To Record or Not To Record

By David E. Zimmerman, Pharm.D., PGY1 Pharmacy Resident, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

The video recording of lectures was implemented during my P3 year at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. At first I did not see a need for the technology because I was one of the students who always went to class. But I felt that it might benefit some students to see and hear the lecture for a second time. It did not occur to me that students might routinely skip class and simply watch the recorded lecture online. This soon became the norm … and my class of approximately 220 dwindled to only 50-100 student during most lectures.

A recent article published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, the authors discussed the pros and cons of recording lectures.1 Some of the proposed benefits include repeated exposure to lecture material, the capability of reaching students at satellite campuses, and re-purposing the videos for other uses. I believe the first point can be a significant benefit. Recording lectures is perfect for students who may need repeated exposure to the material or who missed a key concept. Moreover, there will always be times when a student cannot attend a lecture due to illness or an unexpected event.

The main disadvantage to using this technology is decreased student attendance. Would students come to class if they had the opportunity to watch lectures within the comfort of their own apartment or dorm room?  Many students won’t.  I saw this first hand at my college … but this need not happen. To “encourage” attendance, instructors started using an audience response system, a polling technology that collects and displays aggregate responses.  The technology is often used to assess the audiences’ understanding of the material or to generate discussion.  The instructors also used the technology to record attendance and the data was used to determine the participation component of each student’s course grade.  This worked fairly well (in terms of improving attendance) but it required all students to purchase a clicker device and register it with the course.  A downside to this method was the occasional technological malfunction that can occur.  In addition, there is the potential problem of a student’s clicker being lost or stolen. This would require the student to purchase another clicker and re-register it with the course. Another option would be to take attendance manually (the old fashioned way) but this may not work for large classes as it would take away from valuable class time. A third option is to stop the video recording before class ends and then discuss material that would be appear on an exam.

A study was conducted by Bollmeier and colleagues at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy evaluated the performance of pharmacy students (P2) after they had been given access to recorded lectures in a therapeutics course.2  The recorded lectures were available online for a period of 72 hours after the lecture.  Attendance at each of the lectures, student scores on the final exam, overall course grades, the number of times students accessed the recorded videos, and the length of time that the videos were viewed were recorded. Although students performed better on the final exam when compared to historical norms, there was no correlation between a student's final course grade and the number of lectures he/she accessed online. In addition, there was no correlation between class attendance and the number of minutes that videos were viewed online. The authors also noted that the use of the online lectures was far less than expected. Overall, the study showed that video recording did not have a negative impact on lecture attendance. 

In the end, it is about students learning and not about showing up to class. We can all agree that students learn differently and for some, watching a recorded lecture may be the best method. The best way to determine if class attendance  impacts learning is to measure grade performance (short term) and by examining the NAPLEX/MPJE pass rates.  Unfortunately, assessing the impact on NAPLEX/MPJE pass rates would take several years and can be confounded if there are significant changes in the curriculum.

The decision of whether or not to record lectures should be addressed at each academic institution.  The course instructors should determine if there are particular class sessions where attendance would be of particular benefit to students. Examples might include guest speakers or the use of active learning techniques that require in-class participation. The course instructors and the pharmacy administration should also evaluate the cost, available IT support, and predicted use of the recordings.

1.  Romanelli F, Cain J, and Smith KM. To record or not to record? Am J Pharm Educ  2011; 75(8): Article 149.
2.  Bollmeier SG, Wenger PJ, and Forinash AB. Impact of online lecture-captureon student outcomes in a therapeutic course. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010; 74(7): Article 127.