Disability cuts lead to universal lecture capture policy

Disability cuts lead to universal lecture capture policy

De Montfort University is asking staff to record their lectures to help students with disabilities

Academics at a UK university will soon have to record their lectures to help their institution meets its obligations to disabled students.

Under new rules effective from September, lecturers at De Montfort University will be required to tape or video first-year and postgraduate taught lectures, with all undergraduate lectures to be recorded from 2017-18.

While the Leicester university insists that theuniversal lecture capture policy, known as DMU Replay, will “greatly enhance the learning experience for all of our students”, the policy is largely motivated by a desire to help “disabled students affected by the government’s decision to reduce the Disabled Students’ Allowance”, a De Montfort spokeswoman said.

The DSA allowance, worth £145 million a year, is to be slashed from next September, with universities rather than the government obliged to take on the cost of non-medical support, such as scribes, note-takers and proofreaders.

“DMU has always been committed to providing support for disabled students; our success in doing so is reflected in the fact that we have the fifth largest cohort of undergraduates in the sector who claim DSA,” a spokeswoman added.

However, De Montfort’s local University and College Union branch has dismissed the justification for the lecture capture policy, saying that disabled students have been able to record lessons for many years.

It is seeking assurances that lectures contained on DMU Replay will not be used by management as a performance management tool to monitor lectures and lessons.

Other concerns include the extra time it will take to edit recorded lectures, which could also be at risk of being posted by students on the internet.

“There is nothing to stop a student uploading a lecture to YouTube, which may expose that member of staff to ridicule,” said one staff member, who did not want to be named.

“There is also nothing to stop the university from using this content for internet-only courses without any reference to the lecturer, even after they have left the institution,” the source added on the vexed issue of staff’s intellectual rights to their own lectures.

Other lecturers have also questioned the need to provide copies of lecture slides to students, which some believe encourages them to simply copy an academic’s notes.

“Management are simply not taking on board staff concerns about this project,” said a UCU spokesman, adding that the union had withdrawn its support for the policy.

It also voiced unhappiness about the use of an old agreement with UCU on lecture capture, which it claims was struck about a decade ago specifically in relation to e-learning.

A De Montfort spokeswoman said it was “disappointed that UCU is not supportive of Replay, having consulted with them throughout, responded to their questions and, as a result, [having] agreed to make a number of changes to the proposals”.

“UCU has to date not suggested any viable alternatives which would take into account the reduction of the DSA,” she added.

For disabled students it will “promote independent learning and provide a non-stigmatising means to study on an equal basis with their peers”, a spokeswoman added.

Augustus Mbanasor, deputy president (education) at De Montfort Students’ Union, said that it “sees this as a great initiative that will benefit all students including disabled students, international students, and any student that wishes to revisit lectures in their own time and at their own pace”.

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