Lecture Capture: An Analysis

“A quick search of video sharing sites, as well as the web pages of prominent universities, reveals a treasure-trove of content available to students and interested lay-people,” observe political science faculty members Daniel Mallinson and Zachary Baumann. A variety of software products make lecture capture (the recording of classroom lectures) comparatively easy and much less costly than it used to be. But is it a learning resource for students that faculty ought to be using? This analysis of its role in three sections of a large introductory American politics course provides details useful to faculty considering lecture capture and as well as those already using it.

As Mallinson and Baumann point out, most of the research on lecture-capture has been done in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Their work adds another disciplinary perspective. Students in this general education course reported that they used lecture capture when they were studying for exams (71%), to catch up when they missed a class (67%) and when they needed to review content they didn’t feel they understood well (40%). Those who reported using lecture capture (28% said they didn’t use it at all), used it between one and 10 times which means they viewed less than a third of the available lectures.  The researchers describe student use of lecture capture as “strategic,” meaning they are using it for a specific purpose as opposed to as a regular review mechanism.

International students and students doing poorly in the course reported using the lecture capture resource more regularly than other students. “More than 25% of international student users reported using the software more than 25 times during the semester, whereas only 5% of U.S.-born students were in the highest usage category.” (p. 480)

Three quarters of the students recommended the use of lecture capture in future classes. However, despite highly evaluating the resource and their recommendation for its continued used, “these data do not suggest that [lecture capture] greatly impact[ed] overall performance in the class.” (p. 481) In other words, they aren’t a tool that in this case overcame the barriers to learning already associated with lectures.

Especially interesting in this article is the concern about attendance raised by these faculty researchers. It further illustrates “strategic” choice-making about learning. “We expect students to be strategic, attending class when it proves beneficial and using this resource when it provides the best payoff.”  (p. 481)

On average, they report, students who used lecture capture attended fewer classes than those who did not use the resource. Can lecture capture become a substitute for attendance? If students can get everything they need to do well in the course from the recordings, do they need to be in class? “What is the value of students attending class in person?” (p. 482) These are challenging questions and data like these do not provide definitive answers, but they certainly raise the questions. Mallinson and Baumann “urge instructors to consider carefully their purpose for recording lectures and to be mindful of how they will be used by strategically acting students.” (p. 482) 


Mallinson, D. J., and Baumann, Z. D., (2015). Lights, camera, learn: Understanding the role of lecture capture in undergraduate education. PS, Political Science and Politics, 48 (3), 478-482.

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