In the first post of this course, we’ll look at some of the trends, discussions, and issues facing lectures in contemporary university teaching.
The lecture is dead?
For the past several years, there have been a range of think-pieces written about the role of the lecture in a new, technological age of universities. In particular, we’ve seen a range of articles claiming that, as a mode of teaching, the lecture is dying off and will soon be replaced by more digitally-savvy methods. In 2012, Harvard Magazine discussed how, after 600 years, the lecture as we know it is in its twilight years. University of Adelaide and UTS, among others, have made wide-reaching changes to their curriculum to downplay lectures or get rid of them entirely.
Take a look at this recent article from Wired: “The Lecture is Dead. I Would Know – I’m a Professor.” The author of this piece, and the others above, point to the following perceived failings of the lecture model:
- Traditional lectures are outdated: they have been unchanged for hundreds of years
- New technologies such as videos have replaced lectures
- Students are easily bored by long presentations
- If the lecturer is just going to read, the students might as well read a book instead
- Lectures are too passive – students learn better by doing, rather than listening
- Students don’t attend lectures anyway, so there is no point in offering them
What do you think of the points made in this article? Do you agree or disagree?
In a recent academic article, French and Kennedy (2016) explored the arguments relating to the lecture. They note that articles such as those presented above are usually personal opinion of an individual, and not necessarily evidence-based. They tend to focus solely on the negative aspects of the worst types of lectures.
In reality, like any teaching method, lectures can be good, or bad, depending on how they are designed and delivered as part of a holistic curriculum (which usually includes other formats such as workshops, labs, seminars, tutorials, internships, practicums, and other methods): “A well-designed and well-delivered lecture that involves students in the processes of questioning, analysing and critical thinking has the capacity to be a highly engaging experience.” (French & Kennedy 2016: 645) It is not the lecture format itself that is necessarily boring or passive. A flipped classroom experience has as much potentially to be a poor student experience as a traditional lecture: it is how it is delivered that is key.
State of the lecture
All these perspectives are responding to changes occurring across the education sector. We’ve discussed many of them in previous coffee courses, such as flipping the classroom. To sum up, the most common trends include:
- Increasing use of videos in teaching to deliver content
- Commonplace practice of recording all lectures for a course
- Increasing prominence of active learning methods and strategies impacting teaching practices
- Access to digital technologies means there is less reliance on face-to-face delivery
- Flexible modes of delivery such as blended or flipped classes are more common
Is attendance at lectures declining?
There is significant discussion related to the perceived decrease in attendance at lectures, and much of this is thought to be a result of the above changes in technology– particularly lecture recording. We’ll speak more about lecture recordings in Day 5, but consensus is lacking as to whether technologies have reduced attendance (Gysbers et al 2011; French & Kennedy 2016; Petrović & Pale 2015). Extensive studies with students have shown that the reasons students do not attend are more a result of external factors such as work, illness, timetable clashes, prioritising other courses, or that they felt that they could master the material without attending (Petrović & Pale, 2015). In fact, students usually point out that they value live lectures, and would not want them to be entirely replaced with only video or recordings (Gysbers et al 2011). The function of recordings and live lectures are seen as different by students: live lectures are for learning, for social presence, and for interaction with peers and teaching staff, whereas recordings are primarily used for study, practice, or review (ibid).
What as your experience been? How have you found the above trends to impact your teaching practice?
What we’ll cover in this course
Now that we’ve looked at some of the trends, public perception, and pressures facing lectures, in the upcoming posts we will turn to look at how to address some of the potential issues with concrete strategies. Rather than “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and getting rid of lectures entirely, we will look at methods you could use in your teaching to improve student engagement and outcomes, and how to make the best use of available technologies. Tomorrow, we will share ideas for quick activities to break up the pace and engage critical thinking in students. In upcoming posts, we’ll look at technologies for student response, designing effective presentations, and taking advantage of lecture recordings.
- Sarah French & Gregor Kennedy (2017) Reassessing the value of university lectures, Teaching in Higher Education, 22:6, 639-654, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2016.1273213
- Vanessa Gysbers, Jill Johnston, Dale Hancock, & Gareth Denyer (2011). “Why do students still bother coming to lectures, when everything is available online?” International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 19:2, 20-36, https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/CAL/article/view/4887
- Juraj Petrović & Predrag Pale (2015). “Students’ perception of live lectures’ inherent disadvantages”, Teaching in Higher Education, 20:2, 143-157, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2014.962505
If you are interested in exploring the topic further, these might be of interest.
- “Will the University of Adelaide’s lecture phase-out be a flop?” by Phillip Dawson, The Conversation, 3 July 2015
- “The lecture is dead, long live the lecture” by Merlin Crossley, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 January 2016
For an ANU perspective, here are two blog posts about lecture recording from Marnie Hughes-Warrington, the ANU DVC-A.
- “Counting the cost of live lectures” – 6 July 2015
- “Not Going, Not Listening Either” – 8 November 2015
We’d like to hear from you!
The discussion in the comments is often the most interesting and valuable part of these courses, and we’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and welcome you to share advice with your colleagues. If you are new to the coffee courses, just be aware we have some community guidelines, which we encourage you to look at. If you have signed up for this course on HORUS, you will need to post at least 1 comment on each post to receive recognition for the course.
Upcoming face-to-face workshop
There has been such huge interest in this course that we’ve added an optional face-to-face workshop where we will be demonstrating some of the techniques we are going to discuss in this course and sharing ideas. The session will be Friday, 30 June from 9am – 11am in Building 10T1 (CHELT), Seminar Room 1.08. Sign up on HORUS to join us.
A quick welcome
You can respond to one of the 2 activities listed above, or any of the below questions. Or just introduce yourself!
- Tell us about your experiences of lecturing (as a lecturer, or a student).
- Why do students value lectures? What is they see they can get from lectures that they cannot get through other ways?
- Can the efficiency of lectures be achieved in other ways? How? With what?
Good Morning Everyone
I teach in an on-line program and try to deliver live sessions on topics that lend themselves to a high level of student interaction. For lectures that are really just me talking and the students listening, I present various topics in short pre-recorded ‘spotlight’ sessions (10-15 mins). These are well received by the students, and are singled out for positive feedback each semester. However, they are not seen by the students as a substitute for the live on-line lectures, where they can participate and have questions answered in real time. It actually took me three semesters to reach a balance where the student feedback was not requesting either more spotlight sessions or more live lectures.
