Lecture capture remains popular despite controversy, lack of funding

Ten percent of college students said they watched lecture videos more than six times.

Lecture capture technology is thriving in higher education, even after cuts in campus technology budgets and a national political dustup that led at least one university to put severe limitations on how lecture-recording technology could be used.

Campus-based and cloud-based lecture capture systems improved students’ grades, efficiency, and course satisfaction, according to a national survey conducted by Tegrity, maker of a lecture-recording technology known as Tegrity Campus.

The overwhelmingly positive survey results come a year after a conservative media mogul posted lecture-capture video of University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) faculty member advocating violence as a legitimate tool in labor union negotiations. The video, later deemed “highly distorted” by UMKC officials, drew national attention and scorn from a range of conservative media outlets.

The viral lecture video prompted UMKC decision makers to limit the use of lecture capture systems, requiring the explicit permission of professors and students before a class could be recorded.

The university’s restrictions did not become a national model for schools hoping to avoid similar controversy, but 2011 surveys detailed another potential derailment for lecture capture advocates: Stagnant technology budgets. Colleges, according to the Center for Digital Education, have had to employ budgetary gymnastics to maintain money for lecture capture systems.

Controversies and funding aside, lecture capture remains universally popular among college students.

Nine in 10 students said recorded lectures posted to course websites have increased the amount of material they learn during the semester, according to the Tegrity survey. Eighty-five percent of students aid the technology made them more efficient studiers, and 37 percent said they watched lectures twice a week. One in 10 students watched lectures more than six times in a week.

Seven in 10 student respondents said using lecture capture helped improve their final course grades.

About half of the students surveyed were using lecture capture in traditional classrooms, while the other half were enrolled in hybrid or online courses, according to Tegrity.

Campus technologists said late last year they feared the UMKC lecture-capture incident would dampen enthusiasm for an online tool that allows students to watch class lessons several times in one sitting.

Alan Greenberg, a senior analyst and partner for Wainhouse Research, said campus officials had reason to worry about the proliferation of lecture capture after the UMKC incident, although Wainhouse reports have shown colleges’ willingness to help faculty understand intellectual property issues related to recording lectures.

“Any fear is legitimate, but I’ve conducted lots of interviews with universities and colleges deploying lecture capture in the past couple of years, and the intellectual property issues are usually handled through policy and training,” Greenberg said. “All it takes is decent policy and capable, reliable  technology.”

The edited lecture video of UMKC labor studies lecturers Don Giljum and Judy Ancel was posted on Big Government, a conservative-leaning website created by the late media mogul Andrew Breitbart, who defended the lecture recording for weeks before the university decided it had been doctored.

Big Government writers followed up with several more posts about the educators’ supposed lessons of how violence can be a useful strategy for union organizers.

Ancel and Giljum taught the Introduction to Labor Studies class together, using a live video feed.

UMKC Chancellor Tom George said an official review revealed the lecture videos “were definitely taken out of context, with their meaning highly distorted through splicing and editing from different times within a class period and across multiple class periods.”

George said UMKC also would “explore ways to improve security in the use of electronic media for instruction, research, and other activities,” after the lecture video was used by Breitbart’s website.

Last fall, about six months after the Breitbart videos surfaced, the university placed restrictions on lecture capture use, saying the policy “protects the sanctity of the classroom for our students so they can freely discuss their thoughts and opinions,” said Steve Graham, senior associate vice president for academic affairs for the four-campus Missouri system.

The new lecture capture rules met faculty resistance.

“…We are public, taxpayer-funded faculty, and so we should think long and hard about any sort of restrictions on the rights of our students to record us as we work,” said Charles Davis, a journalism professor and former executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

In a research paper released in March, “Funding Lecture Capture in Higher Education,” researchers say ed-tech funding isn’t as easy to find as states slash college funding, but there are still reliable methods for keeping lecture capture systems on campus.

Schools still can secure a healthy chunk of federal funds if they specify a “technological advancement clause” in official requests for lecture capture funding, the researchers wrote. Including in a federal grant application that lecture capture technology is “essential for faculty and student development” could qualify the technology for government money.

“Higher-education leaders just need to be prepared and do their homework to determine which solutions fit best,” said LeiLani Cauthen, vice president of the Center for Digital Education. “Given the recent budget constraints that higher-education institutions are experiencing as a result of the loss of federal funding, it is clear that administrators must search for alternative ways to secure the funds needed to maintain their institution’s [educational] technology leadership.”

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