I am a course instructor. In my courses, which are now online due to the pandemic, I have optional live sessions. In those live sessions, I give examples of how to solve problems (it's a math-based course), and answer student questions in a group setting.

This design comes as close as possible to pre-pandemic settings: students were never required to attend my lectures, but were always encouraged to do so.

Lectures have never been recorded.

I think that if I were to provide recordings of these live sessions, more students would not bother to attend. I strongly believe that attendance at these sessions is pivotal for understanding, and that watching posted videos of these sessions will not have the same effect. However, some students have indicated that they strongly prefer recorded videos, so that they can watch them in their own time. I specifically do not want to allow this, as I think it discourages proper time management and may lead to problems down the road.

There are already additional posted videos to help students who may be struggling with the content.

Other instructors: do you record your live sessions? If so, why, and if not, why not? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts, and why?

EDIT (clarification as asked for in a comment):

The institution I teach for has emphasized the importance of teaching time management skills to first year students. These are first year courses, and so I am expected to teach time management in addition to math.

Additional notes of clarification requested in other comments:

All of the content I discuss in the live sessions has also been provided in multiple other formats: text, linked videos, etc. I think the value of the live session is the fact that it is live. When I was in undergrad, if I didn't attend a lecture, I didn't understand the content. Some lectures were recorded, but since I couldn't ask questions in real time, I couldn't benefit in the same way. There are already videos of this content - why would recording my live sessions add value if this is the case?

Adding another point to the discussion

Does anyone have any concerns regarding intellectual property? At my institution, all course materials created (including any assessments, posted lecture notes, lecture videos, etc.) are the property of the institution as far as I know. How should intellectual property rights factor into this discussion, if at all?

And another point

My understanding of the goal of putting instructional materials online was to preserve the "in person" experience as much as possible during the pandemic. If there is no live component that is unrecorded, that doesn't hold true to the pre-pandemic experience.

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    I'd suggest that people who advocate a certain answer to the question, especially those supporting that recommendation with experience and/or other evidence, post it as an answer instead. The question author can't accept an answer if it's in a comment, and comments can't be edited to improve them either. Also, @StatsSorceress, you should edit any of the clarifications you've made in the comments into the question post instead, if they may be relevant to those answering the question. Comments are ephemeral and can be cleaned up at any time.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 9:25
  • Comments have been moved to chat. Please avoid answers in comments and read this FAQ before posting another comment. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 10:28

9 Answers 9


I do provide recordings. At my former university it was a policy to do that, but I had started it already before when I didn't have to. Where I am now I can decide whether I want to do it, and I do.

A major reason why I'm doing it is because students love it - at both universities, as long as it wasn't obligatory, students in the feedback always asked for recordings where they were not provided, and seemed always to be happy when they were provided, and I mean fairly big numbers of students and a striking majority of those who wrote anything about it (I think I have only ever seen a single student writing anything critical about it, and I have seen lots of student feedback).

Now I accept that we shouldn't do things just to make the students happy, but on the other hand I think it is somewhat partronising to not do something they ask for that I could easily do and wouldn't affect my overall didactical concept much. I have the attitude to give the students responsibility for their own learning (I do tell them what I think is reasonable but if they want to do things in a different way it's up to them), and I want them to show up in my class not because they have to (due to withholding of resources that I could easily give) but because they decide to do so and they want to be there. My experience is that providing recordings makes students' presence go down a little bit, but really not a lot (let's say 90% attendance with recordings relative to without, but I haven't systematically counted so this is a guess), and I am under no illusion about whether students who'd be there otherwise would properly concentrate on the lecture all the time - in fact in the old pre-Covid days there were student groups that annoyed me quite a bit by obvious lack of concentration and listening in presence. My impression is that the handful of students who don't come because there is a recording largely belong to the bunch that didn't get much out of being there either.