I hope to pick up some tips from this course on ways to make live lectures more engaging and interactive.
Hi Christine, thanks for your comment! I really appreciated your point about having to experiment to find the right balance. I think your idea of spotlight sessions sounds great – can you tell us a little bit more about them and how you do them?
Greetings from Queen’s University in Canada!
I appreciate Christine’s comment above – thanks for this insight. Could you identify the course you teach and some of the topics you’ve selected for the spotlight videos? For me, finding the balance you refer to will be about justifying the particular delivery method in terms of the subject/topic/target learning outcome…
I also really appreciate Brian’s comment about “showing up”. A colleague and I have spoken about the fundamental importance of our relationships with our students, how these are formed in the classroom, and the effect this has on their engagement and their learning. In live lectures (well, really, any time we are present with students) we have a unique opportunity to model attitudes/values, among other things. I wonder whether/how this comes through on video lectures? Thanks!
Hi Christa, Welcome! Glad to have you with us from such a distance!
I agree with you that building relationships is much easier in face-to-face classrooms – it can just happen naturally. I’ve thought a lot about engagement and relationship building online myself and I think it is still possible through virtual methods, but requires a lot more planning and forethought. It took me a long time to work my way to some methods. If you are interested in a bit more on building relationships and rapport online we did a coffee course earlier this year on student engagement online, which could be helpful: http://anuonline.weblogs.anu.edu.au/coffee-courses/engaging-students-online/
Looking forward to hearing more about your teaching and experience.
As a new lecturer (my first course begins next week) and still a student, I find that the issue of the lecture in decline is extremely relevant to me. As a student, I have found that my experience is reflected in the articles above. I found that I was rarely able to attend lectures because of work commitments, and when I did, they were no different to the readings, or were simply read verbatim from the powerpoint presentations. Reading those presentations in my own time (e.g. 4am) was far more productive for me than sitting through a class.
As a new lecturer though, I have found that the expectation of me is to deliver a lecture in the traditional sense, or close to it. I’m really not sure how the lecture or the class time can be updated in the way that I see University plans promoting. I find that the expectations of students are for traditional lectures (which they have already planned to miss) and the timetabling and work hours really only provide for lectures and tutorials. As much as I want to have innovative and engaging classes, I’m really not sure how to do this in a way that is practical – for me and for the students, and the university.
Hi Lauren – thanks for your reflection. Transitioning from student to staff must be a challenge. I was interested in your comment about feeling an expectation that you deliver a “traditional” lecture – where do you think this is coming from? And you’re right – some studies of flipping the classroom (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096751615000056), for example, found that some students did not appreciate non-traditional forms of teaching and preferred the lecture format! So in some ways there is no pleasing everyone. I hope you can learn a few easy techniques to address student engagement within the limitations of the “traditional” lecture from the next few days of the course which might find the balance for you. I’d love to hear what you think!
Generally the feeling around expectations is from my mentors, and the university system in general. Because I teach already developed courses, they have always taught them with ‘traditional’ lectures, so that’s what the materials are set up for – and because I’m not convenor, I don’t really have any ability to change things. This is also true of the fact that the lectures I teach are all 2 hour ones – which is a whole other problem that the articles don’t really address. Even with a 10 minute break in the middle, that’s a long time to hold anyone’s attention (including the lecturer’s).
I am really hoping to learn a few things that I can incorporate into the ‘traditional’ lectures, but also things that I can build on semester after semester as these things become more ‘standard’ in higher ed classrooms. I am really motivated to be a ‘good’ teacher (I’d prefer exceptional, but we will see what we can do…) so the issue of student engagement is really important to me.
I record the sessions using Echo 360, which means I can share my desktop, and I can also edit the recordings before uploading them to YouTube. Being able to share my desktop gives scope for referring to more than just powerpoint slides. Depending on the topic I can show students how to locate specific resources, or the best way to work through the legislation to tackle a specific problem or question. I teach an area of law that changes frequently, but by spotlighting skills (such as how to write a submission in support of a review application, or how to write a legal memorandum) and selecting knowledge-based topics that are more static, the recorded sessions can be re-used for future semesters.
Thank you for your comments, especially in relation to how you are integrating video and recordings into your courses. We will be looking at this in more detail on Day 5 of the coffee course so it will be great to hear more about what you have been doing.
Hi Christine – thanks for that! I think that sounds like a really great strategy. We’re going to chat a bit more about using recordings more effectively later in the course, but I think your approach of focusing on what can be reuseable is fantastic!
thank you very much for your useful course. I have an experience of being a teacher assistant for two consecutive semester when I was a bachelor student. I totally disagree with the first question and I believe that lecture is one of the most crucial parts of teaching and learning processes, because in this way not only can students make a face to face relationship with their lecturer but also they take the opportunity to get involved in the learning & teaching processes just by asking questions or answering their lecturer’s question.
In my opinion a key point to be a successful lecturer is trying to hold an active class which would be not boring for students at all.
Hi Naeimeh, thanks for your comment! I’ve always found it quite funny that there lots of articles online about how the lecture is dying, but you don’t see much change in university life. I think the lecture is very central to teaching in university! But you are right – we need to focus on making successful and active learning in lectures possible to make them more positive learning experiences for students. That’s what we will look at over the next few days!
Really enjoyed reading this week’s post. It raises some really great points that we all need to consider.
Having successfully taught and studied in face to face, distance learning (pre internet) and more modern online learning mediums I can say that all of them have their pros and cons. If online is done badly then it can be just as bad (or even worse) than a bad lecture. But if a lecture is done well, it may actually be more effective than in an online medium as their are things you gain from being their in person that you don’t get on a computer screen (e.g. why go to a concert when the MP3 will probably be of better quality )
One of the things that I feel we need to do is really maximize whichever medium we use and not give students a “half attempt”. For example, if we tell every student that all lectures are going to be on echo 360 and its simply a recording of the lectures, then as Marnie points out, students will listen for a few minutes and then switch off (or download and never really listen to it). If they turn up to the lecture (even if it’s a bad lecture) they will probably get more than the few minutes they would have listened to online. Having said that, if we go online then we really need to put in the time and money to produce quality interactive resources in order to ensure good engagement and learning. Doing this requires significant investment which the university and staff need to be able and prepared to put in.
