Educational Technology

Three insights into student use of lecture capture supporting independent learning

This post summarises three conclusions arising from a mixed methods study of students’ use of lecture capture, drawing upon the detailed experiences of 12 students from the Department of Biology and the Department of Psychology. Participants provided diaries of how lecture capture was used to support private study, records of their use of the system and participated in semi-structured interviews that explored where lecture capture fits into their study processes, in particular behaviour change in class and external factors that influence studying patterns (see interim report for background). The outputs of the research included several study workflows to illustrate the inclusion of lecture capture as part of study approaches and video advice to support students to effectively use lecture captures.

Critical perspective

The rationale for this research stems from adopting a critical perspective on existing literature and student feedback on provision of lecture capture in higher education. There are a number of studies that indicate students’ approval of lecture capture, from Soong et al (2006) who asserted “students have benefited” to Cooke et al (2012) who highlighted revision as a key use, but also students’ preference for lecture capture as a complement, not a replacement for face-to-face instruction. Rather than accepting the view that students will simply be content with more services offered, assertions that stem from student feedback suggesting that lecture capture is ‘extremely helpful for revision’ and ‘very useful’ (York TEL Survey 2014) must be challenged. Existing studies report quantitative survey data often focusing just on the act of using lecture captures and perceptions of their value (Owston et al, 2011), however this new study provides a greater insight into the whole student experience, showing how and why lecture captures support students both in and out of the lecture room.

The research here deliberately focuses on students who are familiar with using lecture capture and have embedded their use within study practices. Institutional surveys give light to vignettes of practice, such as balancing in-class engagement and time to take down notes (University of York, 2014), however these lack the level of depth and detail to fully understand how in-lecture and private study practices complement each other. Owston et al (2011) concluded that the lecture recordings were most used by lower achievers and contrasted this with “higher achievers bring to their studies well-developed and successful learning strategies” (p.267). The aim for the outputs of this research is therefore to take the established effective practices and share these with students of all abilities, enabling them to enhance their own study approaches. 

The initial findings were presented at ALT-C, the major international conference for learning technology held in Manchester in September.

Three of the key messages are discussed below.

Complementary resource

During the interviews students discussed how lecture capture complements other learning resources such as textbooks and the internet. Lecture capture offers a way to relive the live lecture, tapping into the expertise of the lecturer in the same way they could revisit content in other resources. Whilst there is indeed the risk that students will take the lecturer’s word as gospel, easily remedied by appropriate guidance as to how students should approach lecture content, the lecturer provides direction as to where to focus learning effort and frequently offering their own perspective that contrasts against other experts. Whilst the focus of this study was on how students utilised lecture captures during term time, students also expressed how during revision they would watch several captures together for a holistic view of the module content. From a pedagogical perspective this provides students the scope to create links between lectures and different modules.

Supporting note-making

Students value their notes. They form the basis of their revision, but also represent their own understanding of the module content, their thought processes and interpretations. From the interviews, a number of students commented on how they were able to engage more with the content in class, being able to process the lecture rather than simply focusing on copying content or what was being said verbatim. The pressure of note-taking in lectures is reduced, as more than one student said about the provision of lecture capture: it has made being in the lecture ‘less stressful’.

The term ‘note-making’ is used here, because whilst note-taking is capturing content, note-making involves interpretation and connecting different concepts together. This is what some students were doing with lecture capture. Whilst previously they were simply revisiting notes made in class, with lecture capture they structured their private, independent study using the lecture itself by replaying it. They could progress through the lecture, pausing, rewinding and playing parts again to improve their notes and understanding. Crucially, students said that they got more out of using the lecture capture as a result of attending class too, as they had a sense of the flow of the lecture, awareness of parts of the lecture that could not be captured and could be more targeted in their use of recordings. One student commented that on the odd occasion they could not attend, it would take two hours to go through a one hour lecture capture because of revisiting parts that were difficult to understand without being in the room.

Empowering independent learning

One of the unexpected outcomes of the research was how these students, who self-identified as regular users of lecture capture, showed a commitment to attending lectures and the relationship of in class and out of class working. These learning approaches are worth sharing as possible options for other students, to encourage them to consider how lecture captures could form part of their private study processes. Of note, these approaches are tailored to students’ preferences and any one approach may not be suitable for all students.

A separate consideration in terms of students’ priorities also was discussed in the interviews, with lab work, work experience, placement interviews and more personal aspects all competing for students’ time. Lecture capture has offered students the flexibility to make choices over where their time is best spent, and it is important to note that the lecture as a learning experience is not the single method for learning or content delivery students are expected to engage with. Particularly as students are encouraged to gain relevant work experience, or indeed undertake placements as part of their curriculum, rather than students falling behind, they have the opportunity to juggle such competing priorities.

Lecture capture therefore empowers students to make their own choices, both in terms of how they engage in lectures, where they focus their efforts at a particular time and how they utilise all the expertise available to them through their private study. It’s an enabler, a technology where the effectiveness is down to how it is incorporated into studying practice. As such, this research has provided an insight into how we, as educators, can think about how students could be better supported to utilise lecture capture and better understand the role of the lecture within the whole study experience.


Expanded from an original post on the ELDT Blog: Research Update: Lecture Capture at York. Research conducted as part of my E-Learning Adviser role at the University of York.


Cooke, M., Watson, B., Blacklock, E., Mansah, M., Howard, M., Johnston, A., Tower, M. and Murfield, J. (2012) ‘Lecture Capture: first year student nurses’ experiences of a web‑based lecture technology’, Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol.29, no.3, pp.14-21.

Owston, R., Lupshenyuk, D. and Wideman, H. (2011) ‘Lecture capture in large undergraduate classes: Student perceptions and academic performance’, Internet and Higher Education, vol.14, no.4, pp.262-268.

Soong, S. K. A., Chan, L. K., Cheers, C., Hu, C. (2006) ‘Impact of video recorded lectures among students’, Proceedings of the 23rd annual ascilite conference: Who’s learning? Whose technology?, ascilite 2006, The University of Syndey. pp.789-793.

University of York (2014). Replay Student Survey Key Findings, E-learning Development Team, University of York.

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