Volume 9, Issue 9
A New Year of Recordings
Starting in 2016, Learning Environments (LE), part of the Academic Services division of Melbourne University Services, was endorsed by the Academic Board of this university to record every lecture under the UniMelb banner, under an opt-out model. It stands to reason, given that all of the newer lecture theatres are outfitted with recording devices built into their lecterns. Students need not fear missing important information in the degree they're paying for, as they can now just retrieve it through the LMS. Unless you are unfortunate enough to be receiving a seminar, as is every student at the law school.
What is a seminar?
The historical basis of the seminar is based on the Oxbridge approach. While also utilised in a number of their more exclusive undergraduate courses (shout outs to PPE), the seminar format calls for a small number of students, to be guided through a discussion of reading material. While the teacher is still officially in charge its methodology recognises the aptitude of the student and delivers to them an education on as equal terms as one can get. Oxford's BC, recognised as one of the top law postgraduate courses in the world, is delivered in this manner.
Seminars include lights being on in the room so participants may check their notes and read material over as it is relevant to the discussion at hand. It is also unrecorded, for if nothing else the logistical challenges faced in a room where anyone may deliver a substantial point of argument.
Seminars: The Melbourne Model
From the above description, we can see MLS having many similarities. We have small class sizes. You and 59 of your closest friends! We have the lights on, so students can read along with the group. Although from what I can see, students don't so much read as fastidiously write what the lectu – er I mean, seminar leader is saying. Finally students have the ability to speak back. But more often than not I hear the old “talk to me in the break” effectively nullifying the point of a seminar. Not looking too much like our English forefathers, are we?
The Case Against Recording Seminars
The university claims if seminars were recorded attendance would go down. Last year, I enjoyed the twice weekly company of a feared MLS teacher. Teacher took ill, as such they were forced to record a makeup seminar. Despite the promise this would be recorded, I knew of students taking work off to make it down to hear this teacher speak. We are not snot nosed undergrads looking to play hooky, we are some of the best students of this country and we are here to learn.
Moreover, under the new LE directive a lecturer must provide a reasonable ground for not recording their lecture. Drop in attendance is explicitly NOT one of these, as LE states, “While there is limited published research in the area, studies have generally found that the provision of lecture recordings has limited impact on attendance.”
The Case For Recording Seminars
Minority groups such as English as an Additional Language students, which the law school take on in ever increasing numbers would vastly benefit. Sure we all know the cool Canadian guy in our class, and our Kiwi mate has all but lost his weird vowel after clerking the summer at “Allins,” but those with limited English skills from non-english speaking nations face a whole different set of challenges. I saw a student bring a Chinese/English dictionary into the contracts exam. The fact of the matter is that students come here and the law school is failing them, all while taking their money and dining out on an increasing “international outlook” score on QS rankings. Being able to relisten to a class, pause, and rewind may not solve all of the problems these student face, but it’s a start.
Some students get sick. Some have work. Some have a disability. Even a student with everything going for them could listen to a recording again to glean that last bit of information from a convoluted trusts class.
Oxford We Are Not
We need not sit an Oxford seminar, because I know the teacher is better than me and I need to be taught at. In my opinion, this is what already happens in the vast majority of classes. So let's call it what it is: a lecture. Our teachers are given the title of lecturers, one would assume that is what they deliver.
Melbourne Law school, along with other UniMelb post grad faculties refuses to do right by its student body and record lectures. What goes unrecorded mostly, is the damage this does to those trying to learn.
Find out all about the “new lecture capture process” here
L. Lykov is a second-year JD Student