David, I couldn’t agree more! I really liked your mp3 example – I think a few other people have made similar reference to things like that as well. As Brian also indicates below, we can produce great resources and classes with the right support, time, and energy. One of the things that I have been thinking about a lot lately is the difference between an engaging video, and a lecture recording – if we want students to be watching recordings more and attendance in person is not prioritised, it takes work to develop quality, engaging videos. And exactly as you say – this requires investment from the university! Interesting thoughts to take forward as we get into the rest of the course.
I have been lecturing into two courses for several years an am about ot write my lectuires and pracs for a new second year biology course on Comparative Physiology where we contrast plants and animals. As an undergraduate, I enjoyed attending lectures, prehaps reflecting that I am an aural learner. Now with lectures recorded, I can undersatnd that some students prefer to speed watch or return to revise. I believe that there is a place for lectures – it is an efficient way to convey information to large classes. The challenge is how to make them engaging and how much time does the lecturer have to prepare the material and deal with responses.
Thanks for your thoughts John. I was a stickler for lecture attendance when I was an undergraduate too, and I always found I couldn’t remember anything from a class where I did not attend the lecture! Obviously in a perfect world we’d be able to devote all the time we want to developing fantastic material and lectures, but there are so many demands on staff (and student!) time that make it difficult. I’d be keen to hear what you think of the topics tomorrow and Friday about strategies for making lectures more engaging. 🙂
Looking back at my student experience with lectures (those were delivered using overhead projectors and transparencies or by chalk on blackboards), I agree that rapid reading out notes was not helpful at all. I learned as much reading the respective textbook in my own time. However, not every lecture was done this way. Some of my lecturers were good story tellers and made the topic (biology) come alive by giving memorable examples. I think the right mix of delivering facts with interesting context and reasoning why this should interest me made me enjoy those lectures and learn more easily as if I had just read the same things. So, alone the fact that those lecturers made the effort to think of how to best bring the knowledge in a digestible form into my student world and to delivers through a really good performance made a big difference.
I have since been on the other side of the classroom (occasionally) facing the task to deliver the standard lecture (power point by now) or sitting in on lectures of my colleagues. I now appreciate even more the difficulty of delivering a good lecture in conventional style. I agree that kind of lecture is most likely on its way out. However, that should not mean lectures are useless or we need to do away with them entirely. Perhaps that may also vary from discipline to discipline?
My observation is that inclusion of videos or active discussion engaging the students during the lecture or demonstration of principles, by bringing objects to class seem to engage students quite well. I also noticed that it is greatly dependent on each individual how well they perceive one or the other way of “teaching”. Some students seem to really like if the lecturer extracts the most important knowledge for them, others seem to prefer to read into the subject and use a more problem-based approach where they can apply what they have read/learned. And again the performance of the lecturer will greatly decide whether students fall asleep, decide not to attend or the attention is gripped.
I guess I am trying to find an effective balance to include all learning types and struggle to decide what is best to apply and to learn to better deliver.
Hi Britta, welcome to the course! Thanks for your reflections on this. I appreciate your point on student diversity very much – there is no “silver bullet” for delivering in the best way that is going to work for everyone. (If there was, we’d have found it by now and all be teaching that way!) Performance of the lecturer is definitely an important component of the delivery – hopefully together throughout the course we can share some ideas on how to try new techniques. I’d be keen to hear what you think in the next few days regarding how different methods might suit different types of students.
A few thoughts regarding the two activities:
1. What do you think of the points made in this article? Do you agree or disagree?
* I agree with the overall message that lectures must be engaging and activities such as problem-solving and quizzes (e.g., via Socrative) enhance the experience for students.
* But I think that it is wrong to stereotype the lecture as boring: some of the lectures I attended as an undergraduate in the 1980s were fun, challenging and rewarding. Others were totally forgettable. Much the same as today!
* I have correlated lecture attendance and marks in one of my courses (unfortunately I can’t paste the chart here). Marks are significantly positively correlated with lecture attendance (except for a cohort of students who hardly attend any lectures – typically mature-age part-timers who do well regardless).
2. What has your experience been? How have you found the above trends to impact your teaching practice?
* I survey students anonymously at the beginning of each course (via Socrative) and the majority vote for either 50-75% or 75-100% of lectures delivered face-to-face.
* Despite this, I see a decline in lecture attendance from >90% at the beginning of the semester to about 30-35% as at the end of semester. On average, students attend fewer lectures face-to-face than they want delivered face-to-face. This decline suggests that it is not simply work and family commitments that keep students away from lectures. One reason students give is that their main assessment items all become due around the same time in the latter part of the semester.
* The way I deliver lectures could be part of the reason attendance declines.
* In response, I have joined one of my lecture slots to my 3-hour practical slot to make a 4-hour practical for the last half of semester. The lecture material is delivered in 5-10min bits throughout the practical, which is often in the field. Attendance is near 100% because the practical is assessed, so am I bullying them to attend?
* I have also considered whether the decline in attendance at lectures is something I should worry or is within my control to influence – my courses consistently score very high through SELTS despite the drop-off in attendance at lectures.
Hi Phil, thanks for your contribution. I find it particularly interesting that you surveyed your students and found correlations between higher marks and attendance at your lectures – obviously the students are doing some effective learning and retaining it, through attending your lectures. Also interesting is your point that mature age students with work and life pressures who don’t attend lectures do well any way due to high levels of motivation. Those mature age students probably also really appreciate recorded lectures and any good quality materials and activities that they can access on line, but as you say even without that, they will probably be motivated to acquire the knowledge they need to pass any way they can.
You other observation that attendance declines as the term progresses is also of interest, and your query as to whether it is the way you deliver the lectures. I am wondering what you mean by this – does your delivery change as the term progresses, and if so what would be the reason for this? The positive SELT feedback is encouraging, the students obviously do not have any real problem with your lectures or approach.
I think combining practical workshops with “chunks” of knowledge interspersed is a great model, I am not sure I would see it as bullying! Of course if it is assessable there is the element of coercion there – however students like it when the material they are being presented with and being asked to engage with, IS directly relevant to their assessments, so it could be a very effective approach and reassuring to the students.
