We found a marked increase in the number of HEIs using some form of LC signalling the coming of age of this technology from the periphery to the mainstream. The main justifications given for increased appropriation included student demand, pedagogic benefits of a revise-and-review tool and the obligation to meet the needs of those with learning or language difficulties. Even though government (i.e. Department for Business Innovation and Skills 2015) has avoided prescribing the use of technology to cover the funding gap in disability support, HEIs have nevertheless identified LC as an obvious ‘solution’ to the shortfall and an important mechanism in meeting their statutory obligations to make reasonable adjustments for disabilities (JISC 2016).
Content Analysis Findings: A Quantitative Overview of the Sector
Expansion of Lecture Capture across the Sector
In the 2011/2012 study, 31% (34 out of a sample of 108 in 2011/2012) had some form of provision, policy or plan to develop LC. By 2014/5, this had risen to 75% (i.e. 100 out of a sample of 133 in 2014/2015, see Fig. 1 for the 2015/2016 figures).
Notably, there was a sharp divergence in the specialist sector. While all the specialist medical and veterinary HEIs had college-wide recording of most lectures, none of the performing arts ones had provision or published plans to explore LC as a possibility. The data did not suggest a possible explanation for the divergence between the specialist sectors; however, it does underscore cautions in recent studies against overgeneralization of findings that do not account for the implications of LC for different pedagogies in different disciplines (cf. Draper et al. 2018).
Scaling-Up Lecture Capture Infrastructure
The data revealed an increase in campus-wide provision of LC. In 2011/2012, all HEIs with LC provision were limited to a small number of designated rooms. By 2014/5, 28 institutions (21% of the sample of 133) had scaled up LC campus-wide (see Table 1 and Figure 2) with detailed policies in tandem to govern it.
Scaling-up LC raised logistic and pedagogic challenges and as such some started with the largest lecture rooms, others delegated decision-making to faculties to account for specific disciplinary needs (University of Keele 2015; Skiadelli 2015). Others combined console-based LC in some rooms with personal capture, where staff downloads the recording software onto mobile devices enabling recording of live delivery to take place anywhere (e.g. University of York 2016).
Opt-In and Opt-Out Strategies
The most significant shift was the adoption of ‘opt-out’ strategy in a move to integrate LC widely into delivery. The ‘opt-in’ approach requires staff to request recordings, giving primary agency to the lecturer, whereas the ‘opt-out’ requires the individual to formally request not to be recorded effectively making LC the default position. ‘Opt-out’ symbolically positions LC as a constitutive component of the learning platform, mainstreaming it as an intrinsic pedagogic element.
While none of the HEIs in 2011/2012 had opt-out policies, by 2015/2016, 9% of the population surveyed (13 institutions) had shifted to ‘opt-out’ policies (see Table 1). Though the percentage of ‘opt-out’ institutions is statistically small, the emergence of recording as a default position significantly shifts the initiative from the educator to the institution, underpinning the emergence of LC as a norm, reinforcing student expectations of recording as a ‘minimum service’ provision. Default recording not only requires considerable investment in technical infrastructure, its implementation is also mitigated by logistical issues. This is illustrated by the case of London School of Economics and Political Science whose Academic Board approved a motion to move to an opt-out policy; however, at the time of the study, the policy had yet to be implemented due to technical, IP and logistical/timetabling complexities (Maguire 2016).
Lecture Capture and Emergent Challenges
Beyond the marketization of education, there are legal and ethical risks which accrue from the possibility of infringing various laws (i.e. IP, copyright, data protection and performance rights) to issues presented through the possible surveillance and monitoring of labour made feasible by recording and broadcasting technologies. These changes and challenges implicate the classroom as a space for competing rights, demands and expectations which connect it directly to the marketization and drive to increase value in the classroom. As such, the classroom as bounded physical space is being opened up by new technologies, making it amenable to new forms of gaze and metricization where technologies play a vital role in augmenting student experience and evaluations. As more HEIs move towards a default position of ‘opt-out’, setting out comprehensive policy frameworks the multitude of issues posed by digital technologies will continue to be a challenge for HEIs.
‘Opt-out’ as Symbolic of Pandering to Student Demand
The adverse reaction to the adoption of opt-out policies is manifested in concerted attempts by HEIs to neutralize it and to mainstream LC. Existing literature has labelled LC a ‘divisive and disruptive technology’ as evident in highly fragmented staff attitudes ranging from enthusiastic adopters to the apathetic and those vehemently oppose this ‘dangerous technology’ (Bond and Grussendorf 2013; Williams et al. 2013). Opt-out strategies often target the apathetic but the approach risks alienating staff who deem it as an erosion of academic freedom and a coercive strategy imposed top-down ignoring legitimate staff concerns, not lending to pedagogy but designed to ‘pander’ student demands (Karnad 2013).
