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VStream: Concerns over low attendance and poor student performance

The research literature available on the effect of recorded lectures on students attending lectures includes case study evidence that recordings sometimes lead to lower lecture attendance. However, the biggest effect on student lecture attendance is found not to be due to the lectures being recorded but due to the format of the live lecture itself. Where lectures consist mainly of knowledge transmission, without requiring students to interact with the lecture material during the lecture, then students may consider that the recording of the lecture offers as much content as the live lecture does, with the advantage of being accessible at a time to suit particular students.

Other lecturer concerns about recorded lectures centre on their fear of a diminished student experience if students do not attend lectures and a concern for students’ ability to motivate themselves to complete the course without attending lectures. The literature suggests that non- attendance at lectures does not correlate to lower pass rates if students were able to access lecture recordings. Case studies also find that most students continue to attend the live lecture and also to review portions of the lecture recordings. The highest incidence of them doing both occurs where the live lecture is structured in an interactive way so that students are asked to contribute to the lecture and to think about and work with the material presented in the lecture. These students then review the lecture recording to add further notes and concentrate on areas of the lecture that require more study.

Key points


  • The introduction of lecture recordings has blurred study patterns of internal and distance students;
  • From an institutional perspective, lecture recordings are having a disruptive influence, challenging long-held traditions of university teaching, students’ attendance patterns and ways of learning. This is challenging an expectation that campus students will be based on- campus, attending lectures and other learning events. If lecture recordings are made available to students then many will access these instead;
  • Lecturers readily identify benefits of lecture recordings for their distance-enrolled students (not their campus students) but find it difficult to identify benefits for themselves. They are finding that campus students are adopting the study habits and behaviours of distance students and they do not like this. They are concerned that students may think that the recorded lecture is a complete substitute for the face-to-face live lecture;
  • Resistance to lecture capture is often related to the perception it will reduce attendance in lectures;
  • Other factors that affect students’ attendance at lectures include changing lifestyles, their attitudes to learning and their perceptions of the teaching they encounter when they do attend, not to mention their family and work commitments. These lifestyle pressures make it harder for them to engage as deeply in the university experience as those students from previous decades could;
  • Students are strategic about the choices they make and base decisions on lecture attendance around their educational value, their convenience and flexibility, as well as the social opportunities to meet other students, exchange ideas and so on;
  • Using recorded lectures demands changes in the way students learn and teachers teach. Both the live lecture and the review of the recorded event need to be designed so that they are complementary and contain ‘value adding’ learning outcomes for students;
  • ‘Value adding’ activities may be those where students learn from the interaction and engagement that occurs between students and teachers in the lectures;

Lecturers attempt to address low attendance issues by re-emphasising the importance of attending lectures, rather than restructuring the lecture format and content to best achieve desired learning outcomes. Lecture attendance is still primarily influenced by the quality of the design and delivery of the lecture, and the perceived value of the content, rather than simply whether the material is available for viewing at a later date.

Low attendance

  • A considerable number of students could be tempted to skip classes simply due to the recorded lecture being available online, especially first year students;
  • Case study results indicate that there are valid reasons for non-attendance that are within the control of students and lecturers. There are also clear benefits for students to be gained in attending lectures. However, changes in the way students learn, lecturers teach, and how students access and use the recordings have to be considered in order to maintain student attendance at lectures;
  • Lecturers have expressed unease about falling lecture attendance and concerns of students not engaging with their coursework, delaying listening to lecture recordings and reducing their opportunities for social learning in class. They believe that the presence of lecture recordings encourages students to be absent;
  • Student non-attendance at lectures could lead to delays in students listening to lecture recordings, which may result in students lagging behind in their studies or it may affect their class participation as students may attend tutorials without listening to the relevant lectures;
  • Lecturers feel that, as a result of dropping attendance that they are unable to gauge students’ understanding or get to know them;
  • Research shows that the availability of recorded lectures is only a minor factor in contributing to students’ low attendance and that there are several other reasons for non- attendance;
  • The role and effectiveness of face-to-face lectures in relation to student learning has been taken for granted and rarely questioned and decreases in lecture attendance have occurred prior to the introduction of lecture recording technology;
  • Lecturers are concerned that they might fail to meet their students’ needs if students don’t attend lectures and also feel that students may miss the subtleties of the presented lecture material;
  • In one study, students who subsequently passed their courses were more likely to supplement face to face lectures with recordings than students who went on to fail, and they were more likely to supplement live lectures presented earlier in the semester.