I am also a student and have delivered a number of guest lectures for courses over the past 18 months. I’m somewhat more optimistic about lectures. In the courses I have lectured for, we have had consistently high attendance even in the last weeks of semester. To my mind the primary advantage ‘traditional’ lectures have over video and other alternatives is that lectures afford the presenter the opportunity to convey their passion for a topic. I think it is easier to demonstrate and even transfer this passion through face-to-face engagement, and those who present with genuine excitement are more likely to hold the attention of students. I also feel lectures are a good opportunity to share relevant anecdotes which bring the theory being presented into real life. These opportunities are unique to lectures where the complementing tutorial is focussed on practical aspects. I agree it is important to bring lectures into the current age especially in terms of technology, but I think genuine human passion for research and learning and face-to-face interaction will always have a place as this is often what truly inspires students to ask questions, challenge existing theories, and identify their research interests.
Hi Clare, thanks for your thoughts – it is valuable to hear your perspective coming from recent student experience as well as that of a newbie lecturer. I agree that face to face events like lectures are ideal for conveying passion and excitement about a topic – this is contagious and beneficial to students. Often, such lectures remain in our memory for a lifetime as something that changed us. Of course, not all lectures have this sense of passion and excitement, so it would be interesting to figure out how these are conveyed, what makes a passionate lecturer? Is it just the fact that the lecturer is passionate about their field and this shows? Perhaps not always. Many lecturers are passionate about their fields but do not engage students with dynamic, exciting lecture performances. And another thing to consider is, what about those who simply cannot get to face to face lectures and must do all of their study online. Is there a way of creating this sense of passion and excitement in an online environment, or do those students have to miss out on that personal touch?
In response to the article “The Lecture is dead…”
In my field – physics – concepts can be hard to grasp, and equations need to be taken apart and put back together to be made sense of. In my opinion, the face to face lecture is really important for this. It is important for students to be able to ask for clarification, for lecturers to be able to gauge by audience reaction how well the material is being grasped, and for students to be able to learning from watching (the lecturer or from each other).
I have been both student and lecturer now and I still believe that a well planned lecture can’t be beaten!
I certainly agree with you here. Having previously taught (and studied) rather theoretical courses, I have found that face-to-face lectures can be very constructive and personable. In fact, in one of my flipped classroom courses, students gave feedback that they preferred traditional lectures over short pre-recorded video presentations! However, as mentioned by yourself and many others, it is important to be able to gauge audience reaction and create engaging lectures – and that’s what we are going to discuss in the next few days. Long live lectures!
Thank you for putting together this coffee course. I have recently come to academia from a background in field work and am responsible for convening some post graduate courses. I am enthusiastic to remove the focus from lectures and ‘death by powerpoint’ to problem based, interactive learning.
As post graduates many of the students have a wealth of experience and the potential to learn a lot from each other – I want to be able to harness that potential to enrich the learning environment and do away with power point as much as possible.
I look forward to working my way thru the course and picking up some gems to apply in my courses.
Hi Tambri! I’d love to hear more about your teaching plans – they sound fantastic. I also would like to avoid “death by PowerPoint” but I worry about trying to go without it! I have experimented with Prezi but had some students complaints about it (one student said it triggered her epilepsy!) so I had to stop using it. We’ll look at effective presentations specifically in Day 4 as well! Thanks, Katie.
I agree with that it is important for live lectures to offer something different than the recorded experience and believe that this difference can be on a number of different levels. French and Kennedy (2016) list several points (4.1 to 4.7) about the value of face-to face lecture. I disagree with some of these, as I think that they can be equally well addressed with good online resources. For example, providing context (4.1) or a sustained engaging narrative (4.2) should not be difficult to get across in a well-planned Echo360 recording. Similarly, online resources can be just as up to date as lectures (4.5). However, some of their other points are more in line with what I personally consider to be important aspects of lectures for my students. These revolve more around motivation (4.3) and social interaction (4.7), setting aside for the moment other aspects of interactive teaching that can best occur in a face-to-face environment.
For students to learn, they need good material but they also need motivation. While there are a range of motivational drivers for a typical student cohort, social motivation can be one of the more powerful. If I lecture in an enthusiastic and engaging style, it sets a good example to the students and assists them in seeing the topic as valuable. If I dedicate my time to being there to teach them, they are more likely to dedicate their time to learning. By being present (and happy about it) I am showing my commitment to their learning. It is also possible to do this in some online forums too, but simply watching a recorded lecture completely misses this part of the staff-student interaction.
The Lecture room also brings the students together in way that many online spaces do not. Seeing their fellow students listening, learning or even also looking confused, helps individuals to feel that they are not alone in their leaning journey. For some this can be important, especially when term-time pressures begin to mount. The modular nature of ANU programs can result in a very impersonal education experience and a good class mentality can be infections, resulting in enhanced learning for some.
Last weekend I watched the Foo Fighters headlining the Glastonbury festival. I knew all the songs from their albums and watched recordings of the concert on the BBC and on YouTube. I would still have much rather been there in person! But why? The material is the same, and I could not influence the performance or interact with the performer in any meaningful way. That leaves the social interaction with other audience members, and the atmosphere. Maybe also the very conscious decision to dedicate all my attention and senses to one thing – no electronic devices and social media to distract me for that time. For my lectures I need to work on the material, my “stage presence” and the atmosphere in the room. Plus keeping the students engaged enough that other distractions do not tempt them.
Thank you for your comment – you raised some interesting points and it would be great if you could share with us on how you’ve previously prepared and planned for an Echo360 recording (would be especially valuable to us as we are looking to release its active learning platform (ALP) soon). I certainly agree with you here about the presence of the lecturer, and that online and offline resources/lecturing may serve different purpose but are not necessarily at odds or competing with each other. And yes, keeping students/audience sufficiently engaged is important – something we will be covering over the next few days! I would love to be the superstar of my students!
*What do you think of the points made in this article? Do you agree or disagree?*
The author claims “The traditional lecture model worked wonderfully for eons” and up to living memory “When I was young”. However, this was well after the invention of the printing press allowed the low cost reproduction of information in textbooks. We have not just come from an era when lecturers read out of the one hand-written precious copy of the textbook. It was already not acceptable for lecturers to just read stuff out. Lecturers can engage audiences without clicker, simply by asking questions.
Also what the author doesn’t address is *why* the lecturer has to be standing there talking at all. It is possible to have students actively engaging in class, without a lecturer “lecturing”. The problem, I suggest, is that lecturing is all lecturers know how to do, because they have not been trained to teach.
The Open University UK was established in 1969, providing distance education using texts, audio, video, and more recently, on-line techniques. So alternatives to live lectures are not exactly new stuff.