A range of diverse ‘persuasive’ strategies have been employed to ameliorate this resistance including the use of hyperbolic rhetoric to impress the ‘transformative’ potential of LC for the student experience (Reece 2013b). Others premise individual agency by reassuring staff that the opt-out policy is not designed to be coercive or to ‘alter’ excellent teaching practice but to empower staff to decide whether to opt out based on their assessment of the impact of LC on teaching quality (Reece 2013a). Other HEIs drew on managerialist accounts of efficiency, presenting opt-out as less time-consuming and intrusive than opt-in (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 2015). Some approaches were more hierarchical and prescriptive where staff were required to secure line management approval to opt out and while pointing to the kinds of objections which may or may not be acceptable to management (e.g. St George’s University of London 2016). The sharp contrast in strategies points to a distinction between HEIs keen to accommodate staff concerns within an opt-out policy and those dismissive of them. Locking opt-out policy into hierarchical structures created the potential for intimidation and coercion as well as a curtailment of choice or rendering staff as not compliant with the rest of their cohort.
While scaling-up technological provisions through opt-out, many of the policies also acknowledged that the mass recording of lectures rendered the bounded classroom more exposed to risks such as the ‘YouTube fear’ where classroom content could end up in public video sharing platforms where recordings intended for a restricted class audience could be downloaded, remixed and circulated on social media. HEIs acknowledged the risk of reputational harm from decontextualized content (University of Leeds 2014) or controversial content and discussions used to discipline staff, where technology could become part of the surveillance apparatus in universities. Nevertheless, the risks are not seen as so overwhelming to weaken management’s resolve to expand LC. Such risks or a sense of loss of control is mitigated through a discourse that LC gives staff ‘full control’ over who got to hear what was recorded and when and what was released (University of Lincoln 2016). Policies also sought to reassure staff that students risked disciplinary action for unauthorized download, use or circulation of content (Reece 2013b). Despite a recognition that there were no fail safe mechanisms for content leaks onto social media platforms (St George’s University of London 2016), HEIs in many cases sought to put the onus and responsibility on staff for policing the capture and dissemination of sensitive content.
Governing Rights: Third-Party Copyright, Data Protection and Performance Rights
LC brought to fore a range of legal challenges in recording live lectures from third-party copyright to data protection and performance rights. One of the top risks identified by JISC (2014) was the possible infringement of third-party copyright, a ‘legally enforceable’ property right in creative work that protects the holder’s ability to profit from it by restricting how others may use it for a period. JISC argues that in the UK, copyright arises ‘automatically’ when the work is created and grants the holder control over how the work is used and whether or how it is made available. Copyright in teaching materials is usually held jointly between staff and employer or solely by the employer and third-party copyright infringement can expose HEIs to financial liability. Under fair use clauses in educational licences, universities are permitted to use live lectures for illustrative and analytical purposes; however, according to JISC, these usually prohibit the recording, circulation or storage of such material, and as such, LC poses a risk in terms of compliance. HEIs are negotiating the risks by devolving responsibility to the lecturer, who is expected to edit out or source alternative non-copyrighted material to avoid third-party copyright infringements (University of Bath 2016).
Privacy rights and ethical concerns over personal data also emerge with LC in the capture, storage and use of personal data during interactive modes of teaching where class discussions may cover sensitive issues. Some policies negotiated this by extending the principles of ethical research to the governance of lecture capture, i.e. reiterating the principle that content of a personal nature should not be recorded without the prior written consent of participants, as in the case of University of Bristol (2016). Privacy protection though is more than an ethical consideration is also a statutory obligation. The 1998 Data Protection Act defines ‘personal’ as any information on race or ethnicity, political opinions, religious or other beliefs, membership of political organizations, sexual orientation, etc. of identified or identifiable living individuals (JISC 2015). Legal restrictions on collecting or recording, storing and circulating or disclosing personal data have implications for governance where LC captured classroom interactions (University of Leeds 2014). As such, these considerations have come to bear on the LC economy. Most of the policies analysed negotiated the data protection challenges through the mechanisms of informed consent requiring written permission for an image or contribution to be stored or distributed in a recording, notices on the lecture room door, a PowerPoint slide at the beginning of a lecture, and a red light on the lectern when recording was taking place (University of Exeter 2016; University of Bristol 2016) to alert the students or audience.
Whether such measures will suffice given developments post-survey remains to be seen. In May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect, replacing existing data protection laws proscribing how organizations use personal data and tightening control on who has access to it. The legislation includes an expanded definition of personal data that includes ‘any information relating to’ an identified or identifiable person (Art. 4). The scope of the law has also been broadened to include ‘the processing of personal data wholly or partly by automated means’ (Art. 2) bringing LC within this ambit. A third change includes stronger consent requirements. As such HEIs come under a higher level of scrutiny and accountability on why information is held, how it is collected, when it will be deleted or anonymized and who may access it (Cormack 2017).
