University announces new ‘Recorded Teaching Policy’

The University of Bath have announced a new ‘Recorded Teaching Policy’ after a year of online learning and recorded lectures. The policy is set to begin as of October 2021, when the new academic year commences. The announcement emphasises that students “should attend in person teaching sessions wherever able’’, after this year has seen a significant reduction of in-person teaching as a result of Coronavirus. 

In a similar vein to the University policy that existed before the pandemic, this new policy states that recorded lectures, seminars or classes should only be used if students are unable to attend the session or if a student has Disability Action Plan (DAP) that recommends recorded lectures. Despite pledges from SU Education Officers and students over the years, this policy states that individual recordings need to be authorised by the lecturer as there is no universal policy on lecturers recording their material.

Additionally, the policy details that students’ privacy will be taken into account with lecture recordings and so “the University will wherever possible create “safe zones” in teaching spaces where students who do not wish to be captured in a recording may sit/place themselves, so as to avoid their image being captured” under a section called “profiles”.

The University has also made it clear that they recognise their “statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments (see 5.3) to eliminate disadvantage to students with disabilities under the Equality Act’’. Therefore, if a member of staff has a student with a DAP where lecture capture is recommended, but they have chosen not to record the session, “they will be expected to specify (to the student, and the Director of Studies of the relevant programme) what alternative adjustments and/or materials they will make available to students with a DAP e.g. purpose-specific audio’’. Furthermore, if a member of staff does not make these reasonable adjustments to support a student’s learning, the University may decide to take disciplinary action against the staff member, which could also “risk incurring personal liability for unlawful discrimination’’. 

Annie Willingham, current Education Officer and incoming President-elect, said that “It is fantastic to see after so many years of lobby that we have a written policy covering the topic of lecture recordings that covers both in person and online delivery of lectures. This is a massive win for us all and thank you to everyone who has been involved over the years. This past year has reflected the urgent need for recorded materials and the direct benefit recordings bring to our community. Whilst in an ideal world we would want all lectures recorded, there are several reasons why this cannot be reflected in the policy at this current moment which are explained in more detail. This year there has been a change in attitudes towards lecture recordings with many of the key concerns academics had being addressed. We will continue to work with the University in ensuring this policy is fully embedded for the start of next academic year.”

Bath Time also spoke to Peter Lambert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Learning and Teaching, who answered a few of our questions on the topic: [added in post-publish at 15:15 on 14 May 2021]

  1. How is this policy different from pre-pandemic teaching? The policy is the result of a combination of lobbying from the SU, support from UCU and the need for the University to have a policy that offers clarity and reassurance to staff and students regarding rights, responsibilities and expectations in terms of digital recording of teaching. Having a policy is an important step forward in itself. It does not mean that every lecture will be recorded but it address the concerns that some colleagues might have had over rights and (mis)use of recordings. It offers far greater clarity over responsibilities too – such putting appropriate DAPs in place
  2. The policy emphasises the need for students to attend in-person as much as possible; after this year, are there any statistics on grade difference between online learning during the pandemic and in-person learning prior to the pandemic?  I would always encourage students to attend in person as much as possible. We can’t force students to attend classes but there is no doubt that in-person communication and contact is beneficial for learning and teaching and enriches the whole experience. In terms of academic results during the pandemic with online learning, we are still analysing the year-on-year data, but there has been a rise rather than a fall in average marks. There are many possible reasons for this – and it is important to look at it in the context of the pandemic –  but it shows that the work we have done to ensure that i) learning outcomes have been met, ii) support for students has been provided and iii) that students have been able to fulfil their potential has paid off. It also reflects of course that students have adapted very well to particularly challenging circumstances and deserve credit for doing so.
  3. After this year has shown that all lectures and seminars/LOILs can be recorded, and it provides students more flexibility, how will you ensure that staff who had previously been reluctant to record will ensure that students have the same level of support moving forward? Recordings can only legally be made with the lecturer’s consent so there is no question of forcing colleagues to record. The only way to achieve higher numbers of lecture recordings is through encouragement. We have been doing this for a number of years and figures for the number of hours of recordings have increased dramatically over the past five years. What the process of formulating the policy has done has been to allow colleagues to raise concerns and for us to address them, giving clarity and reassurance – and hopefully allowing to feel more positive about recording. I think you are right in that a number of staff recorded their lectures for the first time during the pandemic and will now continue to do so because they see the obvious benefits. I would certainly like to think that there is a positive cultural change happening in terms of digital recording of teaching. Recording of course is only one way of supporting student learning. It does not replace the 101 other ways lecturers can and should support students and while I personally think it is very beneficial, some lecturers may choose not to record and still offer fantastic support for students. Recording is one (very useful) device among many to support learning.
  4. Prior to the pandemic, there had been resistance to recording lectures; what is the most common reason? Has this been accounted for in the new policy? I think the policy addresses many of the concerns raised (which might include ownership of intellectual property rights, concerns over use of recordings for performance management, or misuse of recordings by students) –  as has the wider use of recordings in the pandemic.
  5. Given that the new SU team have been elected on pledges regarding the continuation of recorded lectures, will there be any room for discussion on the matter? Will students be able to influence or review the policy either now or midway through the year? Yes definitely. The policy will be reviewed on an annual basis. I think it is very strong as it is (and we have drawn on good practice from the sector and staff/student feedback) but of course there will be room for improvements. The SU were a very positive and dynamic force for change on this and there is no reason why they would not be centrally involved in any necessary changes in the future. This was a very positive result which could only have been achieved by working in partnership and consulting very widely.

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