As the return of in-person instruction draws closer and closer, more and more thoughts turn to how we want our courses to look in the Fall. In a previous post, I expressed my hope that faculty would be encouraged to experiment with different technologies, delivery modes, and course structures post-pandemic based on new discoveries made during the remote teaching experience. One of the examples I discussed was how faculty could incorporate recorded lectures and other video content into their in-person courses.
In this post, I want to revisit this topic and expand on the many reasons why leveraging recordings and videos can improve the effectiveness and accessibility of our instructional content for students while simultaneously offering a convenient avenue for instructor engagement.
The ideas expressed in this blog reflect my thoughts as a faculty member of over 20 years and an avid follower of education research in general (and Physics Education Research in particular) and not my views as an administrator.
This blog draws on available research and my own experience of using video recordings well before the pandemic, during which I did not observe any negative impact on student attendance or performance. Additionally, my suggestions take into account anecdotal evidence of increased engagement, satisfaction, and in some cases, outcomes for and by the students. I fully recognize there are reasonable concerns about how the administration may want faculty to use online learning and technology. I would like to reiterate that this blog post is not a call for the “onlinification” of your curricula.
I also share these thoughts as a colleague who has advocated for years that faculty need to own the discussion in this space and clearly define through research and evidence what works and what doesn’t. Video recording has become a powerful tool for many applications in education, and we ignore it at our own peril. After all, the beauty of working at a UC is that shared governance firmly puts control of curricular and pedagogical issues in the hands of the faculty. In summary, these suggestions are my thoughts on positive directions we can go in this space and ways to potentially mitigate the shortcomings, risks, and challenges associated with the use of video recordings. I fully acknowledge that each suggestion outlined here may not be right for every person and every course, and I look forward to future discussions in this space.
If you are interested in the outcome of research from 2016 at UCI, please check out this paper. It sets a critical baseline for understanding video usage and proposes a number of future considerations, many of which have been studied since then.
Leveraging Existing Instructional Videos
First, let’s focus on the existing recorded lectures and instructional videos that most faculty developed while teaching remotely. As we return to in-person instruction, this existing content is still useful, and there are many ways to incorporate these recordings into our in-person courses.
For instance, instructors can upload the recordings that discuss material that doesn’t require frequent updates. This can serve as a supplemental resource for students, much like a textbook is. But, it can also be used to let students tackle these concepts on their own and open up class time for more in-depth discussions and problem-solving activities. Instructors who wish to make watching these recordings mandatory for their students can combine these videos with short assessments that check student understanding and reinforce key concepts.
Instructional videos can also serve as a supplement to in-person lectures. When paired with tools like Perusall that allow students to interact by collectively annotating and commenting on videos, the recordings can work as effective study guides and helpful resources for students to refer to when reviewing a specific subject.
Another way to leverage existing recordings and videos is by making them a shared resource for all instructors within a given department. Instructors can upload the relevant videos that their colleagues have recorded for their students to watch. This is a great way for students to experience different voices in a single course, and it reinforces the idea that teaching can be a collaborative and collective effort. Obviously, the effectiveness and value of this are highly field and course dependent and require significant local discussion and planning. But these shared videos can serve as the video analogue of using other instructors’ textbooks and papers in our courses as additional reference material for students.
Of course, care must be taken to respect faculty ownership of the material, and recorded content should only be used with the creator’s permission. Additional information and details on UC copyright policy can be found here, with a nice summary provided on the DTEI website here.
Recording and Utilizing Live Lectures
Even as we transition back to in-person instruction, there are plenty of benefits to recording live lectures and posting them for students to review. First, this is great as an accommodation tool for students who have disabilities that make it difficult for them to hear, process, or take notes during live lectures. It is also helpful for students who may have to miss class. Recording our lectures and making them available for students to review is an important step in creating a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive learning environment.
Additionally, posting recorded lectures allows students to revisit particularly challenging material. Rewatching difficult lectures can help students gain clarity on many of the concepts they were initially confused about and can also help them identify the areas that they are still struggling with. This in turn helps students understand what to focus on during class discussions or office hours.
