For a generation that grew up glued to smartphones and tablets, concepts such as online learning platforms at university are nothing new. In fact, these days, the only thing likely to raise a post-millennial eyebrow would be to attend a higher education institution that did not offer course content and lectures in an online, mobile-friendly format.
In order to retain a competitive edge, it is clear that universities have to continually strive to be responsive, answering the student-led demand for flexibility in course provision. Those that want to lead from the front, however, also need to focus on innovatively meeting the longer-term requirements of how learning is delivered.
Particular thought needs to be given to engaging students, keeping them motivated and allowing a degree of autonomy – all prerequisites to keeping learners on-track. Many students now access video recorded lectures for revision purposes or to otherwise catch up, but could this technology be better used to strategically analyse student learning behaviours? And could it improve eventual success rates for more students?
The last few years have seen considerable advancements in video recording and active learning platforms. Instead of simply documenting what happens in lecture halls, universities now have an opportunity to use lecture capture technology to provide a host of interactive tools that can increase engagement and breathe new life into resources for both students and lecturers.
Even in the most gripping lecture, for example, student attention might wax and wane a little. If a lecturer noticed this, how transformative it would be to use the same platform that is recording the lecture to shake things up. Students could take part in a spontaneous poll, answer a brief Q & A session or otherwise share their knowledge. Lecturers could also use this same tech capability to instigate a poll before class and incorporate responses into that day’s teaching to make it even more relevant and personalised
Investing in environments that support and encourage diversity remains high on the agenda for higher education institutions, and collaborative, flexible provision is a key consideration. Many undergraduates juggle work and family responsibilities alongside their studying. Older learners might require more confidence in their study skills if they have returned to academia after a break, while international students might need extra support while learning in a second (or third) language.
For these students, the ability to access, review and interact with recorded course material in their own time truly widens their chance to participate. If they need to review the latest lecture during their commute or when their children are in bed, they can. If they want to double check they’ve understood some unfamiliar terminology, they can do that as well.
But when it comes to improving retention rates, the greatest insights can be gleaned by monitoring exactly how students engage with their learning outside the lecture hall. Looking at who is accessing the recorded lectures gives clues as to who might be at risk of disengaging. Seeing that someone hasn’t accessed online resources, for example, might flag that they are considering dropping out of the programme entirely. On the other hand, if a student accesses one lecture multiple times, it could be an indication that they too need some support, and scheduling a refresher tutorial may be a good idea.
With this level of insight into what students really need to fulfil their potential, proactive interventions can be swiftly provided. It all adds up to an incredibly positive experience for students, who have a safety net of support that offers help and guidance before they have to ask for it.
You might recall a debate that raged a while back about how recording lectures and making them available 24/7 would reduce student attendance and make the lecture obsolete. Already this has been proven not to be the case. The lecture has remained a key part of higher education. Instead, through technology, the lecture has been reinforced, improved and become more accessible than ever before.