students can still experience barriers to learning and participation.

The Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS) project ‘Lecture Recording for Inclusive Education’, led by Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Yuchen Wang of the Centre for Research in Digital Education, takes a particular interest in examining the impact of lecture recording on the inclusivity of teaching and learning at the university. The research team has been interviewing students and staff across the institution. Participants are encouraged to reflect on inclusion (of themselves and others) and comment on perceived benefits and drawbacks related to the lecture recording service. Below are some of the initial findings of the project:

  1. For students, the university is a place that feels very different from a secondary school. Life as a university student can be challenging, especially the expectation of being self-reliant to navigate through the curriculum, social activities, supports, and personal circumstances. Although students generally value being physically present to ‘do’ their studies, all students may have to miss lectures occasionally due to illness or timetable clashes. Some groups tend to experience additional challenges, such as the ones with parental responsibilities and diverse learning needs. Furthermore, university lectures can be intellectually demanding, and difficult to understand due to the speed of delivery, or the accents of teaching staff (for example, English students may find Scottish accents a little challenging!). As requesting extra help from busy teaching staff or peers tends to be thought of as unrealistic, lecture recording is seen as the most convenient and effective way for students to keep on track with learning. Listening to recordings also enhances the mobility of learning, so students can engage with their studies when commuting, or perhaps cooking. Students perceive lecture recording as a ‘luxury’ service provided by the university to enhance accessibility and enable a more individualised and flexible approach to learning. Students hope that the service can be widely available and consistent across courses. However, they also consider it important to avoid treating it as a substitute – ‘Go to your lecture!’ is an important message to peers who might deliberately stop attending lectures when recordings become available.
  2. Contrasting the view that listening to recordings can result in passive learning, students can develop strategies to use recordings in more active ways, for example, taking notes that include questions and reflections, having discussions with peers, listening to marked points to enhance understanding, or having regular breaks. Students also tend to be aware of what works best for them. However, there seems to be very little guidance provided by teaching staff about how students can make use of the recordings more effectively.
  3. As pointed out by some staff, recording lectures may entail significant risks relating to privacy and surveillance. Although students seem to be less aware of these issues, they do feel that when teaching activities, such as tutorials, are designed to be more interactive, being recorded might hinder their participation because they could be worried about speaking their minds freely or making mistakes. Students, nevertheless, do not always fully agree with the necessity to avoid recording a lecture that involves sensitive topics. Some expect teaching staff to be capable and confident with commenting on sensitive issues. In an era of the ‘everyday possibility’ of publicity, students see learning how to face challenging discussions and democratically accommodate different viewpoints as part of the university experience.

The initial findings show that while lecture recording has the potential to help enhance students’ experiences of inclusion, it can also be perceived to jeopardise participation. To negotiate how lecture recording can be utilised to serve the interests of all, better communication is much needed between students and staff to facilitate understanding of concerns and needs.

Jeremy Knox

Dr Jeremy Knox is the co-director of the Centre for Research in Digital Education (Data Society) and a Lecturer in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include critical posthumanism and new materialism, and the implications of such thinking for education and educational research, with a specific focus on the digital. Jeremy’s published work includes critical perspectives on Open Educational Resources (OER) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). He is Associate Editor for new journal Postdigital Science and Education with Springer, and also co-convenes the Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE) Digital University network.

Yuchen Wang

Dr Yuchen Wang is the research associate on the PTAS project ‘Lecture Recording for Inclusive Education’. Her research has focused on inclusive education development, student voice and disability rights. Yuchen’s PhD research examined disabled children’s learning and participation in mainstream schools in China through an ethnographic approach. She worked as an ESRC GCRF postdoctoral fellow to further disseminate the research to key stakeholders in the country. Besides university teaching and academic research, she also provide consultancy supports on promoting disabled children’s participation in education.

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