*What as your experience been? *
I never liked attending lectures or giving them. A few years ago I started recording lectures. Within a few seconds of announcing this, about a third of the class got up and walked out. This shocked me, but a student explained there was a timetable clash and the other lecturer was not recording, so this was a logical decision.
In 2008 I decided to not give any more lectures and changed to on-line learning, apart from the occasional guest lecture. If you ask me to design a course I will now assume it is to be on-line, in asynchronous mode. If you want synchronous, or face-to-face components, I will add them as optional extras.
For the last three years I have been an on-line international graduate student, while also teaching on-line. This is now just seems the normal and natural way to do most higher education.
I do see a place for face-to-face learning activities for students, to make up perhaps 20% of the typical degree. I have taken part in large scale flipped group learning activities in ANU’s one TEAL room. I look forward more of this in the new flexible learning building. But the idea of standing out the front of a stepped lecture theater with a students just sitting there, in the dark, several hours a week for a whole semester, now seems a weird thing to do.
I am convening my first course this coming semester, a challenge which prompted me to sign up for this coffee course. So far, so good!
While I am a feeling a little daunted, I also find myself strangely excited at the prospect of trying to make the course lectures as interesting and as valuable as possible for the students attending.
I was taken by the distinction highlighted made in Dan Berrett’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (linked in Dr Rhett Allain’s article) between the use of flipped classes in the humanities versus STEM disciplines. Perhaps this explains why my recent experience have indicated the ‘traditional lecture’ is dead. Virtually all of the classes I have attended or been involved in during the course of my PhD (in International Relations) have involved significant interactive components, especially group problem solving. My sense is that the material that I cover – foreign policy analysis – particularly lends itself to flipped classes.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in the advice to come in the coming days,
Hi Ben, thanks for your comment! I’m glad this course is coming at a good time for you. I like the point you made about the range of lecturing common in different disciplines. I believe flipped/active classrooms are more common in the Sciences and Engineering at ANU specifically, and I think in the languages as well. But other areas commonly have more “traditional” lecture classes. I know most of my own undergraduate (in Canada) were very traditional lectures with no interaction at all, in the humanities area. But I suspect part of this is also influenced by institutional, cultural, and departmental practices. I’d love to hear how you find the advice and if you use any of it, how it went!
The quality of the lecture is important not just that it’s a lecture. Videoing a bad lecture doesn’t improve it t although here is flexibility of access.
That is a very good point, Alex!
Lauren, you said there was an expectation to deliver traditional lectures, but has anyone actually told you *have* to do this? When I decided to stop giving lectures, I was expecting howls of outrage and was a little disappointed when the reaction was more a shrug of shoulders. As long as the students are happy, with enough passing and some failing (to show you are not making it too easy), then the university will not mind how you teach.
What I did was work out the number of hours work involved in the lectures and then reallocated that time to what I thought were more productive activities. You need to be careful not to end up doing many more than the allocated number of hours of work each week.
Perhaps you could present a few conventional lectures to keep everyone happy. Then use the rest of the time for more interactive learning, even if it is timetabled as “lectures” and still covering the material from the existing course design.
As Professor Hughes-Warrington likes to point out, at ANU about 30% of the students turn up to lectures after the first two weeks. I suggest we could work with that: using the students who are present as the “live studio audience” for recording (a technique for TV pioneered by “I Love Lucy” in 1951).
As Phil points out, you can use assessment to get students to engage with the material. However, I worry about using this as a proxy attendance mark. Unless there is a real need for the students to be there at a specific time, I don’t think we should make them turn up by marking a roll, or having an assessment they can only do then and there.
Thanks for those ideas, I will definitely look at them. You’re right that no one has told me that I *have* to do lectures, it’s more that it is easy to access mentoring based on the current courses for lecturing than it is for developing class plans for a more interactive lesson (in any one of the hundreds of ways you can do that). I’m looking forward to the rest of this course, in the hopes that it will make that process less daunting for me.
Both the courses I have co-convened have involved quite a few guest lectures from experts in the field. Having a “live studio audience” is very important to guest lecturers I think. What’s the point of turning up to give a guest lecturer if you don’t get to interact with the students? Perhaps I am not being imaginative enough. Maybe if the whole course was online you could video the guest lecturer’s presentation and then give them access to the online site so they can see how the students have interacted with their ideas. But this would still lack the immediacy of giving a lecture, and watching and hearing the reaction in the room.
I agree both traditional lectures and flipped classrooms have risks of being a poor student experience, so it boils down to how these are delivered.
Student attendance where I lecture (University of Papua New Guinea) is around 80-90% and agree, live lectures are for learning, social presence, peer and staff interaction. Whereas recordings are for studying, review purposes. There is no recording infrastructure at UPNG, however, students regularly record my lectures and tutorials on their smart phones/tablets. Wattle/Moodle would enhance student learning experience if it was available and they knew what it was.
Access to digital technology would be fantastic for both students and lecturers, however, would not replace the face-to-face delivery of lectures.
Lack of online resources requires ongoing active learning methods approach to enhance student learning experience.
As a lecturer and tutor to same student cohort, blended modes of delivery are important.
Look forward to next coffee class.
In response to Q. 1, I’d disagree with the general premise that the lecture is redundant. From a humanities perspective, the lecture provides an opportunity to offer students an introduction to and overview of material in a way that is specifically tailored to the more focused analysis of materials and problems that takes place in a tutorial. Assigning a textbook chapter isn’t sufficient from a content perspective; non-live formats also deny students the chance for personal interaction with their cohort and lecturer thereby depersonalising the interactive teaching-learning experience.
However, I’d certainly agree with contributors above that the lecture format needs to and can be updated/varied in order to stimulate interest and active engagement on the part of students. In particular, Brian’s comment that lectures need to offer something that’s not easily obtainable from a recording is pertinent, and this is where group work and role plays can be integrated with video and other activities to lend colour and practical value to the lecture narrative.
I’m keen to learn how to diversify my lecture delivery further through this course, so thanks in advance for running it!
I am in economics and have for the past three years been teaching a very large enrolment undergraduate introductory course composed of 3 lecture hours and 1 tutorial hour each week. I had taught that course many years ago using, for the most part, the traditional “chalk and talk” form (but not “Death by PowerPoint” with a large number of dense slides). I was not sure whether to continue to do what I had done earlier. Before taking on the second stint with this introductory course, I did ask students who had me for other courses whether to continue to use the traditional format. None suggested that I change.
