Overhead projectors and note pads have made way for smartboards and tablets. Digitisation is booming, in the education system as elsewhere. When we, the student representatives on the University Council, sat down to think about how to improve digitisation of the teaching provided at our university, we quickly made up our minds: we want more web lectures.

Read the official university council proposal.

The extent to which the various parts of the university use the option of recording lectures differs from faculty to faculty. However, it is fair to say that not all faculties are making the most of the opportunities they are given. For this reason, the student representatives on the University Council last week submitted a proposal to the Executive Board, asking for the number of lectures being recorded to be increased.

Benefits

Recording lectures has many advantages, which are borne out by scientific research. For instance, studies have shown that web lectures help students obtain higher marks. They provide students with the opportunity to take more notes and go over difficult subject matter once more. In addition, web lectures present significant benefits to students who are unable to attend lectures in person, e.g. because they are physically impaired.

EUR itself, too, may benefit from using web lectures. As a university, we do not wish to fall behind. However, compared with Delft University of Technology, which already records most of its lectures, EUR is definitely lagging behind. Moreover, digitisation is one of the crucial components of EUR’s strategy. Therefore, our proposal – that more lectures be recorded, so that we can make better use of the opportunities afforded by digitisation – fits in perfectly with the university’s strategy. In addition, it can be relatively easily implemented, since most of the facilities are already available.

Despite the many advantages presented by our proposal, not everyone seems keen on the idea. Lecturers and departments seem particularly averse to implementing the proposal.

Objections

One of the objections raised is that web lectures will mark the end of face-to-face lectures and will result in empty lecture rooms. After all, why would anyone come to uni when they can attend a lecture from the comfort of their own sofa? In practice, this does not appear to be much of an issue. Students continue to highly value lectures they can attend in person. At my own department at Erasmus MC, lectures have been recorded for years now. Even so, you have to get to the lecture theatre early to find yourself a seat. Studies carried out at other departments have shown that the number of students attending lectures in actual lecture rooms hardly goes down when web lectures are offered.

Another major issue is that many lecturers do not like to be recorded. Anyone who has ever listened to a recording of his or her own voice knows that it can be an uncomfortable experience. So it is understandable that lecturers are not too keen to be recorded, especially since they often discuss sensitive issues.

Of course we cannot dispel this objection entirely. There will always be lecturers who really do not wish to be recorded. The University Council cannot force people to be recorded against their will. Furthermore, we feel that lecturers must always be granted the opportunity to edit their recordings. Sensitive issues or confidential information must be able to be removed from recorded lectures. In this way, lecturers will always remain in charge of their own video and audio materials.

Last but not least, we should not forget that we are living in an era when it is all too easy to make sound recordings. If the department does not record lectures, there will always be students who will, with or without the lecturer’s permission.

Therefore, on behalf of the student representatives on the University Council, I would like to propose the following: ‘Dear Erasmus University, let us look towards the future rather than look back at the past. Let us focus on our options and the solutions, rather than on problems.’

This article was co-authored by university council members Adbdurrahman Calkin and Daniel Sieczkowski.