Lecture Recordings, Why Not?

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By Zahirah Benjamin

This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper. 


Lecture recordings have been a constant point of conversation at UCT, as some students have recorded lectures while others do not, and the policy as to why has never been clear. Since most students would argue that lecture recordings are helpful, and are disappointed to find that their lectures are not recorded, VARSITY investigated what UCT’s policy regarding lecture videos actually is.

According to the September 2017 UCT policy document on the recording of lectures: Lecture recording is available in 88 larger venues on Upper, Middle and Health Sciences campuses. Over 600 lectures are recorded each week, and over 12 500 students make use of recorded lectures each semester. Lecture recording is highly valued by students, and makes lectures more accessible for students with disabilities, as well as students who live far away from campus and cannot travel in every day. According to the policy, lecture recording is not a replacement for face-to-face teaching or interaction with students. Students benefit by being able to pay close attention during the lecture (freed from detailed note-taking), with the goal being a better understanding of the work and improved access to course material.

Image from news.uct.ac.za

According to the policy, lecture recordings may not be appropriate for all courses. Reasons for opting out may include (but are not limited to) several factors. Firstly, teaching activities being discussion-based or highly interactive, which recording would then hold little benefit for students. Secondly, ethical issues or the use of sensitive material make recording inappropriate. Lastly, recording may constrain student participation in class to the detriment of the teaching and learning process.

In addition to the policy document, VARSITY spoke to several departments to find out more about their standards of lecture recordings.

Dr Jessica Tiffin, Co-Ordinator of Undergraduate Affairs in Humanities, commented that “there are no standard policies around lecture recordings in the Humanities faculty. It is left to individual departments to set policies for their lectures, which is why availability is so sporadic. We cannot record lectures without the consent of the lecturers concerned, and thus if they don’t want to be recorded, they will not be. You will find that some departments have a general culture of recording lectures, while others refuse to do so across the board. You may also find some departments who leave it up to the lecturers, which means you might find recordings available for some courses but not others, or for some lecturers but not others within the same course.”

Prof Dunsby from the Maths department added that, as far as the department goes, recording the lectures is strongly encouraged but remains optional, as some lecturers feel uncomfortable being recorded and they will not be expected to comply. Prof Dunsby also commented that class reps should approach lecturers and, if necessary, the HOD, should they feel that the lectures for a given course should be recorded.

Twitter Poll results. Image by VARSITY Newspaper.

This sentiment was echoed by Chemical Engineering Departmental Manager, Sarojini Pillay, who says that lecture recordings depend on the lecturer.

On the part of the students, many strong opinions regarding lecture recordings. VARSITY conducted a 24-hour Twitter poll, and the results show that 57% of the 204 people who voted feel that lecture recordings influence whether or not they attend lectures, with 26% saying that it does not, and 16% not aware that lectures are recorded in the first place. This shows that, while students seem to resent not having their lectures recorded, they are able to accept the justification departments have in terms of opting out of recording lectures.

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