From SELT evaluations and talking to students in my current stint with this large intro course, students have been generally pleased with traditional lectures. I do recognise that such lectures have their problems and can improved. Nonetheless, I am not convinced that the alternatives for large enrolment introductory courses, are necessarily superior. In particular, I do see pragmatic or resource issues in implementing some attractive alternatives but that might be a topic for a different post.
Hi Paul, thanks for your comments. You have raised two very good points – students are affirming the lecture format as something they like, and there are significant resourcing issues in implementing “attractive alternatives.” It would be interesting to know what you see as these alternatives but I am guessing you mean smaller, interactive, active learning classrooms. to replace the large mass lecture.
Thanks for kickstarting the discussion on the role of lectures. As an ANU PhD student who completed my undergraduate and honours studies also at the ANU, I couldn’t agree more with this statement – “…it is how it is delivered that is key.” I’ve been on both sides as a student and tutor/guest lecturer, and I’ve seen a fair share of failed and successful attempts to bring in technology to lectures and tutorials. Most failed attempts were not ill-intentioned — they were deemed “bad” because students could not see a relevance. I believe this is where we (as tutors, lecturers, educators) can make a personal and deep contribution — other than imparting certain essential knowledge, we should try to instill critical thinking and interpersonal skills, facilitate students’ quest for knowledge and encourage them to be engaged in their own learning and development (which, to me, are the “greater goals” of education). Technology after all is a tool that we should use selectively and wisely.
Students do value lectures — I say this as an ANU student myself, but at the same time, there are many other
“priorities” (most commonly, paid work) that are competing for students’ attention and focus. Additionally, I have noted that students tend to value live lectures and tutorials most when they deem them to be directly applicable to an assignment or exam (e.g., “how to tackle assignment” session or exam revision session), because attendance tended to increase in such sessions. I also thought it would be good to share a recent finding by Jeffrey D. Wammes and Daniel Smilek (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211368116301413) shown to me by a colleague. In their research, Wammes and Smilek found that when viewing the exact same lecture, participants who viewed it in video format showed a significant increase in mind wandering over the duration of the lecture than those who viewed it live. This finding has important implications for memory retention and I hope it interests you and everyone else here!
Thanks for your contribution, Xi Wen, some excellent points made here. The competing pressures on student just to survive outside of their studies no doubt constitute one of the factors in the observed trend of decreasing audiences for lectures as the semester progresses. It is here that students are grateful for recorded lectures available online, and any other online materials provided. The article you mention sounds interesting in exploring the increased focus of attention when a lecture is live, compared to a recorded video – there are many possible factors behind this observed difference. Some that come to mind include the lack of urgency when a viewer knows they can come back to a video many times and replay it, but also the palpable sense of presence, anticipation, and excitement, when something is happening in real time.
Sorry to join in so late in the day (early in Day 2). I found your comments very interesting and resonating with my own experiences and feelings well. My biggest eye opener regarding students’ view of live lectures came when I decided to transfer 2 of my lectures in a online, short video series (I thought students were sick of seeing and hearing me by that time in the semester). When I came in the practical session, they asked me whether they missed the live lecture on the material, or I was planning to deliver it after the practical session for some reason.
So yes, I agree, live lectures are preferred by students especially if they stimulate enthusiasm for the topic. It is more likely for the audience to become active participants when the lecturer is really excited, enthusiastic and genuinely curious. It might be just that they don’t want to disappoint the lecturer by not participating, but that’s already winning strategy then.
I find that varying the activities or the presentation style can also be effective, they never know what is coming up, so they come to see. I am using funny video clips, stories (made up and real ones alike), modelling with the help of students, using everyday material to create low-fidelity models on the spot to explain a concept, drawing sketches and/or colouring-in using the document camera… and the times when the system does not work, I’m using the white board or just have a ‘chat’ with the students. All of these allow me to go slow occasionally to watch how the students are going and I can stop and confirm whether they understood the concept I’m presenting or not. If not, I can just abandon my ppt slides and try to explain the same thing in a different way and I can talk to the students to find out what they find problematic or difficult with the concept. This is something that we cannot replicate in an online environment.
As I mentioned above, I’m a big fan of variety, and as it was discussed above, there is no one single best approach or a homogenous student cohort that would be happy with everything we offer. In order to help as many of our students with their varied ways of learning, we should offer different media/platform and resources that should include a face-to-face session, whether we call it a lecture, a discussion forum, a problem solving session…etc. probably does not matter, as long as it actually helps our students to learn.
Hi Krisztina, thanks so much for your thoughtful post – and at such a time! I am very impressed by your comments about shifting from PowerPoint to other methods when technology does not work. This can be a huge challenge but the ability to roll with it is really great. I wonder what skills or strategies we could advise that newer lecturers could use to do a imilar thing? Is it something that came with practice?
I think to deal with technology break downs is always challenging. In my experience, if you know your topic well, you should be OK, however, confidence in doing so comes with practice. The fun bit about it though that I can choose to ‘deliver’ my material the way I choose on the day, e.g. I can choose to concentrate on just 1 or 2 concepts I believe are important for the students to understand and I can work with the students in class to make sure they can understand and apply the concept and the rest I give as ‘homework’ for students to learn from the posted lecture notes or other resources. Interestingly, these ad hoc, informal sessions are also more encouraging for students to participate.
I wonder whether we might also be doing things that in someways “shoot ourselves in the foot”. In other universities, lecture and tutorial enrolments are done many weeks (even a month or two for first semester) before start. This gives students more time to get themsevles organized and sort out their timetables and part time work to ensure less clash and a greater ability to attend the lecture.
Another thing we might need to think about is the general culture we set up. According to Marnie almost 2/3 of our students are not in attendance by week 3 and as Tom mentioned, students may start walking out as soon as they hear the lecture is being recorded (and Marnie’s statistics show they many of these students don’t even listen to the lecture). Even if the lecturer and topic material is engaging the lecturer doesn’t get a chance to engage if we have this culture of non-attendance.
I was skeptical at first about the effectiveness of using interactive techniques for improving student learning in traditional lectures. However, one paper, “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences from the USA by Freeman and others from 2014, seems as convincing as can be expected given the difficulty in studying education. I appreciate that it focused on two concrete, measureable variables (data on examination scores or failure rates) and did not just rely on student evaluations or personal experiences.
