The impact of on-line lecture recordings on student performance

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Andrew Williams
Elisa Birch
Phil Hancock
Business School

The University of Western Australia


The impact of on-line lecture recordings on student performance

Andrew Williams*, Elisa Birch and Phil Hancock1

Business School

The University of Western Australia

January 2011



The use of online lecture recordings as a supplement to physical lectures is an increasingly popular tool at many universities. As its popularity grows, however, there is increasing evidence that some students are using these recordings as a substitute to attending the actual lectures, rather than as a complement that helps them revisit difficult content, or for study purposes. Does this trend matter? If students receive as much (if not more) benefit from viewing their lectures online as they do by attending in person, then this is surely the student’s right. However, this has potentially significant consequences for the delivery of lecture content in higher education. This paper combines survey data with student record data for students in a first year Microeconomics class to examine this issue. The main finding is that, whilst there are indeed some students using online lecture recordings as a substitute to attending lectures, they are ultimately at a fairly severe disadvantage in terms of their final marks. Controlling for a wide variety of student characteristics, we find that, relative to attending zero to six lectures (out of 26), those attending essentially all lectures in person (25 or 26 lectures) have a direct advantage of nearly eight marks. Moreover, students attending zero to six lectures do not close this gap by viewing more lectures online, despite having double the number of lecture recording hits as their colleagues who attended 25-26 lectures. In contrast to this, students who attend the majority of lectures in person do receive a benefit from additional use of the lecture recordings. The results provide evidence that, when used as a complementary tool, lecture recordings are a valuable supplement for students. However, when used as a substitute, lecture recordings provide no additional benefit.

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