Summary of informal member feedback on the senior management proposed changes to the lecture capture policy
The general policy on recording and the loss of the automatic right to opt out
- Significant unease about new point 6: using lecture capture material for performance management. This was by far the most common point made in this section. The caveat ‘routinely’ does not reassure staff and the belief that they are under surveillance through lecture capture is making staff far less comfortable with being recorded. A concern frequently raised is that of student complaints that are unreasonable and/or politically motivated, and the implications for academic freedom. Staff warn that this provision could have an inhibiting effect, making them more likely to lecture from a script and less likely to teach in a more interactive, relaxed and personal manner
- There is some concern about bullet point 5 and the ability to make recordings available outside of the learning and teaching context in which they were made. This causes anxiety about using captured lectures inappropriately, to replace absent staff, striking staff or staff who have left. Staff believe that lectures are and should be captured for the purpose of teaching a particular course of study in a particular year, not for wider use. There is also concern about the recognition of authorship of material: whilst the university does formally own our intellectual property including that which we hold in our lectures, there should nevertheless be recognition of authorship when the university uses our materials.
- Opposition to the opt out process. Some respondents indicated that they use lecture capture, sometimes or always, but are concerned about themselves and others being forced to do so and to go through a process in order to opt out. Specific issues raised include intrusion on professional and pedagogic decision making; the administrative and bureaucratic burden for heads of school and other school leaders; and the amount of power this gives to a head of school with little accountability, giving rise to the possibility of bullying and/or junior and precarious staff feeling unable to make the case for opt-out
- Concerns about the pedagogic justification for lecture capture, either generally or relating to specific types of teaching, and about the lack of evidence that lecture capture improves student learning. This raises a concern that the driving force being the new policy is not the improvement of student learning;
- Point 10: the view that recordings will frequently if not always include special category data, through people appearing on screen or through personal disclosures in a lecture or seminar. It seems impossible, or very cumbersome, to exclude it from a recording without inhibiting the quality of teaching and discussion;
- Concern about the appropriacy of lecture capture for different types of teaching – the policy suggest that all teaching events, not just lectures, should be captured. Staff considered that the appropriacy of lecture capture as a support for students varies depending on the way learning is organised within a session, and requiring lecture capture for interactive seminars in particular is considered by some to be inappropriate. Staff also referred to concerns about student consent to being recorded in interactive sessions given the likelihood of mention of special category data, and the inhibiting effect that recording could have on student participation.
Overall, some respondents are clearly opposed to all lecture capture in principle. Others expressed support for the general goals of lecture capture, particularly in terms of supporting disabled students (but also more generally), but objected to the aspects of the policy which involve using lecture capture for purposes other than student learning and support, and objected to the use of a captured lecture outside the specific module for which it was delivered.
Lecture capture and disabled students
There is substantial support and understanding amongst responses for the needs of disabled students and for the role of lecture capture in providing for those needs. The majority of respondents taking this view, however, felt that the policy could be improved whilst still supporting the students who need it.
- The policy prioritises students over staff, assuming that opting out of lecture capture is a matter of ‘want’. It does not provide a mechanism for reconciling the rights of disabled staff with the rights of disabled students, but instead assumes that the rights of students will always take precedence. The same is true for other circumstances where staff may have a genuine need not to record or not to publish the recording widely;
- Staff indicated a keenness to engage more flexibly with reasonable adjustments for disabled students, including ones more appropriate and effective for the pedagogy used. Many staff were happy with making recordings available only to the students who need it (although there are some concerns raised about the effectiveness of communication to staff of Assessments of Needs). Others who had concerns relating to the lectures being controlled on the university system wanted to be able to consider other means of recording;
- Concern was expressed over the announcement prescribed in s 19. It requires staff to declare publicly that they have been authorised not to provide captured lectures, which in turns constitutes a declaration that they have a reason for that – if that reason is private, personal or sensitive this will be a difficult thing to do – they may have to field questions or be aware of speculation. There are better, more natural, ways of handling this situation.
- Concerns referred to in the previous section about the HoS authorisation process, in terms of autonomy, bureaucracy and workload, were raised here as well.
