Now or Later: Students preferences for face-to-face versus online lectures

The use of online lecture recordings as a supplement to physical lectures is an increasingly popular tool at many universities throughout the world. Online availability of recorded lectures provides extra flexibility to students who are juggling the competing demands of work, study and family commitments. On the other hand, face-to-face lectures provide a disciplined learning environment, allowing students to interact and communicate with the lecturer while intrinsically contributing to the ‘university experience‘.

Just in time for the lecture.

Just in time for the lecture.

Considering these different viewpoints, myself and my BCM210 group have decided to investigate why students continue to attend lectures given the availability of lecture content online. This involves investigating the overall opinions and perception of students about the usefulness of both recorded and face-to-face lectures.

Online learning offers plenty of opportunities to students.

Online learning offers plenty of opportunities to students.

As a pilot study, I conducted a semi-structured interview with a fellow group member to gather a broad, generalised understanding of how university students perceive recorded lectures compared to its face-to-face counterpart. The questions asked during the interview included:

1) What, in your opinion, are the advantages of physical face-to-face lectures?
2) What, in your opinion, are the advantages of recorded (online) lectures?

From the student’s perspective, face-to-face lectures are advantageous due to the ability to engage with the lecturer, both during and after the lecture. The student also noted that attending lectures assists with creating more comprehensive, up-to-date notes.

With regards to recorded online lectures, the student reported the ability to revise content as a major benefit, particularly before an exam period. In addition, the flexibility offered to schedule one’s study to suit work commitments was also expressed as valuable.

This exercise has raised a number of important points for my group and I to consider during the research process. Firstly, it is apparent that the reasons for attending face-to-face lectures and watching online recordings are considerably extensive, with each student expressing different views and reasons. As a result, it is important to ensure open-ended questions are included in the questionnaire to allow students to express their opinions freely, rather than limit them to a set of pre-determined answers as in the case of tick-box questions. This will also allow greater comparisons to be made between the findings of the questionnaire and those of the interview.

Are students disengaged in lectures? Students can choose to watch online recordings when they're in an attentive state, rather when they're feeling tired or distracted.

Are students disengaged in lectures? Students can choose to watch online recordings when they’re in an attentive state, rather when they’re feeling tired or distracted.

Reviewing the responses of these interview questions also brings to the fore a number of other pertinent questions. For example, what are the reasons why students don’t attend face-to-face lectures or watch online lecture recordings? Do students who attend most or all of face-to-face lectures receive any additional benefits from the availability of online recordings?

It may also be interesting to introduce new valuations, such as asking students whether they are willing to pay to access online recordings. Although most students appreciate web-based lecture recordings when it is perceived to be free, a study conducted at Curtin University of Technology reveals that most students are unwilling to pay for access, suggesting they are not ‘truly’ valued.

Conducting this pilot interview has been a worthwhile experience. Not only has it given me an opportunity to practice my interviewing skills, it has also encouraged me to think on a deeper level about my group’s research topic and how we can formulate both our questionnaire and interview questions to maximise the valuable insights we gain from students.


2 thoughts on “Now or Later: Students preferences for face-to-face versus online lectures

  1. Hey Giverny,

    I really liked this blog post you have written. It was cool to see what other groups have come up with for their research topics.

    I think the topic you have chosen is really original and unique, I know I would have never thought of something like that.

    Its interesting to read about the pros and cons of face to face and online lectures. Not being a morning person myself, I tend to say to my self “oh don’t worry I will watch the lecture online”, but then never end up doing it. And I feel you’d learn more in an actual lecture rather than having it on your laptop with Facebook and a million other tabs open!

    Goodluck with the research paper!

  2. This is a great topic. The issues I find with online lectures is the fact that you say to yourself, I will just watch it online but you never do. These topic will be so easily relatable for all BCM students and its definitely something that all of the respondents to your survey will be able to answer questions about. Also your analysis of the interview responses was great and the questions definitely sounded like they promoted useful responses.

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