Content Types

Recording Teaching

In this Spotlight we present an overview of recording teaching, the options and considerations, some possible methods and uses, examples and experiences from academics at Queen Mary.

The choice to record teaching is not a new possibility; however the range of reasons for doing so and the possible methods for doing so have changed. Before even considering more modern technologies, one could argue that textbooks are prime examples of ‘recorded’ teaching. The invention of writing, and subsequently of the printing press, transformed the educational landscape over time. In more recent times, other media have also joined the list of possibilities at it is these that you will probably have in mind if considering new developments in your teaching and thus these which we shall focus on here. One should note before moving on, however,  that the commonality in these various ‘recordings’ is the shift in possibility from ‘synchronous’ teaching to ‘asynchronous’ teaching and this shift is something to keep in mind when considering and planning the recording and its intended use. Likewise, the fact that you are likely very familiar with the written method of recording teaching may be useful in considering lessons already learnt.

Many in the UK will be familiar with the Open University (OU) programmes on the BBC in the past and such recordings have long been used for distance education (as is written word too of course). More recently however sources such as iTunesU (on which the OU unsurprisingly has a large presence) have provided access and encouragement to a far larger range of recordings. There has been a strong growth in both portable and online media and at the same time it has become easier and cheaper to record audio and video at reasonable quality for the individual. The growth of Web 2.0 media (in other words, user contributed content such as YouTube) is an example of both of these points. Many students are consequently expecting such technology to be utilised by their universities. Indeed, data from our recent surveys [1] suggests that 47% of students came to QM with the expectations that online video and podcasts would form a part of their studies, 45% have previously accessed online recorded seminars or lectures as part of your studies in another institution, that 73% of students have, during their time at QMUL, accessed online videos and podcasts from another institution to help in their studies here. Many staff are consequently considering whether recording their teaching may be something that they may wish to do as part of an increased e-learning component to their teaching

Questions and considerations

Overview of recording teaching: questions to ask yourself

In the first part of the overview, Eoin McDonnell, from the E-Learning Unit at Queen Mary, considers what questions you need to ask yourself before recording your teaching.

  • How will your students access and use these recordings?
  • What level of production do you want to (or can practically) achieve?

The clip discusses both the questions of how you are to produce the recordings and how the students are to use them. Both areas have different options. In terms of the production side, the contrast presented is between speed and production values, which may also be a matter of the approach and level of interest or expertise  of the lecture r and also a matter of what is being recorded and how it is to be used. Money and personal knowledge (or willingness to acquire such) may produce added constraints.

These considerations and questions provide an idea of the range of possible ways in which you can approach recording and the range of options for different levels of involvement and expertise. Context and personal preferences will likely play a big part in which route you choose and are comfortable. Whichever route you do choose, as we shall see, there are options and support available.

Podcasting approach and considerations

The first clip presents a case study of one academics approach. Prof Alastair Hudson has made podcasts for his courses within the School of Law. Below he describes the approach that he uses when podcasting – how he does it and their purpose – and the considerations to think when planning to produce such resources.

Prof Hudson mentions one of the contrasts mentioned above with the comparison of his own approach and that of a colleague, between informal and polished recordings.

Different types of teaching to record

Whilst you may have something particular to record in mind already, the discussion above on the different approaches indicates that, in addition to recording the teaching already taking place (which can be useful), there are other possibilities to contemplate.

Overview of recording teaching: what can I record?

In the next part of the overview, Eoin McDonnell now considers what one may wish to actually record from your teaching and describes some of the range of different recordings within the College beyond lectures.

The example cases presented in the clips below make very different types of recordings. In each case the approach taken (and methodology used) is related to the context and individual teaching.

Podcasts – connecting with students

Prof Alastair Hudson uses a range of types of podcasts to try to connect with the students and provide different ideas and opportunities to help students understand after leaving the classroom.

