Earlier this summer we blogged about our initial reaction to the Senior Management Team’s (SMT) clumsy attempt to impose lecture capture on all teaching staff. Remember, UCU officers and staff were assured by the SMT that lecture capture would remain opt-in in June 2018. Following that blog post, we received a barrage of concerns from our members about the policy and complaints about the manner in which SMT are trying to impose the change, which we will lay out below. It is both surprising and disturbing that Management are publicising the six-fold increase in recording, based upon the failure of academics to opt out sometimes under pressure from their HoD, (3rd September 2019 Principal’s newsletter to staff), as being due to lecturers throughout the College ‘seeing the light’ and recognising the monumental pedagogical boost to be gained from student non-attendance at lectures.
Tracking back through Academic Board (AB) minutes, or at least those that are actually available, we see the original paper on Lecture Capture, produced by Vice Principal Rosemary Deem, was presented to AB in March 2019. This accepted that evidence of a positive impact on students’ attainment and attendance was unconvincing but that students were keen on this provision. In fact, this very much understates the largely negative outcomes associated with lecture capture that are succinctly discussed in this paper. VP Deem’s paper tried to find “a third way” and advocated that staff use either lecture capture; annotated lecture notes (post session); or podcasts. While this introduces an element of choice, it still entails additional work without an accompanying allocation of time, and de-professionalises our educators. Further, it assumes that one of these procedures is the best approach to education. Some experienced lecturers may feel strongly that students actually attending the lecture and taking their own notes, supplemented by doing the readings on the course outline and problem sets/essays, tested by rigorous unseen written examinations, remains the best approach to learning at the university level.
Somehow, beyond the gaze of the full AB, this morphed into a demand from another Vice Principal, Professor Badcock, that all content-heavy lectures be videoed. (We are bemused as to the notion of a ‘content-light’ lecture, but could see that it could cause embarrassment for any such lectures to be recorded.) As a result, at the end of the last academic year teaching staff were invited to submit reasons why their lectures would not be suitable for consideration, presumably by confessing that their lectures were ‘content-light’, a process followed by an understandable if unearthly hush.
At our July 2019 meeting with Senior Management we voiced our objections and asked how the College had arrived at such a position, having chosen not to discuss the issue with the recognised trade union for lecturers at all. It was explained that the motivation to change policy was in response to demands from the Student Union, but the actual policy had been misrepresented in these emails and the policy in force bears more resemblance to the proposal of VP Deem. We indicated that we remained extremely “unhappy” with both the proposal of VP Deem and the process by which a lecture capture policy had re-appeared. We stated we would be prepared to examine the initial three options in VP Deem’s paper as part of a working party on the topic but that we must be involved in policy setting. As usual, our willingness to join a working party on the topic has been ignored.