Commentary, Opinion

Lecture recordings: A necessary post-pandemic learning tool

The full resumption of in-person academic activities and classes this fall is something many students have been looking forward to after two years of online classes which, in all probability, were attended from one’s childhood bedroom. There is, however, absolutely nothing more painful to a student than hearing their professor utter the words, No, lectures will not be recorded and posted. Perhaps as a means of “returning to normal” (a phrase I have heard one too many times), many professors see no point in recording their lectures anymore, despite lecture recordings being a widespread practice even before the pandemic. Dreadful as it might be for professors to figure out the technical logistics of pressing a record button, it is certainly more horrifying to zone out of a non-recorded class for a few minutes and suddenly miss an entire lesson with no way of revisiting the material (I am definitely not speaking from personal experience). The bottom line is that lecture recordings are a crucial feature of academic life that should be retained, one that should act as a supplemental resource for students alongside live lectures.

One cannot dismiss the benefits recorded lectures beget to students who simply are not able to attend class. Whether it is work, an emergency, or something more chronic, like for students with disabilities who find it difficult to take adequate notes during in-person classes, lecture recordings are useful. McGill is constantly striving to maintain a solid academic support system, whether that be through note sharing provided by Student Accessibility and Achievement, advisors’ and faculty-members’ quality academic advising, or a more tailored learning environment through tutoring services. Recording lectures are merely another service that brings the university a step closer to cultivating a more inclusive and welcoming academic atmosphere for its students. And unlike other academic resources, recording a lecture is facile, demanding little to no effort—all the more reason to make them available.  

Moreover, universities should consider that lecture recordings are quite valuable to students whose first language is not English. McGill, for instance, is recognized as Canada’s most international university with a remarkably diverse student body hailing from over 150 countries. Having the opportunity to revisit difficult lectures undeniably allows students to capture a better understanding of the material and alleviates confusion about challenging concepts. 

The burning question remains, however, as to whether uploading these recordings discourages students from attending class and if that might impact their academic performance. Naturally, this is a valid concern lecturers have, considering that  educational institutions are designed around students actually showing up. Many studies show that lecture recordings do not significantly influence the number of class attendees; attendance patterns generally mirrored those from previous semesters when lectures were not recorded. Another research experiment conducted in 2020 revealed that neither attending lectures nor accessing lecture recordings are critical factors in determining a student’s performance—what is of importance, rather, is the student’s ability to focus. The students who performed remarkably well in a class were the ones who viewed lecture recordings in conjunction with attending class. So, as it turns out, it is the dedicated students who make the most of lecture recordings, not the other way around.

Needless to say, there will be some students who might exploit this tool and not attend class at all. Accessible online lectures, however, are not a main determinant in whether or not students skip class. Ultimately, the systemic integration of lecture recordings into academic institutions brings more advantages than drawbacks. Whether it be to revisit difficult lectures, aid those in need of additional academic assistance, or simply provide a sense of flexibility, lecture recordings are not a tool to be discarded. Many students are not ready to give up such an inextricable component of their learning process just yet. Especially not after the overwhelming academic challenges the past few years have presented.

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