I read lots of articles calling lectures are not effective. As a newbie in delivering lectures, rather spending lots of time listening, I would choose to disagree with those claims. It is true that if all students are self-motivated, we can leave them on their own readings and ‘lecture recordings’; but in reality, connects to the second activity, they would not attend the lecture because everyone would rather be relaxed. Think about our experience with novels vs textbooks and news vs papers. Not everyone is good at studying on their own, so lecture would be important to keep them on what they should do in this uni. Yes, some lectures can be more interactive with new technologies and new techniques to deliver, but personally I don’t agree with any replacement to this ‘centralized education’.
I have been teaching a masters level course (~15-20 students) for the past year. We have received very positive feedback from the students on our lectures, which include lots of opportunities for questions/discussion. I think having a substantial lecture (~45min lecture) provides students with time to digest the material and reflect on their responses and thoughts. When I go to a lecture or seminar within my research school, I enjoy listening to the lecture for a period, all the while writing down my thoughts and questions so I am ready for an engaged discussion once the speaker has finished their talk. Perhaps the traditional lecture followed by tutorial works well for our group, because it is a small class and offers plenty of opportunity to build relationships and engage.
I have been a lecturer here at ANU for over 5 years now. In my own courses, my so called lectures are not like the ones that are defined above: Ones where the lecturer goes into a monologue for 50 minutes. But, they are still delivered in what one would call a standard lecture format. The courses that I teach have a lot of technical concepts which is not really suited for discussions. The aim in these courses are mostly to impart information on certain techniques that the students need to grasp which will eventually help them in their future courses. And so I believe that a lecture is a very useful tool for a course of this kind.
As I said my lectures are not completely traditional. I do have Q&A sessions within my lectures to gauge where my students are in their learning process. Starting next semester I will be trying some blended learning approaches and assess their effectiveness.
But I am of the opinion that the lectures are not dead. They will evolve. As French & Kennedy have mentioned in their paper, that people have a particular picture in mind when they think of the ‘dying’ lecture but I feel that this picture is not the true reflection of what the current lecture is like in any modern university. So to a certain extent I feel that lot of the diagreements on whether the lectures are alive or dead are based on the different definitions of the ‘lecture’.
Hi, sorry to join late. I read the earlier comments and them quite interesting. I am lecturing off and on for past many years and this semester I will be giving an online lecture, which is quite a new experience.
Personably I always preferred live lectures. Sometimes, when I was short of time, I listened to the recording, but never enjoyed them and couldn’t concentrate fully. Even live lectures depend on the topic and the teacher. If the teacher is good, has a command on the topic and engages the students, he/she can make a very dry subject interesting and if the teaching methods are not good, even the most interesting topics become dull. So engaging students from early on in the lecture by asking questions, narrating life experiences, using every day examples makes live lectures more interesting. Live lectures give an opportunity to bring the human factor into lectures, which the recorded one or online cannot.
Efficiency of lectures could be achieved by breaking the lecture into small sections, such as including a short video or providing students some reading material or letting students break for small discussion midway between the lecture. It is quite hard for students to concentrate fully for 40-50 minutes. so breaking the lectures in small activities freshen students up.
I found the article on the sunk cost of lectures by Marnie Hughes-Warrington to be very interesting in the context of student attendance at lectures because of the contrast it makes between individual lecturers talents and the systematic issues affecting attendance. We talk a lot about the ‘bad’ traditional lecturers giving boring lectures and turning students away. Its difficult, when faced with poor attendance in your own lecture regardless of how hard your try, not to think that you might be that bad lecturer yourself. The attendant emotional affects on well meaning academics across campus must be significant. However MHW’s article points out that even the most charismatic unicorn of a lecturer isn’t going to be able to push back the tide of students not attending lectures. There isn’t an answer there about we need to do to address this issue, but I think its good to be reminded anyway.
Hi Edwina, Thanks for your thoughts. You’re aboslutely right that it is very easy to blame “bad” lecturers for the reasons students are not attending lectures. I think it’s important to recognise the emotional toll low attendance can have on teachers who often work incredibly hard to create good classes. Obviously solving systemic problems with higher education is beyond the scope of this course, but does anyone have any thoughts on ways to encourage attendance? Or is that the wrong question? Should we be focusing on making changes instead?
I’ve seen some great lectures and some horrible lectures as well and I think I’ve given both kinds of lecture in the past. The difference that I’ve felt in the past is how much the lecturer seems to care about what they’re talking about and who they’re talking to. The worst lecture I’ve ever attended was as an undergraduate int he sciences and a PhD candidate was lecturing on a foundational topic. I just felt like they were trying to get through it and just doing it for the teaching experience or for the part time work to support their HDR studies. They drone on using overhead slides describing chemical reactions in synapses and just read through the content like a car manual. This could have been exciting.
One of the best lectures I’d been to was (believe it or not) among a third year statistics lecture where the content was supposed to be unbelievably dry but the lecture made it incredibly engaging. How he did this was to structure it through case studies outlining how a research design as developed from quantitative data by introducing all the problems that happened step by step with the researchers. Because it was structured in a narrative it was easy to remember, it invited the audience to speculate on the answer as if it was a whodunnit and it was about the driest subject possible.
I’ve been in a student in a flipped classroom as well and I think the care factor of the teacher becomes a major factor in how well this works. When the teacher is disengaged it permits students to be disengaged as well.
I am a language teacher myself and we do not teach through lecture and tutorials. My husband spent some time studying at the ANU recently and his feedback about the lectures was often along the lines of not enough engagement, didn’t learn much, not time to ask questions. I am interested in how to improve the concept of lectures as even in my classroom, some things just have to be presented to provide the information and it is important not to loose student attention during this time.
Since I buy the premise that lecturing is performance (after all we use similar vocabulary like ‘engaging’, ‘captivating’, etc. ; and I do recommend the Lecturing as Performance workshop Amanda runs), I don’t see other alternatives. There is a fundamental difference between going to the theatre, being at a live concern vs. watching them on TV/DVD/Video. There is no sense of (compelling) immediacy when we watch a video (which we don’t usually describe as ‘experience’).
Hi Veronica, thanks for the tip about the Lecturing as Performance workshop! Can you give us a bit more detail? Is that an ANU workshop?
Hi Katie, Amanda Burrell of Captivus ran this workshop regularly in CASS in the past (and in CBE as well, I believe).
