December 15, 2012

Did Video Kill the Classroom?

by Jess Chasler, Pharm.D., PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident, the Johns Hopkins Hospital

When used appropriately, technology can enhance learning by transmitting information and improving active engagement with the material to be learned.  One technology that has become increasingly popular among institutions of higher learning, including pharmacy schools, is video-recorded lectures.  These videos are made available online for students to watch. Video-recordings allow students to re-watch parts of lectures they may have found confusing.  Some schools have used this technology to asynchronously transmit lectures to a satellite campus. Although such recordings may be beneficial in terms of improving students’ understanding of the material, their routine use often leads to reduce classroom attendance.  Does this technology have a net benefit when it comes to learning in professional schools? Do teachers need to change their approach in order to attract more student to attend class?   Should professors change how they teach in order to accommodate a world where most lectures are viewed online?

Classroom Attendance.  What motivates students to attend class in the first place?   And for that matter, does attendance even matter at all?  Studies in the field of education have revealed a positive relationship between classroom attendance and academic performance.1 Focus groups and surveys have identified various reasons for attendance and absenteeism. Commonly cited reasons for absence include longer breaks between classes, class scheduled before or after a test, availability of course content outside of class, a belief that the class is easy, or the perception that not much is learned when attending class.2,3   Reasons students cite for attending class relate to the classroom environment and the relationship between the professor and students.  Student are more likely to attend when they perceive the faculty has a high level expertise and credibility.  Students also indicate that they are more likely to attend when they get to apply the information being taught to solving real problems.2  There is also a propensity to attend class when students perceive that the instructors notice and care that they are present or when they feel obligated to attend.3 Reasons for attendance and absence vary from class to class and but, surprisingly, class size does not influence attendance.2,3

Beyond Learning.  Although absenteeism may impact academic performance, there is also evidence suggesting that there are other important aspects of professional development that may suffer. Presence in class helps to foster relationships between students and faculty, and these types of relationships have been shown to impact professional behavior, attitudes, and occupational values.2   Professional socialization involves the transformation of students into professionals.4 This transformation relies on the interaction between students and exemplary pharmacists, which includes faculty members.  By coming to class and forging relationships with faculty, students are able to identify and emulate these professional role models, and even transform relationships from that of professor and student to one of mentor and mentee. Additionally, being present on campus for class helps to encourage participation in professional organizations. If students do not come to campus for class, it is unlikely they will come to campus for an organizational meeting.

Video Recording Lectures.  Absenteeism from class has been associated with poorer academic outcomes, however this may not hold true for students who watch lectures from home. Indeed, some studies have shown that when lectures were posted online, students scored higher on exams.5.6 In one therapeutics course, there was a substantial (25-75%) decrease in attendance but has not be consistently seen in all cases.5  A similar study found that attendance was not impacted when lectures went online.  However, students in this study had to wait 72 hours following the live session to gain access to the online video of the lecture.6 In both studies, an overwhelming majority of students found the online video to be a useful resource and recommended implementing the technology as a permanent change.5.6

A Personal Perspective.  In an editorial discussing online lecture capturing, Romanelli and colleagues make the argument that classroom attendance should not be the deciding factor as to whether or not to implement this technology. They argue the focus should be on facilitating student learning.7  But beyond achieving the stated learning objectives on exams, it is also important to keep in mind unmeasured, often hidden outcomes, such as the formation social and mentoring bonds that are an important part of professional development.  As a recent graduate of a school that made lectures available online for students, I can say that it was helpful to have access to them. I found it beneficial to pause, rewind, and (occasionally) watch lectures on “double-speed.”  But relying online video-recorded lectures did come at a cost.  I felt less engaged in pharmacy school when compared to my experience as an undergraduate.  Now as I prepare to lecture to pharmacy students at my alma mater this spring, I can’t help but hope that most students will attend. Cues from the class can help guide a lecture, and I worry I may not know until weeks later if a concept I was attempting to convey was not clearly explained.

There is no doubt that in the age of video-recorded lectures, faculty must lead the way by inspiring students to be actively engaged in school.  Relegating purely didactic instruction to the web and implementing active learning strategies for all face-to-face sessions is one potential solution.8  Faculty should also be vocal about encouraging their students to come to class and should be adaptable by changing the format and style of their lectures in those circumstances when many will choose to watch the lecture online. Delaying access to online videos may encourage students to attend while also taking advantage of this technology.  Policies that encourage attendance may also help keep students on-track.

So, do video-recorded lectures have a net benefit for students in professional schools?  There are no clear cut answers but one thing is certain: future faculty must work to create a classroom environment that is both engaging and functional for online viewing. Further work in this area is needed so that students can gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to become professionals.


1.  Hidayat L, Vanal S, Kim E, Sullivan M, Salbu R. Pharmacy Student Absenteeism and Academic Performance. Am J Pharm Educ. 2012; 76(1): Article 8.
2.  Fjortoft N. Students’ Motivations for Class Attendance. Am J Pharm Educ. 2005; 69 (1): Article 15.
3.  Westrick SC, Helms KL, McDonough SK, Breland ML. Factors Influenceing Pharmacy Students’ Attendance Decisions in Large Lectures. Am J Pharm Educ. 2009; 73 (5): Article 83.4.  Hammer DP, Berger BA, Beardsley RS, Easton MR. Student professionalism. Am J Pharm Educ. 2003;67:Article 96.5.  Elsasser GN, Hoie, EB, Destache CJ, Monaghan MS. Availability of Internet Download Lecture Audio Files on Class Attendance and Examination Performance. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning. 2009; 6(2); 19-23.6.  Bollmeier SG, Wenger PJ, Forinash AB. Impact of Online Lecture-capture on Student Outcomes in a Therapeutics Course. Am J Pharm Educ. 2010; 74(7): Article 127.7.  Romanelli F, Cain J, Smith KM. To Record or Not to Record? Am J Pharm Educ. 2011; 75(8): Article 149.
8.  Stoner SC, Fincham JE. Faculty Role in Classroom Engagement and Attendance. Am J Pharm Educ. 2012; 76(5) Article 75.

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