Have you ever used blogging as a research tool? In this post, Sarah Chinnery explores students’ use of, and attitudes to, lecture recording using blogging as a means to provide a rich data source…
Lecture recording has been used for several years within the undergraduate veterinary medicine degree at The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS). Traditional didactic lectures remain the mainstay of teaching in this content-heavy course, especially within the preclinical years. With the wide scale roll-out of lecture recording throughout the preclinical curriculum, we decided to evaluate student and staff opinion and engagement with lecture recording, and map the changes in attitudes throughout their course via a PTAS grant.
We recruited four students who each produced four blogs throughout the course of the academic year, allowing us to follow the changes in their opinion and use of recorded lectures. To evaluate staff engagement and opinion, we conducted three semi-structured interviews with staff mid-way through the year to allow time for perspective and reflection. We then used this data set to identify the main themes and follow changes throughout the course of the year.
Several themes identified in our data were also seen within the research presented in Dr Anna Wood’s blog Lecture recording and the issue of flipped classes. In her project, which investigated the effect of lecture recording on student learning in the School of Mathematics and Physics, students still wanted to attend lectures, valued attendance of live lectures, and used the recordings to supplement revision. This was also found within the veterinary medicine students’ blogs.
In addition, the blogs allowed us to map how students use of lecture recording changes over the course of the year, including how they tended to experiment with their use of lecture recordings during term-time.
How is lecture recording a ‘stress-busting’ tool?
Veterinary students get stressed. I know this not only from the literature (Cardell et al. 2013) but from personal experience! The veterinary medicine course is content-heavy and can be intense, with a high number of contact hours and exams assessing both knowledge and practical skills. Students must be taught and examined on everything needed to become ‘Day One Competent’ veterinary surgeons – and yes, this means all the species! However, this blog post is not about why veterinary students get stressed (see Hafen Jr. Et al. 2008 for that), but how students used recorded lectures to alleviate some of this stress within our project.
Students felt less stressed during a lecture as they did not have to write down everything the lecturer was saying. They had the opportunity to re-watch a lecture again, as indicated by this student;
I find attending lectures, especially those that are quite heavy or scheduled at the end of the day, easier to cope with when they are recorded. I do not have to worry about noting everything the lecturer is saying and can process explanations easier.
Students outlined that they could manage commitments more easily, whether they were administrative or social, as they could catch up on ‘missed’ lectures. This allowed students to be more effective at managing their work-life balance. Similarly, if students were unwell, they didn’t have to worry about the lectures that they were missing, and could take the time needed to recover and then catch up on lectures, as shown by the student below:
If you are unwell, it allowed for you to recover safely at home and not feel like you have missed too much as you can still catch up on your studies. This is beneficial long term for both your physical and mental well-being.
If lecture recording is helping vet students to manage stress, then this finding cannot be ignored. In future, we want to explore ways students can use recorded lectures effectively, and provide resources at matriculation. This way, vet students can make the most of lecture recording and its ‘stress-busting’ properties right from the start of their degree.
Can we get a more honest opinion from blogging?
How do we know we can use the blogs to give us useful and meaningful data, I hear you ask? Well, to avoid students ranting about the cafeteria or telling us about their antics on a recent night out, we did give the students a sheet of open-ended prompts.
In comparison to interviews conducted face to face, the students never met me and understood that they would be completely anonymous. It is interesting to compare the use of a blog with face to face interviews where, in the latter, human nature may mean that the interviewee will try to give the ’right’ opinion and possibly be encouraged to do so by the interviewer. In the blogs, I didn’t get the impression that the students wanted to please me, for example;
The lecture recording system is a useful tool to have if you don’t prefer a certain lecturer. That way you can miss class but watch it later and skip through the parts where they might drag on.
Veterinary students tend to be conscientious and I suspect I would be unlikely to hear this in a face to face interview. Blogging means that students can write about anything and focus on whatever they want – hopefully within the brief! This did create interesting reading and a varied dataset.
In July, the PTAS funding gave me the opportunity to present at my first academic conference, the Veterinary Education Conference in Utrecht. After presenting my research, I found that many people were interested in not only my research findings, but the method of data collection. I had several thought-provoking discussions.
So, if you want honest opinions, data collection by blogging may be the way to go!
To round up, the overwhelming feedback from the students’ blogs is that lecture recording helps to reduce stress in multiple ways. The lecture recordings allow for more flexible study and for students to have more control over work-life balance. Overall, it helps with the stress of university life. Lecture recording is a valuable tool, and I feel we are just starting to understand the potential positive impact it may have on the student experience.
Cardwell, J.M., Lewis, E.G., Smith, K.C., Holt, E.R., Baillie, S., Allister, R. and Adams, V.J., 2013. A cross-sectional study of mental health in UK veterinary undergraduates. Veterinary Record, 173(11), pp. 266-266.
Hafen Jr, M., Reisbig, A.M., White, M.B. and Rush, B.R., 2008. The first-year veterinary student and mental health: the role of common stressors. Journal of veterinary medical education, 35(1), pp. 102-109.