Since the beginning of the new semester, students have encountered difficulties regarding the access of online lectures. Specifically, the issue of posting lectures that students were not able to attend. The College Tribune has researched University College Dublin (UCD) virtual classroom guidelines, in order to understand how faculty are expected to conduct online learning.

Teachers Choice

A document released on UCD’s website in November 2020, titled ‘Guidelines for Faculty Using the Virtual Classroom’, explains guidelines surrounding the recording of lectures by lecturers.

Faculty have the right to stop students from recording “sensitive materials that you as a teacher wish to discuss with students to aid their learning, but do not wish to have these recorded.”

Lecturers must inform students when recording has started and when it has ceased. They also must disclose which elements of the virtual classroom will be recorded, being “text chat including private messages, the participant list etc.”

The document also references what teaching staff should do with lecture recordings during the Covid-19 Pandemic. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, if you are not going to pre-record learning materials or do not plan on recording any of your classes then you should inform your head of school and your students of your reasons for not doing so.”

According to this paragraph, pre-recorded or recording lectures are recommendations, rather than policy. Further, lectures can use any reason to justify not pre-recording or posting classes to Brightsapce.

Student Recording Permissions

Students are permitted to make independent recordings of lectures, but only with prior permission from the lecturer. The recording is limited to use for “personal study”. If a student is found to be recording without permission, or distributing a recording, they can be subject to disciplinary measures.

However, Those with “reasonable accommodation” must show permission from UCD Access & Lifelong Learning (UCD ALL) in order to record lectures. UCD state that students recording content must “destroy any copy of the recording they hold once this purpose has been met. This will be on completion of the final assessment or when the student leaves the University.”

Bending The Rules & Netiquette

The way in which lecturers conduct the online classroom and how students must present themselves has varied. However, the virtual classroom guidelines set out etiquette for teachers & students to uphold.

While teachers can request that students ask questions in a ‘chat box’ and mute themselves, they cannot mandate students to turn on a camera, nor can they challenge students over this. “each student may nonetheless choose whether or not their video and/or still image is displayed to others within a virtual class. While module coordinators / faculty cannot mandate a student to turn on their video during class they can encourage/request them to do so.”

UCD released a different document relating to guidance for online teaching and learning in August 2020. Under section 4 of this document, guidance on “pre-recorded” lectures can be found. The document states that Lecturers may wish to “talk to the already created slides” but reminds them to “slow it down” to avoid “talking as normal and inadvertently speeding through” content.

The Document refers to further guidance under UCD Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), which states that “Chunk content as appropriate, it is recommended recordings are no longer than 10-15 mins max.” This refers to when lecturers screencast, which could apply to pre-recorded power points.

Inevitable Frustration

Students have expressed frustration at how some lecturers have conducted themselves in online classes. A third-year law student spoke to The College Tribune regarding a law lecturer and how they can disregard such guidelines:

“The lecturer will post 5 sections of a two -hour lecture, divided up into 15-20 minutes. However, it’s all just a voice-over on ‘PowerPoint’ slides. If you take a break, you’re at a loss. We have no face time whatsoever, We don’t get to interact with other students in the lecture, nor the lecturer themself.

“Many of us find it takes a lot longer to understand the pre-recorded material. 15 minutes of content could take twice as long to get through. They talk so fast, no questions can be asked, so you just have to figure it out for yourself. It often takes longer to complete the lecture than the allotted time.”

Further complaints regarding issues of recording and pre-recorded lectures have been posted in the “UCD No-Detriment Policy” Facebook group. One UCD student told a lecturer that it is “unfair to students who have had to get a job/work extra hours to support a family during the pandemic, as they may not be able to attend a lecture.” The lecturer in question told the student that “as long as you are registered as a full -time student, you are considered fully flexible to attend all lectures…This is university policy take it up elsewhere.”

Despite these complaints, UCD have yet to respond to student complaints or amend their Virtual Classroom Guidelines.

Luke Murphy, Co-Editor