I have been experimenting with various ways to support lectures using IT. Last year I made audio recordings of all of my lectures and made these available to the students as audio podcasts. I have also been using a tablet PC to present the material by annotating pre-prepared pdf slides during lectures, and making the resulting annotated slides available in full from the relevant web page. For more details of some of the approaches I have tried so far, see my e-print “Using a tablet PC and audio podcasts in the teaching of undergraduate mathematics modules“, adapted from a case study submitted for publication in Giving a Lecture, Exley and Dennick (2008/9). It is possible to go far further than I have done. For example, it is possible to record what appears on the data projector during the class together with the sound track, to give a “full record” of the lecture (but without the interactive element).
Certainly students are generally very enthusiastic about having these extra resources available to them … but there appear to be some drawbacks.
- Attendance at classes drops significantly, as students know that they can obtain all the lecture materials whenever they want.
- For the same reason, some students allow themselves to fall behind, perhaps believing (unrealistically) that they will be able to catch up later.
Thus it may be the case that making these materials available actually results in some students doing less work, and performing worse on the module, than they would have done if the materials had not been available.
On the other hand, there are other students who have good cause to miss classes, and who greatly appreciate having audio etc. available, in order to get as close as possible to attending the classes they have missed.
I have a variety of questions on these issues. Here are two.
- Do we make too many materials available to students for their own good?
- Does it matter whether students actually attend classes, provided that they do obtain a good understanding of the material by some means?