Other reasons why students don’t attend lectures

  • A perception that the recorded lecture is the same as the face to face lecture in every way and involves no student participation during the lecture;
  • A feeling of not being involved or engaged or ‘included’ when attending a lecture – the lecture format is just the lecturer talking and reading notes;
  • The quality or clarity of lectures and the use of relevant examples or not;
  • An inability to concentrate on listening to the lecturer for 50 minutes;
  • Lectures perceived to be “boring,” or “not worth attending,” or “irrelevant”;
  • Deadlines to complete other academic work;
  • Lack of sleep;
  • Availability of lecture notes from printed sources;
  • The day and hour at which a lecture is scheduled;
  • If students do not expect to learn from lectures, they are less likely to attend;
  • Other courses demand more time of them in a particular week;
  • External events are prioritised e.g. work, family demands etc...

Pedagogical concerns

  • Lecturers are concerned about lecture recordings reducing their ability for two-way communication with their students;
  • Recorded lectures might encourage campus students to think of lecture attendance as optional;
  • A feeling that the classical university lecture format is threatened by the availability of lecture recordings;
  • A perception that students are more likely to 'switch off' when they encounter material that they don't immediately grasp, thinking that they can review it again more slowly in their own time by viewing the recording;
  • A possibility that students will delay listening to lecture recordings and so forget what was covered;
  • Some lecturers criticise lecture recordings for reinforcing lecturing as a transmission model of teaching that can be ‘re-played’ and ‘fast forwarded’ to suit the whim of students;
  • A feeling that two-way communication with their students will be reduced because students will prefer to learn alone or in their own time;
  • A sense that non-attendance means that lecturers have fewer opportunities to inspire and motivate students;
  • Some lecturers wonder whether any pedagogical benefit emerges from students ‘replaying’ a lecture and ‘covering the same ground twice’;
  • Potentially, lecture recordings encourage students to give preference to other commitments instead of attending lectures (or preference for attending lectures in other courses) and this behaviour could lead to students becoming disengaged from their coursework;
  • Videoing lectures promotes the transfer of knowledge and facts, whilst diminishing the importance of constructing knowledge;
  • Videoed lectures may hinder the development of students as independent learners;
  • Lecture recordings encourage a passive approach to learning, and also fuel a perception that students can learn everything themselves;
  • Watching lecture recordings only may be seen by students as a substitute for engagement;
  • Lecturers believe that anything that reinforces the idea that students do not need to look beyond the lecture material to gain an understanding of a subject area, should be treated with caution. The availability of lecture recordings may send such a signal;
  • Students who do not attend lectures also potentially miss out on opportunities to participate, which could result in surface engagement with the content. This depends on the format of;
  • There is a concern about students missing the group social experience of being in a lecture where they can get to know and become intellectually engaged with other students and the lecturer;
  • The opportunity for students to ask questions on the fly was seen to be missed if students do not attend face-to-face lectures. This can be compensated for by using strategies such as Learn discussion forums, linked to the lecture experience;
  • Students who don't turn up to lectures (or view the recordings) can rapidly fall behind Lecturers and students have different views about lecture attendance.

There is a marked difference between lecturers’ and students’ expectations of lecture recordings and their value.

  • A large number of students using lecture recordings think that they learn just as well from reviewing the recorded lectures as they do from attending face-to-face lectures;
  • While lecture recordings allow students to become more flexible, lecturers still perceive the students’ absences from lectures as being detrimental to their learning;
  • Lecturers perceive access to recorded lectures is beneficial for distance students but disadvantageous to internal on-campus students if they use them as a replacement for attending lectures;
  • For students, the use of lecture recordings doesn't necessarily exclude them wanting to attend lectures.

Also consider...