In accessing these Coffee Courses a week after they began, it seems I have the benefit of being able to look through all comments in the one sitting. Many thanks to those who have contributed so far.
I honestly cannot take very seriously the idea that “the traditional lecture is dead”. Like any system, if used well it can be highly valuable. Might it be possible that the primary reason, enabling Rhett Allain to put that idea forward, is more due to the fact that most people, using the traditional lecture format, do not use it to its fullest potential. From my own education history, it would be less than 10% that very engaging,
I teach in an area of the university with very low student to staff ratio. Teaching and demonstrating technical content that would not even be feasible to deliver in a traditional lecture format. Yet of course, while this is the case, so many of the same issues outlined above underpin the effective engagement of students.
I’ve especially found the comments made above by Krisztina: June 29, 2017 at 1:26 am, to be of great interest.
Through diversifying the manner of content delivery we have more chances of accessing each and every student of varying learning types. And also, what better way to stimulate curiosity in students than to keep them on their toes.
“we should offer different media/platform and resources that should include a face-to-face session, whether we call it a lecture, a discussion forum, a problem solving session…etc. probably does not matter, as long as it actually helps our students to learn.”
What do you think of the points made in this article? Do you agree or disagree?
I agree that a certain type of lecture perhaps should be dead, but I also think that fully online courses are simply not going to work for everyone. At the end of the day, students are spreading their time across multiple courses and a myriad of other things and there is just no guarantee that they will do all of the recommended reading, or have their queries adequately addressed without some face-to-face time. That said, I think modern lectures, at least in biology, should move far away from the ‘lecturer drones on at the front of the room’ model – incorporating diversity in teaching methods, allowing the students to learn from each other, and fostering lots of discussion.
What as your experience been? How have you found the above trends to impact your teaching practice?
I taught into a course this year where about 15/25 students came to lectures. I’m not sure how representative that is, but it was a bit of a shame to not have better attendance. I find, as a teacher, that one of the things I look forward to the most is the scope of new discussion that each class may experience. You can tell when you’ve really engaged the students and gotten them thinking about something for the first time or in a new way, and I personally thrive off that as a teacher. But I’m not sure how to get that in an e.g., fully online course.
In general, I would agree with the articles that the traditional lecture is dead. If it’s all about information transfer, students can get this information from video-recordings, text books, etc. However, this is not to say that blindly replacing lectures with something more interactive will automatically solve any of the above-mentioned problems, including attendance. I am a proponent of flipping the classroom and have done it in several of my courses. I usually assign a reading to be done before class and then choose an interactive learning activity, which will depend on the size of class and material that needs to be covered. For example, in my Teaching methods course I’ve had students read about different methods before class and then in class groups of students teach a language using a given method to the rest of the class. In another course with a larger number of students, I gave short summaries of readings and let the students clarify any muddy concepts before they had to complete group exercises in class.
As a Learning Designer working with academics from Law and Medicine, their common problem is the huge volume of information that these disciplines require students to know. Some of them take advantage of the lecture time to transfer all of these information. They fire up their Powerpoint slides then talk thru them. No active learning. No engagement. But their lectures are still well attended. One reason I learned from talking to both academics and students is that because there is too much information to learn, some students actually like the idea of just sitting there and being “given” all the information. During lectures, they “collect” all the information that they need and use tutorials for the active learning part.
Unfortunately, even if some academics say that they flip the classroom, I find that yes, they do flip the classroom because they give all the readings, ppt slides, some even have audio podcasts and videos before the lecture. But come lecture time, they fire up the same ppt slides and transfer the same information to the class!
Katherine, I agree! It is a shame when the lecture is no different from the recording, and almost a crime when it merely repeats the pre-class learning. We’d be the first to complain if this was inflicted on us. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments (some months later) and regret not being able to engage in live conversation.. perhaps mirroring the very question we are considering
In my own lectures, I’m trying to develop ways to keep my lectures more engaging with various methods. I’ve been breaking one hour lectures down into three parts on different (but related) topics, trying to ad lib when I can, because it’s more entertaining and easier to grasp the information than scripted lectures, and I throw in the odd video to give the students a break from my voice. I’m thinking of ways to work towards a flipped model, but I feel that I need more experience before I can make that work.
I would be sad to see the old lecture method die out completely. Sometimes I’ve sat through amazing traditional-style lectures by my colleagues. The success of lectures is definitely all in the lecturer’s techniques, which I’m still trying to learn (I’ve only been teaching for 18 months). To abandon them outright seems simplistic to me.
I think that it is a mistake to regard lectures as an information transfer task, though I suppose this varies from discipline to discipline. An important component of a teacher’s job is to get students enthused, even inspired. In my experience as a teacher and a student, for the most part, most of what students learn is what they teach themselves as they put together their assessment items, and they will hardly remember most of what a lecturer says, in the long run. To convey your enthusiasm to them and make them care is sometimes the best that you can hope for! Then they can take that enthusiasm and investigate the topic themselves, and that’s where the real learning is.
One last comment: I think that lecture periods that go for longer than 50 minutes are a terrible idea. In my department all our lecture periods are two-hours long, and it is awful for the lecturer and for the students. Everyone is exhausted by the end of it, and sometimes tutorials follow immediately after, if not another two-hour lecture in a different course. I’m not sure who is supposed to benefit from this system!
What do you think of the points made in this article? Do you agree or disagree?
I first started this coffee course ~2018 and there has been significant change and discussion about the value of lectures. Attendance in lectures, in particular, has decreased. After conversations with students in my courses this has been largely due to timetable issues and competing priorities. It has helped to integrate more interactive activities in the lecture but this sometimes requires careful planning to rethink how to deliver content differently. Sometimes with our own competing priorities it is hard to find the time to do this, but it is worth it when you see the impact that is has on student learning and engagement in the end.
As a student I definitely experienced bad lectures where the lecturer largely read (either from an overhead or directly from the Powerpoint slides). This was really demotivating to me as a student and, like the research by Petrovic and Pale listed above suggests, I often did not attend these lectures as I felt that they did not add much to my understanding and I could successfully master the material without them. That being said, I am a huge fan of live lectures and prefer them to recorded lectures or online videos. A big factor for me is the sense of connection and enjoyment I get from being able to watch the lecture with my peers, and then chat about it afterwards. I think this social aspect is frequently lacking if you just hear a recording.