The Age of Information in which we live is truly incredible. I write this article with the knowledge that, upon its publication, it will be made readily available to the eyes of readers all over the globe in a matter of microseconds. But in the daunting, rapidly advancing world of technology and innovation, where can we draw the line?
In recent years, universities across the UK have opted to renew their policies regarding lecture recording; with several integrating it into their teaching systems. Our own six centuries old institution, however, in all its antiquated traditionalism, has previously shied away from the idea. But now, it appears to be changing it’s mind, with several schools beginning to experiment with lecture capture technology.
This cannot be allowed to happen, and here’s why.
1. Encourages students to miss lectures
To those diligent, hardworking students among us who would genuinely utilise available recordings for revision purposes – props to you. Sadly, slackers ruin that for everyone. You know who you are. Those people who show up for the first two or three lectures of the module, then spend the rest of the semester binge-watching Netflix. Those people who, when they do come to lectures, don’t jot down a single note, but rather surf Facebook. If these people can already get away with that, imagine how many more will opt for a day in bed knowing that their missed lectures will be readily available to them later.
Why trek to a lecture theatre on the other side of town when you can hear the same lecture from the comfort of your room? This argument makes sense in theory, but consider why people still go to concerts in the age of digital music, or why a politician’s speech is more exciting when witnessed in person. There is something about the human (not virtual) presence that augments the experience. As Woody Allen said, 80% of life is showing up.
2. Legal grey areas
Aside from the morally questionable aspects of recorded lectures, there’s also the fickle matter of the law. Lectures are the intellectual property of the lecturer, much like the books and journals they write. If recorded lectures were to become available on Moodle or MMS, it exposes the professor’s copyrighted materials to the possibility of falling into the wrong hands. Universities with liberal lecture recording policies have yet to fully tackle this issue.
3. Loss of a “Personal Touch”
On a slightly more minor note, consider the loss of humour as a consequence. If all other lecturers are anything like the history lecturers, they like to occasionally crack a wise one as means to keep their students engaged and add levity to a drab morning lecture. If they knew their every word was recorded, lecturers would surely shy away from this practice, instead sticking to a much more rigid script.
4. We’re only hurting ourselves
At the risk of sounding either like a grumpy octogenarian fearing the imminent emergence of an Orwellian future driven by gadgets and smartphones, or a self-righteous zealot (is the word “prude” too off-colour?), I firmly believe that recorded lectures will not only hurt us academically in the short-run, but in the long-run as well. No doubt many of us would become reliant on the recordings, and vital skills such as note-taking and attentive listening would take a backseat. We would use the excuse “I can listen to this again later,” as means to only give half of our attention to a lecture (if that), and legitimises disengagement.
In short, it’s a slippery slope we can’t risk creating.