With UCD’s new policy to increase presence on campus, how has it affected students?
Lecture attendance plays a vital role in students’ performance in university. There is a significant relationship between attendance and academic performance in university, with numerous studies showing a strong correlation between the two. Research consistently shows that students who attend lectures regularly tend to perform better in their coursework, exams, and overall academic performance compared to students who do not attend lectures regularly.
Perhaps this was the objective when the policy to stop recording lectures was implemented in select schools and colleges ahead of the 22/23 term. Student presence across campus has stagnated since the Covid-19 pandemic and after regulations were reduced, not all students returned to university full-time.
In some schools, to motivate students to attend tutorials and labs, attendance is taken which then is used when calculating overall grades at the end of the term by some lecturers. Prior to this academic year, during the Covid pandemic, the majority of classes and lectures were recorded and made available to students. With everyone being at risk of contracting Covid and not being able to attend class, it was essential that lectures be available for students to review.
Now, with social distancing regulations a thing of the past, recorded lectures are scarce in some schools.
"Many members of the Union have raised this issue and it has gotten better over time but there’s always certain lecturers that just won’t do it."
Module coordinators in select schools gave disclosures in the first lectures of the term that they would not be streaming or recording as it was a new policy in their school. No doubt this has proven to be an issue for students who may have illnesses or other reasons for missing a lecture. Along with the new policy, there have been reports of lecturers refusing to share their lecture material with students due to intellectual property concerns. When asked about this, Martha Ní Riada, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) Education Officer said that this “has always been an issue for students since Brightspace came out.”
Ní Riada made it clear that students have made complaints about this. The Union has been working with the faculty to “compromise” and resolve the issue.
“Many members of the Union have raised this issue and it has gotten better over time but there are always certain lecturers that just won’t do it.”
After speaking with Ní Riada, it is evident that the policy has had a bigger impact on students who are struggling to find accommodation. The cost of living has presented itself to be a problem for students situated outside of Dublin. Many students are unable to find accommodation with a convenient commute to campus and the inability to watch recordings of lectures or access lecture materials ahead of class is proving itself to be challenging. Students with five-day lets or three-hour long commutes would benefit from a “flexible learning experience,” added Ní Riada.
"The outcome that works best is what the faculty are willing to do as long as they feel their rights are respected and students are getting a good quality of education."
When asked about the effects of the policy on students, Ní Riada said, “five-day lets students and students commuting long distances would like to have recorded lectures available.”
“Materials should be available online for accessibility reasons.”
Ni Riada suggested that the reason for lecturers not streaming classes is to increase attendance.
Lecturers found it “isolating” during the pandemic when speaking to screens and would much prefer talking to “actual people.”
“The policy of the university is that anything that the lecturer uploads during their time as a paid employee of UCD is property of the university” says Ní Riada.
Ni Riada says that while the materials lecturers teach are their “value”, the university “reserves the right to it.” Lecturers may not want to share their own intellectual property without retaining the rights to it.
“The intellectual property policy might be changed, so once that policy is changed, they will likely be less reluctant to record their lectures and post them online because the university can’t take them.”
Essentially, the reason for some lecturers not sharing their teaching materials is the fear of losing the right to it as their intellectual property. Faculty and students alike will benefit from lecturers’ rights being respected if it leads to a mutual agreement.
Third-year health science students who have experienced lecturers refusing to upload materials expressed their concerns saying, “It’s difficult to study or prepare at home without the lecture materials available online.”
"We want a policy that benefits students and recognises their learning needs which are increasingly diverse, but at the same time a policy that gives lecturers the flexibility to teach in the manner they see most appropriate"
The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) is a trade union that represents university staff across Ireland. The Branch Secretary of the UCD Branch of IFUT, Lennon Ó Náraigh discussed this topic with the University Observer.
“The IFUT’s position is that we don’t want a ‘one size fits all’ policy,” Ó Naraigh stated, referring to the policy to record all lectures. “At the same time, we understand where the students are coming from. Every discipline is very different. What works in one discipline won’t work in another.”
“In the past, we have had a prescriptive policy coming from the University that didn’t work in practice, it was too restrictive.”
Speaking of his own experience as a lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, Ó Náraigh said “I made everything available, I recorded everything and made it available, and it killed off the attendance.”
The main concern surrounding recording classes and uploading class materials for lecturers is the sharp decline in attendance. “Lecturers want a full class for the engagement.” Many lecturers voiced their concerns to the IFUT regarding the inconvenience of recording and uploading materials. Participation and engagement are scarce among students when materials are made available. “Lecturers are very committed to delivering the best experience for students. Lecturers were “disappointed” by poor attendance,” Ó Náraigh added.
In terms of resolving the issues at hand, the UCDSU has been “working together” with faculty to ensure that students are “getting a good quality of education.”
“There will be more concrete evidence around what lecturers should and shouldn’t be doing” in a new policy that should be ready for the next academic year according to Ní Riada.
A compromise between faculty and students will hopefully achieve a resolution that will benefit everyone. The issue of lecture recording and sharing in university has a significant impact on student’s academic performance and well-being. As the UCDSU Education Officer has highlighted, students who are unable to attend lectures due to various reasons, such as long commutes or illnesses, are greatly affected by the lack of recorded lectures and lecture materials. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome for both faculty and students and provide quality education for all.
“The outcome that works best is what the faculty are willing to do as long as they feel their rights are respected and students are getting a good quality of education,” says Ní Riada.
“We want a policy that benefits students and recognises their learning needs which are increasingly diverse, but at the same time a policy that gives lecturers the flexibility to teach in the manner they see most appropriate,” says Ó Náraigh.