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VStream: Best practices for delivering face-to-face lectures

Introducing interactivity into your lecture – through creating opportunities for questioning, discussion and problem-solving, will encourage students to regularly attend your lectures as well as review recordings of your lecture. If your lecture format does not offer opportunities for students to engage with the material (or one another) in any way then some students may feel that a recording of your lecture is all that is necessary for them to re-create what occurred in the live lecture. Students who attend lectures believe that they are getting a better experience than can be delivered on-line.

Key points

  • Lecturing has been a dominant approach to teaching students at university since the 12th century;
  • The common lecture experience for students is typically one where they don’t need to engage, beyond turning up;
  • Some lectures encourage surface learning only, where students unreflectively collect information with the intention only of meeting assessment requirements;
  • The importance of attending the live lectures in promoting deep learning needs to be communicated to students. They should be advised that reviewing recorded lectures, without attending, offers only a second-best learning option;
  • Students expect university education to include lectures and feel comfortable with the anonymity and passivity experienced when attending regular lectures. This can be an incentive not to attend, especially when there is a recording available;
  • The majority of students will attend lectures only if they perceive ‘value’ in them.

The 'Value' in Lectures

  • Keep emphasising the importance of lectures and the need for students to attend. If lectures contain a structure that includes regular interactivity, students will want to attend in order to take part in problem-solving, discussions, asking questions, discussing ideas with peers etc.
  • Make the lecture experience distinctive, engaging and interactive. Interactive lectures have the potential to be significant learning events for students, where deeper learning is promoted through active participation in the lecture. If the student experience in lectures is one of active engagement, then they are more likely to attend, rather than opt for the experience of listening to recordings;
  • Make lectures interesting, introducing current examples or topical elements that can be used to generate discussion;
  • Include questioning, problem-solving activities, short tasks or activities to break up the ‘delivery’ of content;

  • Create an outline of the content to be covered - outline the intention of the current lecture also at the end of the previous lecture;
  • Regularly sum up the lecture material covered so far in the current lecture;
  • Outline near the end of the lecture what students should do next in order to consolidate learning from the current lecture. This also feeds into their engagement with Blackboard and with any recorded lecture material;
  • Stop to ask questions or ask students to apply what they are learning in the current lecture;
  • Sum up what students ought to have learned at the end of the lecture;

  • Include ‘signposts’ in the lecture such as ‘now for five minutes of theory’ or ‘have a go at this problem’ or ‘now for your questions’ so that students can sense a conscious structure and so that they can review these chunks afterwards, in the recording;
  • Use these ‘signposts’ also so that students can sense where to cue to, when to pause and where to locate points of the recorded lecture that they would like to review;
  • Try to anticipate student review of the recorded lecture by including ‘signposts’ or other cues and PowerPoint slide numbers (e.g. ‘make sure you can apply the content on slide 12 to an example of your own...’) for students to locate and review after the live lecture has ended;

  • Near the end of the lecture (note that students start to pack up their gear five minutes before the lecture ends) leave time to ask students to let you know what was the ‘muddiest point’ or least understood aspect of the lecture, in their view. This feedback can be invaluable to the lecturer and students become used to being asked for comment. To allow this to happen, plan to include the questioning and feedback elicitation during the final minutes of the lecture, not when students are packing to leave;
  • Provide a lecture handout that includes one or more problem scenarios for student consideration and discussion in the lecture. Ideally problem scenarios will be based on applying knowledge and understanding to a new situation;
  • Incorporating questioning into lectures allows the lecturer to check for student understanding and adjust content of lecture accordingly. Students thus feel that to some extent they are responsible for their own learning in the lecture as their questions will directly influence the direction of the lecture in some way;
  • Since the lecture is often the main point of contact between staff and students for formal communication about any issues and problems encountered, harness a portion of the lecture time for valuable staff-student interaction and use an on-line discussion forum in Blackboard to extend student opportunities to give feedback or ask questions;
  • If the lectures are also being recorded, make conscious reference to the recording during lectures or when responding to students’ questions so that students will be more likely to access the recordings. Make reference to the lecture recordings also, in order to guide students to modify their note-taking habits in the light of having both the live lecture and a recording of it as opportunities to expand note-taking;
  • Link the lecture to follow-up activities or assignments in Blackboard. This requires students to reflect on the lecture material or use it in some way. For example, set up problem-solving tasks, quizzes, or discussion forums to extend student opportunities to respond to ideas presented in the lecture. Follow each lecture with activities where students can immediately apply what has been taught, in order to improve their understanding and retention. This might be problem or scenario or issue tied to a discussion forum in Blackboard. This helps students to reflect on what they have learned in the lecture;
  • Encourage students to review the lecture and learn from it (by applying concepts or issues or formulas to a new scenario etc.) before the next lecture is presented. This allows students to spend more time than would be available in a normal in-class session. A Blackboard activity may be suitable for this;

Also consider....

  • Rather than focussing on the lecture content, it may be more appropriate to consider the learning outcomes of students for each particular lecture and how best to provide stimulating and engaging learning environments and experiences for students who attend
  • The student has to do more than turn up. It is about what they do in the lecture that is important. Let them know what your expectations are for how they need to take part in the lecture or contribute ideas etc. Structure the lecture in such a way that students expect to be active and involved, not just allowed to sit passively
  • How much a student learns in a lecture is dependent largely on the lecture's educational design
  • In a ‘flipped’ model, students can view the lecture on-line before they arrive in the lecture space, so they are ready to immediately discuss the topic or begin work on a related individual or small-group activity. The flipped classroom experience makes optimal use of instructor and student time by providing more opportunities for the lecturer to discuss ideas in more depth. Benefits of the ‘flipped’ model include increased class time to present content, more time to discuss complex topics and reduced time spent answering basic or repetitive questions, in view of students already having accessed the recorded lecture material
  • If attendance is necessary at all or some lectures, then let students know from the outset. Even if it is not, there may still be benefits gained from attending that students are not aware of. By informing students of your expectations and the benefits that can be gained from attendance, students will be able to make informed decisions
  • Most students prefer attending lectures over viewing lecture recordings for several reasons including the interactivity, ability to view demonstrations, better concentration and sociability
  • Going to lectures provides structure for students and imposes a disciplined approach to formal learning but they need to feel, at the end of a lecture, how everything has fitted together
  • Teach students to take notes effectively, especially if there is also a recording of the lecture. Students might be advised to take fewer notes in class and concentrate more on what the lecturer says, or the examples and problems presented. Some note taking can then be completed later during the lecture recording review
  • Create opportunities for students to participate after the class lecture by asking questions to be answered later, and then following the lecture with opportunities to use Blackboard to take part in a ‘lecture discussion group’, or complete a Feedback activity. A discussion forum can give students time to compose questions which the lecturer can answer either on-line or in the next lecture
  • Use titles and numbers on PowerPoint slides so you can refer to them and students can easily cue to them in the Rich Media recording of the lecture, if available
  • Upload PowerPoint to Blackboard before the lecture and ask students to make a printout to bring along and add notes to
  • Indicate slide changes and slide numbers (“Now we’re on slide 14...”) when moving through slides so that students can use the cue to add notes under a new slide heading or number. This also aids review of lecture recordings

Acknowledgements and sources


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Credit and Acknowledgement