Thursday, 8 October 2020

Recorded lectures and the 'laundry test'

Last month I wrote a post about new meta-analytic research that showed some positive effects of using video recordings as part of teaching, especially if they are supplementary to in-class learning. I noted towards the end of that post that:

The takeaway from this is that, at the minimum, once face-to-face teaching returns we should be routinely recording our existing lectures and making those recordings available to students. Teachers need to get over their fear that making recorded lectures available somehow makes students worse off, because it clearly is not the case.

However, some anxiety remains among teachers, that recording lecture material would lead class attendance to fall. I know that some are even more worried about that, now that students have had a taste of learning by video (although, I'd be inclined to argue exactly the opposite case!). What can you do to make students want to come to class?

I had meant to follow up that earlier post, because I had recently read this pretty insightful article by Dan Levy. In the article, Levy talks about the 'laundry test':

Where I teach, online classes generally get recorded; students can watch the recorded videos if they cannot attend the live session. I recently asked a student how she decided whether to engage in the live class or watch the recording later. Her answer was revealing. She said, “When I am trying to decide, I ask myself, ‘Is this a class I could attend while folding my laundry?’ If the answer is yes, I watch the recording. If the answer is no, I attend the live session.”

While I think that, in general, we should design both synchronous and asynchronous experiences that students find so engaging that they cannot fold the laundry at the same time, I think the spirit of this question might help inform your decision of what to reserve for asynchronous learning.

While Levy is writing about teaching online, I believe the same principles apply to teaching face-to-face. If a lecture session is not interactive and the students could basically be sitting in class folding laundry, then it's probably time to reconsider your approach. I break my lectures up with exercises that make the students put into practice what they are learning immediately. I run short illustrative experiments or collect data from the class to illustrate points in my ECONS102 class. It would be difficult for students to participate in the exercises or experiments effectively and fold laundry at the same time. And it provides a clear value-added benefit over a static lecture recording (and that's why I was so dismayed at the decision not to have face-to-face lectures this trimester).

Anyway, Levy's article provides some great advice for those who are considering taking a blended learning approach. With lessons also for those who are not doing so.


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