As noted in Prof Hudson’s previous clip, his podcasts are used to compliment lectures. He currently creates them for two main purposes:

  1. Understanding the basic concepts in seminars or textbooks.
  2. Entry points to further research and alternative ideas.

By creating podcasts to provide additional support for students trying to understand complex topics, the material can be listened to by the students as an when needed, including more than once. As he notes, it provides a way for students to go over the material whilst engaging in other parts of their life and the students do indeed use them in rather different ways or contexts.

By providing recorded additional material to stretch students and provide an entry point into further research for those inclined and interested, the material can again be used as needed, or on-demand. Options for further work are always there, but these recordings can providing links from the course and helping the students entry into further independent research on a topic.

Podcasting lectures

Prof Peter McOwan discusses podcasting lectures and his experiences and lessons learnt.

The point is raised in this clip of student demand, and the expectations which academics may now feel on them. In addition, one of the main worries often expressed about recording the ‘live’ teaching (as opposed to Prof Hudson’s additional material) is about attendance dropping significantly. Prof McOwan’s experience, and that of many others, is that this does not happen. Research at Queen Mary supports this, with many students saying that they use the recordings primarily for revisions and review purposes (indeed the institutional lecture capture system mentioned later is called Q-Review). However, it could be decided that some recording could replace certain lectures, or parts of lectures (which is done in one of the case studies below) – something that importantly is not done to reduce contact time, but rather to make a better use of it.

In a recent internal survey of podcasting [1], 82.2% of student survey respondents indicated that their attendance would remain the same and here are some reasons they gave why they would still attend. Some quotes from students on the topic are below:

I have been thinking to myself all year that recorded lectures would have been useful and why does QM not have them. I support them fully, but not as a substitute for lectures

I often need to listen to certain parts of a lecture again to understand it properly.
Our lecture handouts (often just print-outs of the PowerPoints) are not detailed enough. [Lecture capture means that] we can annotate properly later. On the actual day of the lecture we simply listen and gain a better understanding.

recordings should be a backup like a cd. It is like music, it is better live but after the concert replaying a cd helps refresh the memories.

It is much more motivating and inspiring to see the actual EXPERT talking in real life about their subject!

I find that I understand something better after going over it twice or three times, so I would use both the recoding and the lecture itself

Microphone quality is also mentioned in the clip. Whilst video quality can often be lowered (to an extent) without detracting to much from the ability of the viewer to be engaged, low sound quality tends to be very distracting. For many teaching situations, listening can be more important: slides are often used to summarise or signpost. There are of course major exceptions (see below), but in either case it is worth making sure that the sound recording is satisfactory. Prof McOwan’s more basic final point deserves repeating, and many have unfortunately learnt this lesson by experience:

Always make sure the microphone is working!

Vodcasting visual material

As noted above, there are times when the visual information is paramount. This is particularly common in topic involving important graphic representations, including graphs, mathematical notation and art. Below, Prof Peter McOwan describes when he has created video podcasts for visual material instead of simple audio podcasts.

Pre-recorded Online Lectures

Dr Dorota Bourne describes why and how she pre-records sets lectures and places them online and the changes she has made to face-to-face lectures.

The methodology and indeed rationale for Dr Bourne’s recordings of her lectures has evolved considerably over time. Whilst the recording type has changed from basic audio to combined audio-visual recordings of presenter and slides, the rationale has changed as a result of the experience. The initial recordings were made partially as records, but also to provide help with revision. The context (a large gap between many of the lectures and the exam) provided a good rationale for helping in this regard and indeed revision is one of the prime uses many students make of lecture recordings.

The current use still enables this repeated on-demand viewing for revision, but is a quite different model of teaching. Now, with the lectures pre-recorded, Dr Bourne has decided that the most effective use of the face-to-face time is for more interactive engagement, leaving the ‘lectures’ to be viewed independently beforehand, much in the style of pre-session reading, but multi-media.