I have occasionally revisited recordings of presentations I attended, so I see where the benefit is. As others have already written in the comments, a student can go through an argument slower and more than once, or may remind themselves of something they missed in real time (we should not think that students listen all the time during live sessions - I once learnt that it is extremely hard if not impossible to keep attention up for more than 15-20 minutes). There is definitely some use in having recordings, so not only do I listen to what the students want, I also see a good reason why they want it.

A potential disadvantage is that some students may not ask questions or contribute to the class if they know there are recordings out of fear to come over as stupid. I never heard any student admitting to this for themselves, but I have heard and can imagine that this is an issue for some. My impression is that student participation hasn't gone down significantly because of recordings, but these "data" are very noisy and I'm actually not totally sure.

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    Over time, every subject will have very high quality explanations on Youtube, parallelizing the pedagogical process. 3B1B said millions of people are learning Algebra 1 around the world, why not create one very good explanation of it? Embracing the nature of online video will help far more students in the long run, and make you more indispensable to the university Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 0:23
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    @StatsSorceress If you teach an introductory course (and your patronizing attitude supports that guess) it's very likely there are already many youtube videos about the exact topics of your lecture, and either probabilistically through the sheer number of people who made one, or because someone is just a genius who worked hard on it, at least one of those is bound to be much better than the byproduct of your live sessions. Why is your university still paying you to teach? Certainly not because there are no good videos (or books, actually, because what is the difference, really?) available.
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 8:38
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    @StatsSorceress I'm sorry my comment is a little harsh. I don't know a neutral word to substitute for patronizing. Maybe that's because limiting other people's choices for their own (debatable) good is just harsh, even if it might really help some students. I omitted a tangent about several good reasons to keep paying lecturers for brevity: Because you can curate good, current material (videos, books, exercices, exams, etc.), because you can create or update material, because you can answer hard questions, because social interactions with an authority figure might help motivate students, etc.
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:13
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    "A potential disadvantage is that some students may not ask questions or contribute to the class if they know there are recordings out of fear to come over as stupid.". There are tools out there that allow students to ask questions anonymously. Those have been used to great success at my university, even before the pandemic. the lecturer would show the access token before the lecture, and then people would ask via smartphone. It was already great when used in an actual lecture hall because people asked stuff they otherwise wouldn't dare to and its even more effective now.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 20:12
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    @StatsSorceress two things: 1. the entire point of a job is to create value. You should aim to perform in a way that's the most valuable, not to save jobs. A job which can be eliminated without impact may as well not exist in the first place. I'm not saying your job creates no value, but you seem to be worried that's the case and your approach is not a good solution to that problem. 2. This site is not designed for debates. If that's what you want to have, then you should find a different site which is a better fit.
    – Kat
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 4:33

I'm going to address this from a student's point of view. I was recently a mathematics student and I was involved in department meetings on this exact subject. I have little in the way of a direct answer, but there are many things that I think that I can bring up that you will not have considered.

For reference, I think that I've lived through the full spectrum of lecture attendance:

  • In my first year, I only ever missed a single lecture.
  • In my second, I missed them only when I was too far behind to benefit from the lecture or just too busy to attend it.
  • In my third year, I picked up the habit of simply leaving a lecture if it was covering ground that I already knew. For some courses, I give the lecturer a fair chance before skipping all of their lectures.
  • In my final year, my apathy peaked, making for many cases where I left the third lecture of many of my courses and never returned.

So, here are some benefits of recorded lectures that I believe that you may have not considered:

  • In my department's experience, most of the student's uses of recorded lectures were during the pre-exam revision period. I recall being told that there was evidence to suggest that this was not cramming and that the use patterns suggested that students were watching specific lectures to cover where they were weak.
  • From personal experience, it's a fantastic way to check the lecturer's published notes for errors. I'm sure that you can imagine cases where shy students will read your notes, see something that they don't believe, and write it off as an error. When they check your lecture's recording and see the same "error", it's a major red flag that warns them that they've missed something significant. This leads to learning.
  • Sometimes a lecture just doesn't sink in. The benefits of being able to relive it are obvious.
  • I find mental illness is extremely common in student cohorts. Many such students will benefit greatly from avoiding the strain of being surrounded by hundreds of others. This includes allowing would-be disruptive students to exclude themselves (regardless of their mental health).

