Looking back on another year of lecture recording

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We’re very swiftly moving towards the end of a 3 year programme of work to implement Lecture Recording at the University of Edinburgh and are writing up all sorts of pieces to capture the activities and learnings. The first year of the programme in 2017/18 went by in a flash, as we rolled out a 140 room implementation in 4 months whilst most of our estate was being used by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

By comparison, 2018/19 was a much more sedate affair (a whole 12 months to do another 140 rooms!!). We had cause to reflect on all that we achieved in year 2, and whilst it seemed to proceed at a more leisurely (less insane?) pace it was the critical period in which we scaled up significantly and the project moved from technology replacement into something far more interesting…

The Team

The Lecture Recording Team at the University of Edinburgh (UoE) is a virtual team drawn from across the professional services areas, and who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to delivering a new, high quality, centrally supported lecture recording service  for the institution. The team is drawn from across the professional services areas of the University and includes learning technologists, AV specialists, project management, academic research, policy expertise, communications expertise and expertise from the University Timetabling Unit. Delivering a change like lecture recording at scale requires the team to consider the wider contexts in which the technology will be used and to address all of these as well as delivering technology on the ground.

This work at Edinburgh has had a wider impact across the sector, as we have involved commercial partners, external advisors, learning technologists, academic developers , AV specialists, trainers, researchers and staff and students from across all disciplines to deliver one of the most successful large scale roll-outs of learning technology across a large institution with a challenging physical estate.

The implementation of lecture recording at Edinburgh is a multi-year project to equip up to 400 teaching spaces and automate the recording of lectures at scale. It is directly responding to student feedback, is strongly informed by the student voice, and was approved as high priority by University Court.

In delivering the ‘at scale’ elements of the service over the last 12 months the team have successfully handled complex academic development, communications and academic engagement, policy implementation and technical challenges with considerable skill and sensitivity. They have delivered major learning technology and policy changes in a year which included a period of controversial national industrial action during which lectures and lecturing became a contested area of collective action. All throughout this time the team have retained a core focus on supporting an excellent student experience, championing accessibility and inclusive practices, and supporting academic colleagues to feel safe and in control in the face of disruption.

As well as being informed by research, implementation at Edinburgh has also included a strong evaluation strand. The team have conducted research into the impact at institutional level, as well as providing grant funding and support to academic colleagues to conduct discipline specific research into the impact of lecture recording in local contexts. This work has opened up critical conversations that go beyond learning technology to question why we teach the way we teach.

The team has been particularly effective at drawing from user insights and research findings to continually tailor the service and respond to the needs of users throughout the process. They have successfully navigated the programme governance structure to access the widest level of expertise and skillfully used this to drive forward programme objectives. They have balanced academic and student expectations to deliver a successful implementation.

Transformational Work

The team have delivered transformational aspects of lecture recording including:

  • Supporting a programme of evaluation and engagement activities which has opened up critical conversations about the role of the lecture and what we communicate to students about why we teach the way we do. Lecture recording has opened up a wider debate about learning and teaching on campus.
  • Working with academic and trade union colleagues to introduce the new opt-out lecture recording policy. This involved a carefully coordinated communications campaign and liaison with senior staff up to Senior Vice Principal level.
  • Running a pro-active communications campaign around opting-out of lecture recording, to be sensitive to concerns and retain academic buy-in to the service.
  • The team worked to ensure that information about how to opt-out was simple and easy to follow, expectations about communication with students was clear, and that staff felt safe and in control.
  • Working with course organisers and course secretaries to develop highly usable scheduling software based on Timetabling information, to automate the recording of lectures at scale. This involved running a series of requirements gathering and design workshops with course secretaries and course organisers in Schools and refining the software through review and user testing.
  • Equipped 400 teaching spaces, including extending our innovative solution for capturing chalkboard at the request of colleagues in Maths and Physics who have embraced lecture recording as a result of the ability to capture writing surfaces.
  • Improved insight into the use of microphones in lecture theatres leading to targeted improvements to AV equipment and a proactive communications campaign to increase awareness of accessibility and inclusion issues around wearing microphones.
  • Run a second round of our programme of start of term “student helpers” who visit teaching spaces in the first week to highlight advice and support. Nearly 40 students support staff in our largest teaching spaces in the first week of term via this programme.
  • Developed a successful model for project communications and academic engagement that is now being used by other learning technology projects.

Significant Outcomes

The evaluation of lecture recording has opened up critical conversations and posed big questions about why we teach the way we teach, what a lecture is, and whether staff and students share the same understanding of this. In addition to various events to disseminate the results of our evaluation activities, this has led to a session in February as part of our Festival of Creative Learning week (“Mission Impossible – designing the ideal lecture) and a planned debate on “What is a lecture?” at our annual learning and teaching conference in June 2019.

The quality and effectiveness of our academic engagement strategy has led to the establishment of a full-time Academic Engagement post in the Learning, Teaching and Web Services Directorate. The model of engagement and comms used on lecture recording is being used as a template for other key projects including our VLE minimum standards project and a pilot subtitling project.

The student helpers model for supporting technology in teaching spaces at the start of term is likely to continue as standard practice. In addition to continuing to employ interns on the lecture recording project, we currently have student interns working on our academic blogging project, our VLE migration projects, our VLE minimum standards project, and our subtitling pilot project.

Concerns about copyright and lecture recording that have been addressed through an ongoing programme of staff training have led to a generally higher institutional awareness of copyright and use of OER.

We have supported Dr Michael Seery from our School of Chemistry, who chairs our Academic User Group, to successfully secure funding from Echo360 through their Academic Champions scheme to carry out further research into adoption of lecture recording in his own discipline.

We are hosting discipline specific workshops with staff and students to further understand the value of lecture recording and produce guidance for students that specifically relate to specific teaching contexts.

Sharing what we do

We gratefully acknowledge all the colleagues and practitioners in other institutions who have shared their practice with us. Much of our project has been built upon the lessons learned by others.

We believe that by synthesizing these, and by considering the widest possible range of technical, academic, policy, and social factors around lecture recording, we have achieved a model for lecture recording, and indeed other learning technology implementations that others could emulate in part or whole. A large part of our ethos has been to work as openly as we possibly can, sharing and reflecting on our practice. With that in mind we have tried to make as many of our outputs as possible available online, and where possible under open licenses.

All of our training and support materials are online and freely available:

Information about the full research programme we have sponsored is available online:

Several papers based on the research above are available as pre-prints:

  • Lecture capture as an element of the digital resource landscape – a qualitative study of flipped and non-flipped classrooms (https://psyarxiv.com/824hv/)
  • Show and ‘Tool’: How lecture recording transforms staff and student perspectives on lectures in higher education (https://osf.io/g7tu2/)

We have contributed several webinars to the Echo360 UK user community:

  • Webinar on 9th May 2018 on chalkboard recording
  • Webinar on 28 November on communications

We have shared our reflections and practice with communities across the sector at a number of national conferences:

We curated a mini-series on the University of Edinburgh ‘Teaching Matters’ blog the place that the university showcases its current thinking on teaching and learning.

Our lecture recording policy is available under a Creative Commons open license:

Our communications approaches have been included as resources in the UCISA IT Communications Toolkit, published in July 2018

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