Utilizing lectures in this fashion to achieve real equity in our courses is an area of active research and experimentation. It needs to be combined with well-thought-out course policies and overall course goals. I am looking forward to ongoing discussions at the department level as we learn more about the uses of lectures in this space.
Recording and Posting Supplemental Videos
Instructors can also benefit from recording short informational videos outside of class lectures. For instance, instructors can record and post videos that provide an overview of the week ahead, including the key concepts that will be covered in class and cues about how students can best direct their learning. This ensures that students will come to class better prepared and ready to engage in meaningful discussions.
Instructors can also record short videos that augment or clarify something discussed in class. For instance, if an instructor comes up with a better way to explain or expand upon a topic covered in a previous lecture, they can simply record and post a short video with this extra explanation for their students to watch on their own time. Not only does this save the instructor from devoting precious lecture time to revisiting an old topic, but it also ensures that all students can access this supplemental information.
Following an exam or assignment, instructors can also use videos to comment on the overall performance of the class. This is particularly useful if the instructor notices that many students seemed to struggle with the same questions. By posting a video where they go over the exam and demonstrate how to solve the particularly challenging questions, the instructor can again save in-person class time that they might have otherwise had to devote to post-exam debriefs. Additionally, having a video guide to refer to will help students prepare for future exams and assignments where similar questions may show up again.
While I recognize that recording these types of videos will take time, I still believe they are a convenient and efficient way of distributing information to students without sacrificing in-person class time. With these types of videos, it is important that instructors impose self-limits on video quality. The emphasis of these short supplemental videos should be to provide timely, relevant information rather than top-tier production quality. Ultimately, having reasonable expectations will reduce much of the pressure to be “perfect” and will hopefully help instructors see videos as a viable solution for sharing supplemental information and commentary.
Addressing Potential Concerns and Criticisms
Though I am a strong advocate for integrating video content into our courses, I know that many instructors have legitimate concerns regarding this idea. First, some faculty express concerns over inappropriate access to and use of their videos. In an age of social media sharing, media piracy, and open access, this apprehension is natural. However, UCI has implemented safeguards to protect against inappropriate use. Both Canvas and YuJa have controls to ensure that only authorized people can access course materials like lecture recordings and informational videos. You can find additional information on these safeguards on UCI’s Privacy page here and on the Canvas website here. That being said, with the ability to screen capture and record screens, we may need to consider a world where what we do is more public than ever before.
Additionally, some faculty may argue that posting lecture recordings actually incentivizes students to skip lectures. Admittedly, this is a valid concern, but I argue that when posting lecture recordings is done with clear communication of the value of attending class and how best to utilize the recording, they are a net positive, and students still attend class! As instructors, we need to evaluate the advantages of attending our classes and clearly articulate these benefits to our students. For example, there are many parts of a class that may not make sense to record, such as live demonstrations, group assignments, peer and instructor feedback, and class discussions. These are all valuable components of an in-person course, and it should be made clear to students if these elements will not be included in posted videos. This way students are aware that choosing to skip class means that they will be missing out on these essential learning activities. Also, students throughout history have always made the calculation of whether or not attending class was needed for success in a particular course. We should not reject a potentially powerful tool simply because it might be abused. Instead, we should give it the same careful evaluation we give to all the supplemental materials we provide our students.
Finally, there is the time associated with making recordings. Here I feel the need to reiterate to my colleagues that “production value” is not really essential in any of the uses of videos that I outline. In fact, in many cases, the “mistakes” add a level of connection and humanity to the videos that increase engagement. It is generally the quest for high production value that really determines the time and effort required. Remember, our students live in the world of cellphone videos shared in the spur of the moment. Production quality does have its place, but it is not crucial in these examples.
Ultimately, I think the advantages of incorporating lecture recordings and informational videos into post-pandemic teaching far outweigh potential negatives. One of the great things about UCI is that we are always striving to grow and evolve as an institution. I believe that embracing the technologies we were introduced to during the pandemic and building off the lessons we learned while teaching remotely will be the catalyst we need to transform university education for the 21st century. Making a seemingly small change like adding video components to our courses will jumpstart a wave of instructional and pedagogical innovation that moves us closer to the goal of creating inclusive, supportive, and accessible educational spaces.