You've cited poor time management as a reason against providing these recordings. I could not disagree more. I know what you mean. You mean that publishing these recordings will encourage students to cram it all at the last minute. In practice, I have never seen this. In fact, I have seen the opposite - students being saved time by the recordings, reducing their need to cram. Have you considered the time management benefits of a student not attending your lectures?

  • If you're covering ground that a student knows. A student in your lecture will probably turn their brain off, or worse, chat and ruin the lecture for somebody else. A student watching your video will simply forward through it or increase the playback speed. This benefit is particularly pronounced in practical sessions. I simply do not care about the long conversation that you're having with the student who is stuck on a problem that I solved in 10 minutes. I'm waiting for question 8d.
  • You probably can't speak as quickly as you think. One of my mistakes in my final year was that in week 7 of one of my courses, the quality of the lecturer's online notes dropped dramatically and I had to rely on the recorded lectures to make sure that I understood everything. When doing this, I discovered that I could understand the lecturer's speech at beyond 2x speed, slowing down only when absolutely needed. This meant that I could absorb an hour long lecture in about 20 minutes and without the tedium of listening to somebody speak in the familiar slow academic tone. Over the course of your course, this will save your students hours and the benefits to your student's concentration are obvious.
  • The time saved by not attending lectures is dramatic. No travel time (this could be as much as half an hour there and back), no 5 minutes waiting for the lecturer to set up, no 5 minutes to leave, no hour lost to a "quick coffee" with your friends after the lecture, and no wasting time on campus when you've not got your next lecture for many hours. The time saved attending to your hygiene is another benefit (no shaving, no ironing...), but that comes at a clear cost.

Of course, some of these benefits no longer apply when every attendant is online, but you can see my point.

As a final note, I always recommend that mathematics students attend as few lectures as possible. However, my reason for this has never been related to lecture recordings. It's been about lecture notes. In my time, I have only met a handful of lecturers who were so much better than their notes that their lectures were worth attending. The vast majority of the time, the lecturers were clearly inferior to their own notes. By trade, mathematicians are authors, not orators. Sadly, it shows.

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    It's great to see a student perspective here! Thank you. This differs very much from my undergrad experience, and the experience of my friends, so I really value hearing your point of view. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 15:34
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    I cannot comments on mathematicians as a specific subgroup but in most cases the lectures serve to prepare the students for an in-depth study of the material outside the lecture times. In physics at least, most lectures are priceless introduction to a topic more than a learning experience. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:16
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    CS student here (so maybe my experience is somewhat comparable to math, but not the same thing) and I wholeheartedly agree with the observation that skipping lectures and looking at the recording or notes saves time, while a boring lecture will make me think I spent two hours learning but retain absolutely nothing.
    – lucidbrot
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 19:54
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    From another student perspective, during my second undergrad year I skipped a specific lecture session every week past the first two for an entire semester and watched it online, because it was the only lecture I had on that day. I had to get public transport to uni, which was 50-60 minutes each way depending on timings so I'd leave home an hour and a half before the class started. With the lecture only being 1 hour, that meant ~3.5 hours away from home for 1 hour of learning, when I could just study at home instead and catch up on the lecture later. An easy decision.
    – Kayndarr
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 6:11
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    I find the high up vote count of this answer disturbing. It's not a direct answer to the question, and most of it is just me advocating lecture skipping. Am I getting so many up votes just for telling students what they want to hear?
    – J. Mini
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 15:35

It may well be that some students cannot attend the “live” lectures.

International students who could not travel on-site may face a significant time-zone difference. There might be bandwidth issues: some students who share internet connections with brothers or sisters might not be able to tune-in for live lectures.

These are exceptional times: pre-pandemic settings may apply to most but are unlikely to apply to all: there are students at a real disadvantage because the usual logistic support they get on campus is not possible where they live.