Use of lapel microphones
General support for the principle, although some respondents felt that the policy was unnecessarily prescriptive and specific and could perhaps be contained within guidance instead. There was some concern about the complexities of recording interactivity, suggesting that further guidance and training would be of assistance, but also connecting to concerns above about the impact of recording interactive classes.
There were many comments about broken mikes, dead batteries and the overall poor quality of some provision in lecture theatres, leading to poor audio even if the provided equipment is used. Some staff do not know how to use the mikes. In addition, lapel mikes are difficult to wear for those not wearing a suit, and other forms of microphones should be explored.
General understanding and support for the value of captioning, but respondents had significant concerns, often from experience, around the accuracy of captioning. Particularly problems are noted for staff without Southern English accents; staff who teach using technical terms or terms of art (which is most staff) and staff who teach in foreign languages. Leading on from this, there is significant concern about the workload involved in requiring staff to correct errors in captions and the risk of releasing significantly inaccurate captions.
We asked a more specific question here in order best to understand current practice and the implications of the change. Most staff who do not edit cite lack of time as a reason for this, together with a ‘clunky’ and difficult to use editing system, particularly when one is working from home. For some staff, not editing creates a more authentic recording which is what they want to provide. A few staff are unaware of the editing function or how it works. For staff who do not edit, reducing the turn around time will have no impact, and several respondents supported the need for students to be able to access recordings more quickly.
For those who edit, it is more of a problem – and some staff edit diligently to improve the quality of the recorded lecture or to remove sensitive data. There is some concern that the new proposed policy, particularly in relation to requiring recording of more interactive classes and the exclusion of all special category data. Particular comments were made about the disproportionate impact of the reduction on staff who work part time, or who become ill after the class, or whose class falls at the end of the working week.
Data protection and student recordings
A number of responses harked back to points in the first section to the effect that special category data may well be frequently included in recordings and that given that the requirement for consent is particular significant.
There is some concern about allowing Heads of School to override staff on the matter of the consent to student recordings, particularly because no parameters are given for this. There are also concerns about the lack of clarity on detection and enforcement measures against unauthorised student recordings.
The University’s IP policy vests ownership of IP rights in the university as part of our employment contract. Many members are uncomfortable with this and feel that the policy goes too far in permitting the university to exercise ownership rights over material which, whatever the formal legal position, is traditionally understood as closely associated with the creative and intellectual work of the individual academic and is thus highly personal. New point 39 caused concern, both for its somewhat aggressive tone and for what appears to be a threat to use recorded materials after a member of staff leaves; a particular concern relates to the possibility of making staff redundant or not replacing resigning or retiring staff and instead relying on recorded materials.
Reasons for opting out
A range of reasons were given. Concerns were expressed over IP rights, surveillance culture, including a fear of being targeting for discrimination or because of the expression of political views, using captured lectures to break strikes and the extra pressure which recording places on new and inexperienced lecturers, which can be detrimental to mental health. Some respondents felt that recording would change their teaching style and in particular that they would personalise and humanise their lecture less. Others opt out for sessions or modules where there is frequent use of sensitive information or of material under copyright.
Many respondents cited pedagogical reasons. Aside from the concern that they would teach less well when recorded, the most common concern was the tendency of recording to stifle discussion and interaction, particularly, although not exclusively, when sensitive or personal issues are discussed. Some participants also mentioned reduced attendance and the consequent risk of less effective learning coming from a recording.
Positives in the policy
Staff who answered this question used it to make positive comments about inclusive practice and support for disabled students in particular. Some welcomed the good intentions of the policy in terms of inclusive practice, but regretted provisions which seemed aimed at other goals.
Negatives in the policy
Staff who answered this question raised a range of issues, mostly discussed above.
- Surveillance and the use of recordings for disciplinary purposes
- Workload, often specifically around captioning but also editing
- Respect of ownership of material
- Use of material after a staff member has left or during strike action
- The protection of staff rights and interests, often in relation to protected characteristics
- Concern about recording sensitive material
- Concern about the impact on student learning