Online Lectures: Which Format Is Best, When?! Incorporating the Student Voice in Remote Teaching and Learning

Cecilia TENG Woon Chien
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health

Cecilia shares her findings on the pros and cons of different online lecture formats, and the importance of taking into account context-specific teaching and learning aims.

Photo courtesy of pch.vector from Freepik

While preparing for online classes this semester, I was faced with the dilemma on how best to conduct my online lectures for the modules I would be teaching: Should I carry out my lectures on Zoom, or should I pre-record them and carry out Zoom discussions instead? Is one better than the other, and is the choice context-specific? Having gleaned many helpful tips on remote teaching and learning from colleagues in this space and other CDTL resources, I was spoilt for choice!

It was important that I consider the student experience in my decision-making. After all, it “takes two hands to clap”. Hence, during the previous Special Term, I decided to reach out to undergraduate students who had taken modules I coordinated and taught over the past three semesters. I wanted to gather their views on their learning preferences and needs regarding online lectures. Here are my findings compiled in an infographic.

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Suggestions to Refine Online Lectures

    • State guidelines, deadlines, requirements explicitly and clearly at the start of the semester
    • Where possible, consider applying the flipped format (e.g. recorded lectures and online, real-time classes used for a short recap, overview, class discussion or case study)
    • For pre-recorded lectures, most students prefer to see our faces as we speak, in addition to the slides
    • Improve the quality of the audio or include captions/provide transcript (these also would benefit special needs students)
    • Include annotations, or use a pointer on the slides to direct students to what the lecturer is talking about
    • Upload resources on time

In summary, given the pros and cons highlighted by students, there is no “one size fits all” or an “ideal” lecture format. Rather, the lecture format most appropriate for the topic and content that we want to deliver should be used:

    • Full-length pre-recorded lectures: Preferred if the lectures are content-heavy. Students are free to pause the video at any time if they need a break.
    • Pre-recorded lectures in snippets: No strong reason to favour this over a full-length video. May be a good choice if the 15-min snippets are structured well.
    • PowerPoint slides with audio narration: May be considered for lectures that have more technical content, provided annotations on the slides are clear.
    • Synchronous: Good for lectures that are technical (best if the Zoom session is recorded and published).
    • Webcasts: Q&A between teacher and students should be clearly heard and recorded for it to be an ideal option.

TENG Woon Chien Cecilia is a lecturer from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. She currently teaches undergraduate public health modules, and is passionate about exploring creative ways to increase student engagement. Most of all, she misses interacting with youths in-person.

Cecilia can be reached at ephtwcc@nus.edu.sg.