I do record my lecture (I have to do so this year because of the pandemic). It requires minimal extra work: uploading a file on a server. Attendance to live lectures is down from previous years. I would prefer they tune in “live” but students know best their schedules and obligations, so it’s up to them to choose if they can or want to attend the actual live lectures; the recordings gives them additional flexibility in this matter.

As a final observation: if this has taught us something, it is the value of in-person lectures where the instructor can interact with students, get a “feel” from the reaction of the class to this or that part of the material. Students uniformly prefer the in-person format, so I doubt the job of any half-decent instructor is in danger.

There is already plenty of on-line stuff on pretty much anything, but it’s mostly used as complementary material. Students who regularly showed-up pre-pandemic were obviously not satisfied with this format, so why would your school do away with the competitive advantage of a good faculty giving engaging lectures?

  • Thank you for your thoughts. I agree that the supplemental video content is designed to be just that - supplemental. I suppose an argument could be made that live sessions are also supplemental, in a way. The way my institution has things set up, it's not that easy (IMO) to record material and upload it to a central area. In my case, just to upload a 45 minute session would take 5+ hours during which I can't do anything else on my computer. It looks like your institution has mastered the uploading part! Would you be willing to share which software they/you use? Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 15:41
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    We are using Zoom for lectures and I record on my local computer; recording to the cloud takes significantly longer. I do not back-edit anything so it’s really recording a live lecture. This is then uploaded to a d2l platform d2l.com that serves as the university platform for online material. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 15:45
  • @ZeroTheHero The long time for cloud recordings to be available isn't universal (I suspect it has something to do with whatever contract the university has with Zoom), as my lecture recordings are typically available within minutes of ending the lecture. Uploading (to Brightspace/d2l) usually takes about five minutes, after which it is processed on their/the university's servers and I am no longer part of the equation (except putting the link on the course page).
    – Hayden
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 18:58
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    @StatsSorceress I want to add another example (of own experience): I am a mother and a student. My child need to attend online lessons (I am very happy they have school in all) with my guidance (at my laptop) at the same time as I may have lectures. I am very thankful for every instructor, who give me the option to view the lecture in the evening, when my child is asleep :) The pre-corona-plan was, to attend the face-to-face lectures while my child is in school... No plan stands the real life... Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 6:44

Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts, and why?

Let's go through them:

I think that if I were to provide recordings of these live sessions, more students would not bother to attend.

Common sense dictates that if you provide an alternative to attendance, fewer students will attend. So this is the one part I agree with.

This part suggests that you already have some students not attending. This is a problem, because you:

strongly believe that attendance at these sessions is pivotal for understanding

It's a problem that, as far as we can tell, you are not addressing. This makes me inclined to disagree with any explanation you might give for other problems you have in your course.

I think that if I were to provide recordings of these live sessions, more students would not bother to attend.

Writing this off as students "not bothering" is patronising, as has been said in a comment on another answer. Students already had legitimate problems outside of their education before the pandemic disrupted everything.

Another way of looking at it: If the students really were just lazy, they probably wouldn't have attended anyway, recordings or no recordings.

I strongly believe that attendance at these sessions is pivotal for understanding, and that watching posted videos of these sessions will not have the same effect.

This is probably true for some students and not others. It's up to them to determine that.

However, some students have indicated that they strongly prefer recorded videos, so that they can watch them in their own time. I specifically do not want to allow this, as I think it discourages proper time management and may lead to problems down the road.

Apparently "proper time management" is defined as fitting in with an instructor's arbitrary schedule for supposedly optional activities. I disagree with this definition.

In any case, your job is to teach math, not time management. Of course, you should encourage good time management, but not at the expense of teaching math. So, if posting recordings creates time management problems for some students, but helps other students learn math better, then it's the right thing to do.

There are already additional posted videos to help students who may be struggling with the content.

