Lecture Recording: What does research say about its effect on attendance?

Nanfeldt blog post acccompanying image CROPWith the University rolling out lecture recording equipment in 400 rooms by 2019, many may be concerned about how this will affect lecture attendance. As part of my internship with the implementation team working on the rollout of lecture recording, I decided to read some of the literature on this topic.

Firstly, does lecture attendance improve performance?  

A number of studies have found some form of positive correlation between performance and lecture attendance, and one found this effect stronger for non-native speakers (Gatherer & Manning, 1998; Thatcher, Fridjhon, & Cockcroft, 2007). Others argue that the correlation between lecture attendance and performance is weak at best (Horton, Wiederman, & Saint, 2012; Walbeek, 2004).

The University does not have an official policy that lecture attendance is compulsory (Check out Article 24 of the Degree Regulations and Programmes of Study). Students are allowed to audio record lectures for personal use as part of the University’s effort to mainstream learning adjustments.

On the issue of attendance, one study I reviewed found no big difference in attendance, highlighting that students use lecture recording specifically for revision purposes, and that they would not like it to replace actual class time (Dickson, Warshow, Goebel, Roache, & Adrion, 2012). First-year medical students also commented in a separate study, that they found it extremely useful, and lecture recording  decreased stress and anxiety (Pilarski, Alan Johnstone, Pettepher, & Osheroff, 2008). It has also been shown that the more a student had viewed the recordings, the better they performed at the end of the course (Traphagen, Kucsera, & Kishi, 2010).

There is evidence that lecture attendance may be due to students making a deliberate choice about whether the lecture will benefit them (Billings-Gagliardi et al., 2007; Dolnicar, 2005). Based on media richness theory, it has been found that students will opt for face-to-face lectures when they think the content is going to be difficult (Bassili, 2008).

It is difficult to draw just one conclusion from the research I have read. The studies are usually small-scale with data from one course, and correlation does not equal causation. So, what does this mean?

As a student attending a University that stresses the importance of participating in extra-curricular activities, I spent a lot of my time developing skills to make me more employable through a part-time job, being Vice-Convenor for my school, earning the Edinburgh Award, and being a voluntary research assistant during my third year. I was part of the opt-out system put in place in Psychology for lecture recording, and I never experienced a visibly empty lecture hall. I found revisiting my lectures extremely helpful as I was juggling all my responsibilities. In this sense, lecture recording can be seen as a way to ensure students do not fall behind (Tomlinson, 2014).

I am not the only student working on building my CV. As more and more people achieve a degree, students feel the pressure of being required to attain more skills and experience to transition into the world of work (Silently Stressed, NUS, Roulin & Bangerter, 2011). Employers want graduates who have learned to effectively manage their time, so the choice of attendance is on the student’s shoulders (Tymon, 2013).

That is not to say lecture recording should substitute all lecture attendance, and I personally do not believe it will. Qualitative research done by James Lamb, Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, highlighted some of the things that still makes students turn up to their lectures: the human element. (Read his blogpost ‘Looking ahead to lecture recording’) As mentioned by a lecturer he interviews, lectures have been such an integral part of attending University that they are too resilient to become redundant any time soon.

I view lecture recording as a flexible tool suited to our diverse group of students – something that can adapt to supplement their different learning needs and lifestyles.

*Edit: Teaching Matters has recently published a mini-series about Lecture Recording in Higher Education. You can view the 13 posts here. *


Bassili, J. N. (2008). Media Richness and Social Norms in the Choice to Attend Lectures or to Watch them Online. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(4), 453–475.

Billings-Gagliardi, S., & Mazor, K. M. (2007). Medical Student Attendance at Non-compulsory Lectures: Do Electronic Course Materials Matter? Advances in Health Sciences Education, 12(2), 201–210.

Dickson, P. E., Warshow, D. I., Goebel, A. C., Roache, C. C., & Adrion, W. R. (2012). Student reactions to classroom lecture capture. Proceedings of the 17th ACM Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education – ITiCSE ’12, 144–149.

Dolnicar, S. (2005). Should We Still Lecture or Just Post Examination Questions on the Web?: The Nature of the Shift Towards Pragmatism in Undergraduate Lecture Attendance. Quality in Higher Education, 11(2), 103–115.

Gatherer, D., & Manning, F. C. R. (1998). Correlation of examination performance with lecture attendance: A comparative study of first-year biological sciences undergraduates. Biochemical Education, 26(2), 121–123.

Horton, D. M., Wiederman, S. D., & Saint, D. A. (2012). Assessment outcome is weakly correlated with lecture attendance: influence of learning style and use of alternative materials. AJP: Advances in Physiology Education, 36(2), 108–115.

Pilarski, P. P., Alan Johnstone, D., Pettepher, C. C., & Osheroff, N. (2008). From music to macromolecules: Using rich media/podcast lecture recordings to enhance the preclinical educational experience. Medical Teacher, 30(6), 630–632.

Roulin, N., & Bangerter, A. (2013). Students’ use of extra-curricular activities for positional advantage in competitive job markets. Journal of Education and Work, 26(1), 21–47.

Thatcher, A., Fridjhon, P., & Cockcroft, K. (2007). The relationship between lecture attendance and academic performance in an undergraduate psychology class. South African Journal of Psychology, 37(3), 656–660.

Tomlinson, M. (2014). Exploring the impact of policy changes on students ’ attitudes and approaches to learning in higher education. The Higher Education Academy.

Traphagen, T., Kucsera, J. V., & Kishi, K. (2010). Impact of class lecture webcasting on attendance and learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(1), 19–37.

Tymon, A. (2013). The student perspective on employability. Studies in Higher Education, 38(6), 841–856.

Walbeek, C. van. (2004). Does lecture attendance matter? Some observations from a first-year Economics course at the University of Cape Town. South African Journal of Economics, 72(4), 861–883.

Next steps:

You can find me talking about why I think lecture recording is important and how students will use it on Media Hopper Create.

Visit the University of Edinburgh’s Lecture Recording website and sign up to the Lecture Recording Programme newsletter (UoE only) to stay up to date on the project

I might be James’ biggest fan – you can check out more posts on his blog James Lamb Digital Education

Karoline Nanfeldt

Karoline is a 4th year Psychology student, who has been interning over the summer for the lecture recording programme as part of the Learning, Teaching and Web division within Information Services. She became involved in the programme as the student voice on the procurement process. She likes discussing theoretical issues in research methods, reading fantasy books and scrolling through animal pages on social media.

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