Thursday, July 12, 2018

Engaging and retaining students through video capture

Linda Storey Issue No:513

Linda Storey is a director at Echo360, a video platform that promotes active video-based learning. Email:

The last 10 years have seen a growing emphasis on widening participation and access to higher education across the world. Yet there are so many significant changes taking place, affecting everything from international student mobility to recruitment trends to regional and global graduate employability that it is hard to predict with much accuracy what the future of higher education holds or to be sure that your institution is primed to be responsive.

In the midst of all this confusion, universities that want to remain competitive have to pay close attention to how they can attract, retain and create successful outcomes for students from a wide mix of different backgrounds, nationalities and age groups. 

Due to the current lack of enrolment restrictions, new routes have opened to higher education. As student bodies become increasingly diverse, universities cannot rest on their laurels when it comes to making sure that all students’ needs are being equally met. Could lecture-capture be the key to personalising learning and widening participation for all? 

Flexible provision is at the heart of the matter for universities that want to provide exciting learning opportunities for a diverse student body. Some undergraduates juggle work and family responsibilities alongside their studies. Older learners might need to build their confidence in their study skills if they have returned to academia after a break. International students, on the other hand, might need extra support while learning in a second (or third) language.

Even simply video recording lectures offers huge benefits to these groups. If they need to review the latest lecture during their commute, they can. If they want to double check they’ve understood some unfamiliar terminology, they can do that as well. In other words, the ability to access, review and interact with course material in their own time puts them in control of a learning schedule that suits them.

However, instead of simply documenting what has happened, universities now have an opportunity to use the same technology to provide a host of interactive tools that can increase engagement. 

The past few years have seen considerable improvements in what active learning platforms can do, and shaking up the traditional lecture format a little can breathe new life into resources for both students and lecturers, on- and off-campus.

Let’s take live-streaming, for example. If a student is unable to come in due to travel disruption, they can still be part of a lecture as it is happening. They don’t have to miss out on that in-class experience, where they are able to ask and get answers to questions. 

This has consequences after class too – for example, it might allow them to jump onto an online discussion forum with their peers directly afterwards so they don’t miss out on a chance to chat and share initial ideas. What’s more, live-streaming removes these same barriers for distance learners, who might be based anywhere in the world.


On campus, interactive systems can positively disrupt a lecture if students’ attention seems to be wandering off a little. A spontaneous poll, quick online Q&A or breakout session can completely change the energy in the room. They also allow lecturers to gain a fuller picture of how well students are understanding the current topic. 

Additionally, lecturers can instigate a poll directly before class and incorporate responses into that day’s teaching to make it even more relevant and personalised. It is this type of activity that keeps students really participating and engaged, which is an essential part of improving retention rates.

In fact, when it comes to improving retention rates, the greatest insights can be gleaned by monitoring exactly how students engage with their learning outside the lecture hall. 

Seeing that someone hasn’t accessed a single lecture recording online for a period of time, for example, might flag up that they are at risk of becoming disengaged and dropping out of the programme entirely. On the other hand, if a student accesses one lecture multiple times, it could be an indication that they too need support.

Highly responsive

A little while ago, there was something of a debate about how recording lectures and making them accessible day and night would result in the corrosion of traditional learning methods and damage on-site attendance. This has not come to fruition. Instead, the technology exists to reinforce and improve lecture accessibility, to make students more accountable for their learning and more likely to reach their potential.

Digital natives, international students and mature learners all need, and indeed expect, flexible learning routes, and place an increasingly high priority on the long-term sustainability of their university and its ability to meet their needs. Using active learning platforms as a new approach is truly inclusive and a strategy that allows universities to be both highly responsive to student needs, while treating different learning styles and schedules equally.

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