You seem to be suggesting that some videos are OK and some are not. I disagree with this, especially since you haven't explained why.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. Respectfully, I disagree with your point on teaching time-management. I had neglected to say that these are large first-year classes. My students struggle with time management, and those who attend the live sessions have told me that they find it helpful to have that structure during the week. I agree that if students were lazy, then they wouldn't attend at all. The videos that have already been posted show examples and explain theory. Why should I post recordings of my lectures, if the points are already basically covered in the videos that are already online? Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 15:49
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    StatsSorceress, I think you also need to consider this from an equity lens. You seem to think that teaching time management is the same as teaching the ability to make a specific lecture time. Consider parents with kids at home during online learning or students in low-skill work where they cannot effectively set their own schedule (and may get hours cut for being too “picky” about their schedule). Is punishing these students for not being able to fit YOUR schedule the goal?
    – Dawn
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 16:33
  • @Dawn It's not my schedule - it's the schedule set by the university, which the students know when they register for the class. Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 22:17

Some instructors feel strongly about doing what they can to encourage attendance and some feel strongly that one should just offer students tools for learning and let them choose how to approach it. I believe the efficacy of these two approaches depends a lot on both the culture and maturity of the students involved as well, the goals and content of the course, and the way in which one runs the class. Consequently, there's not one "right way" to do things. In normal times, I personally require or strongly encourage attendance in some classes, and don't care in other classes. However, my experience is that on this site, there is a strong bias towards the "let students choose" opinion. See my reasons to require attendance in some classes (which apply in covid-times as well), and then compare with some other answers there.

During this pandemic, there are two conflicting issues: (1) it is especially hard for many students to be disciplined and focus on their courses, and (2) there are lots of extenuating circumstances that may hinder live attendance (internet connection, noise at home, illness, ...). Some of my colleagues (typically those teaching lower level math classes) do not record live sessions and they have found this greatly improves participation and attendance so helps with (1). That said, I think the general consensus is that "synchronous learning" (live only) classes puts certain students at disadvantages because of (2).

The point is you should try to find some sort of balance, which may depend on your class. I personally use both pre-recorded lectures and live non-recorded discussions. At one point I asked students to let me know if they wanted to record discussions, and no one did---recording does make some people more shy.

My advice is to be especially mindful of (2) in these times, and consider other tools to help keep students on track with the lectures: e.g., regular quizzes or require them to answer a couple of simple questions about each lecture within a few days. If there are clear notes/text or other videos students can easily follow if they miss the live class, maybe recording videos is not too important. But if not, maybe recording at least some videos will be helpful.

  • Thank you very much for your reply. I agree that recorded content can supplement a live component, and I have provided recorded content in addition to my live sessions. I just haven't recorded those live sessions. I also agree that weekly low-grade-impact quizzes are a great way to maintain engagement. Thank you for acknowledging the multiple perspectives on these issues, and providing your thoughts. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 15:28
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    @StatsSorceress From the question, I wasn't quite sure the nature of those videos (e.g., can they in effect substitute when students can't reasonably make the live classes). By the way, have you discussed this issue with fellow instructors at your institution teaching similar classes? It's one thing getting advice from random people online, and another getting advice from people you know in similar situations as yourself.
    – Kimball
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:24

I think that if I were to provide recordings of these live sessions, more students would not bother to attend. I strongly believe that attendance at these sessions is pivotal for understanding, and that watching posted videos of these sessions will not have the same effect. However, some students have indicated that they strongly prefer recorded videos, so that they can watch them in their own time. I specifically do not want to allow this, as I think it discourages proper time management and may lead to problems down the road.

