Flexible Delivery Damaging to Learning? Lessons from the Canterbury Digital Lectures Project

May 12, 2003


Preparing courses for flexible delivery and distance education is normally a timeconsuming and expensive process. This paper describes the design and evaluation of a system that automatically captures and indexes audio and video streams of traditional university lectures without demanding any changes in the style or tools used by teachers. Using a `wizard-of-oz’ technique to simulate the automatic indexing, we ran a four-month trial of the system in a large(746 students) first year Computer Studies course. The results reveal some surprising social implications of making flexible delivery available to students at a residential university. Early in the trial, many students expressed an intention to use the system, but few did. Late in the course, many students stated that they urgently needed the system for revision, but even fewer used it. At the same time, lecture attendance appeared to be lower than normal. We hypothesise that the availability of a flexible alternative to lectures removed the necessity of attending lectures, and that students deceived themselves about their intentions to catch up using the digital medium.

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