The third broad area of law implicated in LC is performance rights. Unlike the attention paid to third-party copyright and data protection, performance rights were conspicuous through their general absence from the policies analysed. JISC guidance suggests that the live delivery of a lecture falls under the legal definition of performance, and while the HEI may own the copyright to the content of the lecture, the lecturer owns the performance rights in the oral delivery (2015). Such rights are ‘unique’ to the performance, they cannot be licensed or assigned to someone else; therefore when a recording is made without consent or where a copy is made and circulated to students on Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) without consent, performance rights are infringed (JISC 2015).
In the few policies that did engage with performance rights, we found considerable variation. Some assumed recording would not take place without formal consent from staff who in the process assigned performance rights to the HEI (Newcastle University 2016). Others acknowledged that performance rights belong to the academic delivering the lecture but assumed that the HEI could use such rights as a ‘consequence of employment’ (Reece 2013a). University College London (2015) assumed that where staff had not opposed a recording by opting out, they would be ‘deemed to have consented’ to the assigning of a licence to the HEI to use the performance for academic or teaching purposes.
The complex ethical and legal domains implicated in recording lectures complicate strategies to scale up LC because it exponentially magnifies the risk of infringing statutory rights, with added complications from the diversification of modes of teaching and changing law. Moves towards more interactive, less didactic forms of pedagogy equally pose risks of capturing personal information of students potentially infringing data protection laws. One way of negotiating these complexities has been to use a narrow definition of a ‘lecture’ as a transmission of information from staff to students (Aberystwyth University 2016) or a structured, staff-led activity where discursive interactions with students are incidental rather than central to the pedagogy (St George’s University of London 2016). The exclusion of student interaction from the definition of ‘lecture’ partially uncouples LC from the complexities entailed in data protection and confidentiality rights; however, it also potentially excludes a significant proportion of teaching in the humanities and social sciences where teaching is highly interactive. In HEIs which had not gone down opt-out or scaling-up strategies, instead restricting LC to a few rooms, the perception was that the risks of IP or data protection infringements could be managed by editing out student interactions and sensitive information before release (University of Bath 2016). Where lectures were highly interactive or recorded throughout whole modules or schools, such interventions were seen as disruptive to delivery or too resource-intensive if carried out after the event (University of York 2016).
Accessibility: When Inclusion Becomes Exclusion
The statutory obligation for HEIs to make reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities even after government had cut funding has been a major driver in the expansion of LC. However, it would be misleading to assume LC was a panacea for meeting diverse teaching and learning needs because what is a solution for some could become a new problem for others (JISC 2016). An audio recording of a lecture and a visual capture of the PowerPoint slides may help a student with dyslexia or dyspraxia, and it could impede the hearing impaired or visually impaired. Disability services in HEIs are still needed to provide transcriptions, subtitles or recorded narrations (University of York 2016). However, students who fall outside formal designations of disability could be harder to help. Psychologically inhibited students reluctant to contribute in class could become even more so knowing the teaching session would be recorded. It is unclear from the policy documents analysed how HEIs were addressing this.
Surveillance: Staff Performance and Student Engagement
The other dimension of the technology underexplored in the policies and submerged under the rhetoric of pedagogic benefits is the surveillance capabilities of LC. PanoptoFootnote 2, the brand name of one of the most commonly used proprietary systems, evokes the surveillance machinery of the panopticon. At a surface level, we could read as seamless remote access where students can view recorded lectures anywhere, anytime. However, the panopticon associated with surveillance has the potential to be used as a mechanism of control and discipline (Foucault 2012).
The documents analysed presented the monitoring of student usage as benign, if not pedagogically relevant information on LC usage (Gorman 2011; Kadirire 2011). Aggregated data showing patterns of student usage were posted on some websites as ‘evidence’ of demand for LC and the popularity of recordings leading up to assessment periods (Gracey-McMinn 2015). While this may be a valid use of existing data to support teaching, the technology also enables staff to disaggregate material captured and hosted on password-restricted VLE, eliciting data on individual usage, and from there form conclusions about engagement or categorize students through their engagement levels. While such categorizations may appear value-neutral, some of the studies that have sought to derive taxonomies on student usage have ascribed pejorative labels such as ‘one-hit wonders’ (Phillips et al. 2010). We found little information in the policies examined that drew student attention to the routine capture of usage data, how it would be used or whether it would be disaggregated. There appeared to be no mechanism that would enable students to access recorded lectures but decline to have their usage data captured. The relevant information might be posted on the VLE site of HEIs, but it was not evident in the policies that we analysed. The subsequent introduction of GDPR may have implications for this form of surveillance.
While the potential for surveillance of individual students was underexplored, the potential to use the technology to monitor teaching performance was a cause of staff concern. Some HEIs sought to allay fears with assertions that recordings would not be used in ‘performance management’ (Reece 2013a). Others added a caveat to such reassurances with the warning that the recordings could be used as evidence in legal proceedings where alleged incidents are said to have occurred in the classroom or in cases of alleged misconduct (University of Birmingham 2016).