I understand your fear, but I question your assumption that all students could attend these sessions if they were forced to: sometimes there are conflicting time constraints. Here are some reasons I can think of:

  • I have often been in situations where I was doing fine in course A, but falling behind badly in (very important) course B, and felt the schedule didn't give me enough time to advance. I made the compromise of skipping the A lectures, spending more time to meet B's deadlines, and catching up on A with all material I could find when I was under less pressure. Unavailable lectures and exercise sessions increased my stress and difficulty by a lot.
  • Most universities have non-traditional students who have other obligations. Assuming that all students have only school to worry about during the work day will make life harder for these particular students. I know people who've had to take unpaid days off to attend classes, for whom these published videos are a life-saver. I imaging passing would be next to impossible if attendance were required all the time.
  • There are people who just can't choose when they work efficiently. As someone with a (mild) learning disability, it helps me immensely to have access to all course material whenever my brain decides to work better (or when I'm medicated, which can't be all the time, and is best done in the evening when I'm most productive). Granted, this isn't an excuse not to attend the lectures, but it at least enables me to focus on what's being said instead of struggling to keep notes of everything, and missing out on the interaction anyway.

In these situations, following the course asynchronously may be worse than attending, but since attending is impossible or impractical, it's the best compromise. It seems to me that recording and publishing lectures would be a very small effort for the instructor. Should serious students who would benefit from this be thrown under the bus to force less-serious ones to attend sessions they aren't interested in?

For the same reasons, don't assume that a student who misses the lectures is "not bothering" because of laziness. Some work differently or need to balance school and other obligations.

  • I think you've added nicely to the discussion, thank you! I like your bolded point. I also think it would help everyone in the academic setting if instructors understood more about learning disabilities and how students cope. My question was more around: why should my live sessions be recorded, if all of the material is available in other formats already? The value of the live session, IMO, is the fact that it is live. All of the material is already posted in smaller recorded videos and text, so anyone who is missing live sessions due to other commitments can still access the material. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:12
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    @StatsSorceress Direct interaction with the instructor is one benefit, but I also attend them to get another viewpoint on the topic (e.g. another student's question could clarify something for me, or the answer could be something I needed but didn't know to ask). And often, just hearing the same things discussed differently helps with understanding the topic in general. Also consider the sessions where students just ask for clarifications about assigned problems: often, a lot of students have similar difficulties, for example if a specific question is a bit unclear or missing a detail.
    – user39012
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:20

My answer is an extension to ZeroTheHero's answer.

Even pre-pandemic there were a variety of reasons why students might have difficulty making classes. It could be commute related, it could be conflicts with their job(s) that they need to pay for their classes, it could be trying to take care of their children, etc. Even though your optional lectures were potentially better for them, by not posting videos, you were still inadvertently putting these types of students at a disadvantage.

Now, for something important you should reconsider:

I specifically do not want to allow this, as I think it discourages proper time management and may lead to problems down the road.

I used to have the same perspective. But it's not our job to teach students time management. They are adults, and are responsible for taking care of themselves. Learn to accept this and your job will be less stressful.

Now, to be fair, some students were never taught anything about time management and don't realize it's something important. If you really want to help those particular students, then include some time management resources in your syllabus and emphasize it on the first day of class.

So here's where I am personally with designing courses that can be taught entirely online:

  1. Prerecord lecture materials and post them early. Doing this gives me a chance to edit them for conciseness, fix errors, and change examples or explanations that I realize don't work well.
  2. Lecture hours are flexible and optional. If students want me to teach concepts in person, I can do that. Otherwise I use it to answer questions. Then if there's time, I can use it for one-on-one help

A course I've helped teach as a TA for several years switched from in-person to this format for the pandemic (the lecture hours are online as well), and it's been really great and the students love it. This format is nice because if your videos are good, then you can just reuse them in the future, which saves you time that can be used for more one-on-one help time for students.

  • Thank you for your answer. In my first-year courses, yes, my students know nothing about time management, so I feel it's part of my job (as does my institution) to incorporate this somehow into the course. Yes, I'm following the same model of optional live sessions (I think these correspond to your lecture hours). My question was more around: why should my live sessions be recorded, if all of the material is available in other formats already? The value of the live session, in my opinion, is the fact that it is live. All of the material is already posted in smaller recorded videos and text. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:06
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    @StatsSorceress you keep coming back to the question of what value you are adding. I think the key value a lecturer adds is selecting and structuring the material that should be taught. Which theorems, algorithms and so forth will you present, to what depth, and which ones first. It's not that hard for a student to seek out a web lecture on any of them. But crafting a coherent course by selecting and structuring, that requires experience which they don't have yet.
    – ObscureOwl
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:16

I'm answering this question, like others, from the perspective of a student. The start of university for me represented a large change in my life and I struggled mentally to adapt to the new environment. I'm not going to go into too much detail but lectures were particularly difficult to attend. Lecture recordings allowed me to keep up with the class in a safe space. If there weren't lecture recordings I wouldn't have made it through University, simple as that.