Audio Feedback

In the last example of the use of recording teaching, Dr Warren Boutcher explains how he produces audio feedback on assignments and essays for his students via both the VLE and standalone software. He details the workflow he follows and possible issues to consider.


Overview of recording teaching: technology options

Eoin McDonnell discusses some of the wide variety of options available in terms of the technology used to record teaching, based on two main areas, and why you might choose different options based on your needs and interest level.

Three main areas:

  • Free (e.g. Screencast, Jing)
  • Paid (e.g. Camtasia, Captivate)
  • Institutional Level (e.g. Echo 360)

The range of options is large, and should cover most needs, abilities and levels of interest and time. Which option to take is a question which goes back to the earlier points about levels of interest, time, money and the needs of the situation (especially the point made regarding the needs when recordings must be frequently made and quickly available).

Q-Review is the College’s lecture capture programme, which currently utilises the Echo360 software platform. Installations are in major lecture theatres and regular recordings can be scheduled in advance, as well as one off recordings. The system captures audio, video and the screen presentation. The results can be edited and a variety of outputs made available automatically, including automatic uploading to the VLE. This type of set-up is often used to record all live lectures for ‘review’ (hence the name) by students for revision and clarification purposes.

Recordings can of course be done in advance, either using in-built systems or ‘personal’ capture systems running on an academics laptop or particular computers. Personal versions of the Q-Review system are used as is Camtasia. In both cases, video, screen and audio can be captured, this time usually with the teacher sat in front of a computer (though they could be used to record in settings where the in-built systems do not exist as well). Recording separately to the ‘live’ lectures often means the lack of an audience for feedback, but also means the ability to polish and edit the result. As described earlier, the approach taken will depend on the context, needs and interest of the teacher in question.

All the mentioned systems can be trailed, experimented with or indeed used fully, in the E-Learning Studio.

In the previous clips, a number of these options (and more) have been mentioned in passing. Below, Prof Alastair Hudson describes the technology that he uses to produce the podcasts on his courses described earlier, starting as a complete amateur.

Technology for podcasting

Audacity is mentioned and is a free audio recorder and editor that you can use on your computer. It is fairly straightforward to learn to use (at a basic level for recording, cutting and exporting) and commonly used by academics. There are thus a number of tutorials and videos available from various universities to help you get started. A microphone (e.g. on a headset) and a computer are thus all you need to get started on a similar path.

Learning to do it

Overview of recording teaching: is it difficult to learn to do?

Worries related to the level of skill or expertise needed are common, as is the level of interest or time commitment that the individual may have in such technology in general (beyond its use as a simple tool). In this last part of the overview, Eoin McDonnell addresses the concerns of those who like the idea of recording teaching but are concerned about the time or technical skills.

The key message is that there are a variety of options for varying interest, time and control over recordings.

Online teaching – new technology and workload

This last clip presents an example of one lecturer’s experience starting from scratch to using both the VLE and recorded teaching as important parts of their course. Dr Dorota Bourne talks about two things of interest for anyone else considering starting online teaching: how easy/hard it was for her to learn to use the new technology she chose for online teaching and the workload.


[1] QMUL Internal Podcasting survey, run by the E-Learning Unit. See the following posts online for additional details:

Further help and advice

If you are interested in speaking to someone about the possibilities available for recording your teaching, or for help and advice on getting started, then the E-Learning Unit have a team of staff that you can contact.

The E-Learning Unit’s website contains information, case-studies and guidance on e-learning, and is a good place to start.

Three case studies and interviews of relevance here are:

To try out a variety of technologies (including those mentioned above and more), both hardware and software, then you can use the equipment in the College’s E-Learning Studio, within the Learning Institute (Mile End Campus).


Spotlight compiling and commentary: Giles Martin

With thanks to the following contributors whose ‘ideas’ videos have been used:

  • Eoin McDonnell
  • Peter McOwan
  • Dorota Bourne
  • Alastair Hudson
  • Warren Boutcher

Featured image: QMUL Library, © Queen Mary, University of London. All rights reserved