  • Lecturers reading PowerPoint slides in lectures and providing little additional information that the students consider to be relevant and useful for on-going assessment of the course, encourage student non-attendance at lectures in favour or viewing the recording only
  • It is a belief that students can learn just as well from lecture recordings that that leads to their non-attendance at lectures. This implies that the live lecture must have elements in it to encourage students to attend AND review the lecture later
  • If students routinely spend their time re-watching their lectures on video, it is likely their learning experience will become dull and repetitive, whether they attend lectures or not. Students must be encouraged to review the lecture recordings in particular ways
  • Some lecturers believe that their lecturing ‘style’ cannot be suitably recorded using lecture capture
  • Lecture capture technology allows the blending of the two modes (live and recorded lectures) and students are beginning to do this, whether lecturers want them to or not
  • Some lecturers express concerns that a lot of effort might be made to record lectures with no guarantee that students will use the recordings
  • Lecturers express concern that if students have a permanent record of all course lectures, this might mean that any student could go back in time and point out any mistakes the lecturer made
  • Confidentiality and privacy concerns surrounding lecture recordings are of concern to lecturers
  • Some lecturers feel increased self-consciousness knowing that they are being recorded
  • Videoed lectures, on their own, have the potential to make learning uninteresting

Acknowledgements and sources


Abdallah, L. M., Danielson, J., Rogers, J. R., & Greenberg, A. (2011). Harrowing Tales of Lecture Capture: Why Blended Learning Scares Instructors. Retrieved from [Webinar]

Chang, S. (2007). Academic Perceptions of the Use of Lectopia: A University of Melbourne Example. Paper presented at the ASCILITE Singapore. from

Charles Darwin University Making the Most of Lectures Through Learnline - Staff Guidelines. Retrieved from

Gosper, M., Green, D., McNeill, M., Philips, R., Preston, G., & Woo, K. (2008). The Impact of Web-Based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from

Macquarie University Learning and Teaching Centre (2012). Making the Most of Lectures Through Echo 360: Staff Guide. Retrieved from

Preston, G., Phillips, R., Woo, K., & Green, D. (2010). Web-based Lecture Technologies: Highlighting the Changing Nature of Teaching and Learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(6), 717-728. Retrieved from

von Konsky, Ivins, J., & Gribble, S. J. (2009). Lecture Attendance and Web based Lecture Technologies: A Comparison of Student Perceptions and Usage Patterns Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(4). Retrieved from


Bennett, E., & Maniar, N. (2008). Are Videoed Lectures an Effective Teaching Tool? Retrieved from

Clay, T., & Breslow, L. (2006). Teach Talk: Why Students Don't Attend Class. MIT Faculty Newsletter, XV111(4). Retrieved from

Dolnicar, S., Vialle, W., Kaiser, S., & Matus, K. (2009). Can Australian Universities Take Measures to Increase the Lecture Attendance of Marketing Students? Journal of Marketing Education, 31(3), 203-211. Retrieved from

EDUCAUSE (2008). 7 Things You Should Know About... Lecture capture. Retrieved from

Buxton, K., Jackson, K., deZwart, M., Webster, L., & Lindsay, D. (2006). Recorded Lectures: Looking to the Future. Paper presented at the ASCILITE Who's Learning? Whose technology? , from

Dolnicar, S., Vialle, W., Kaiser, S., & Matus, K. (2009). Can Australian Universities Take Measures to Increase the Lecture Attendance of Marketing Students? Journal of Marketing Education, 31(3), 203-211. Retrieved from

Ehlers, K. (2010). Lecture Capturing Utilising Enhanced Podcasts 2010 ISECON Proceedings 27(1387). Retrieved from

Macquarie University Learning and Teaching Centre (2012). Making the Most of Lectures Through Echo 360: Student Guide. Retrieved from

Massingham, P., & Herrington, T. (2006). Does Attendance Matter? An Examination of Student Attitudes, Participation, Performance and Attendance. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 3(2). Retrieved from

Milne, J., & Brown, M. (2011). How Does the Digital Recording of Rich Media Enhance the Student Learning Experience?

Phillips, R., Gosper, M., McNeill, M., & Woo, K. (2007). Staff and Student Perspectives on Web based Lecture Technologies: Insights into the Great Divide. Paper presented at the ASCILITE Singapore. from

Secker, J., Bond, S., & Grussendorf, S. (2010). Lecture capture: Rich and Strange, or a Dark Art? Paper presented at the ALT-C 2010. from

Traphagan, T., Kucsera, J. V., & Kishi, K. (2010). Impact of Class Lecture Webcasting on Attendance and Learning. Education Tech Research Dev, 58. Retrieved from

Credit and Acknowledgement