Recordings help to make University more accessible.

Let me also just say, trying to predict the outcomes of a particular change on the behaviour of students through nothing more than hearsay/anecdotal evidence is pretty weak. The fact of the matter is is that you have no idea what will happen until you've tried it for a few years. You should base your decision on what you know WILL happen, not what you think might happen.


I'll write mostly from the perspective of a student but also as TA. My university moved most classes online during the pandemic and overall, it's worked out pretty well. Not every class took the same model for how to do lectures;

  • One of them just has prerecorded lectures, one big one per week. There is also a Q&A hour. Half the time the lecturer is there, the other weeks only the TAs. There are only two required assignments, the deadline for the second is approaching rapidly but we haven't had feedback on the first yet. This class is not very well-regarded.
  • The second course has a prerecorded lecture every week, as well as a homework set that can be completed mostly by just attentively following the prerecorded lecture. (Maybe 20% extra reading/online research needed.) There is also a Q&A session which for me is at an awkward time, so I rarely attend it. The homework is due in a batch every three weeks so I sometimes go a week without watching the lecture and then catch up when the homework deadline approaches. Overall this strikes a very good balance between letting students manage their own time, but giving them some guardrails.
  • The third course has a prerecorded lecture every week cut up into thematic chunks of 12-30 minutes, which works very well for people using Pomodori time management methods. It's also hugely convenient when you need to review a particular detail. The course also has a mandatory lecture time where students have to critically present papers (and others have to attend). The TAs for the course are quite active in coaching the students that have to present and the level is unusually good in my experience. There are four individual assignments where we have to implement a technique explained in one of the video lectures. These assignments are small but quite challenging and you really need to grasp the topic to be able to implement them.
  • The course I'm TAing has a couple of individual assignments based on lectures. These lectures are recorded and students can re-watch them. The students have to implement some techniques given in the lectures.

I think by now you see the common thread here. The most effective video lectures are the ones that are useful to students, mostly to complete assignments. Re-watching a lecture, or a key segment of one, multiple times to grasp a complicated bit is extremely useful. As exams approach, I expect I'll also be re-watching most of the lectures again to refresh my memory.

I agree that naively switching to recorded lectures poses a time management risk. But I question whether the pressure towards effective time management was really all that good to begin with, if this is all it takes to pull the rug out from under it.

I find that you get the best time management when homework has these traits:

  • Deadlines aren't too far into the future. This usually means multiple assignments instead of one big one.
  • Predictable deadlines. Try to publish all deadlines at the start of the semester. It's pretty hard to manage your time if some teachers suddenly dump surprise work on you.
  • Reasonable size. Remember that your course isn't the only one people are taking. You don't teach people time management by overwhelming them, or forcing them to choose between your course and another one.
  • Sufficiently rewarding. If homework is only a small percentage of the overall grade and a lot of work, then a student with limited time should actually not waste time on it and instead concentrate on more rewarding study activities. Good time management includes watching the return on investment for doing homework for your class.

Overall this means that homework should be challenging enough that it forces students to pay attention to the lectures, but light enough that it has a favorable effort/reward rate.

  • 1
    Thank you! I agree that short assessments with clear predictable deadlines are useful. When I was in undergrad, we had 3-6 weekly assignments in our courses, and each assignment would take 10-20 hours to complete well (on top of attendance at lectures, labs, etc.). We were all under significant stress all the time, which severely impacted our learning. I avoid this with my students, because I know what it can do to your mental health, but I know instructors who, like you say, dump surprise work. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:55

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