The Impact of Web-Based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching

Subject classification: this is an education resource.
Educational level: this is a tertiary (university) resource.
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This page contains an extract of a research study's[1] executive summary with the intention of providing a point of departure for further consideration and exploration of web-based additions or alternatives to the traditional lecture. A key finding relates to an apparent disconnection between staff and student about the perceived value of web-based learning technologies (WBLT). Feel free to discuss on the accompanying talk page or over at Lecture 2.0.


A survey-based study of staff and students at four Australian universities, 2006 to 2008:

  1. Staff (N = 155 responded out of 676; 22.9%)
  2. Students (N = 815 responded out of 13728; 5.9%)

Licensing of this extractEdit

This work was originally published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Australia Licence. Under this Licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work and to make derivative works for non-commercial purposes.

Attribution: You must attribute the work to the original authors (Maree Gosper, David Green, Margot McNeill, Rob Phillips, Greg Preston, and Karen Woo) and include the following statement: Support for the original work was provided by The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Ltd (now known as the Australian Learning and Teaching Council), an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

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Key extracts from the Executive SummaryEdit

The three key outcome measures used in the surveys were:

  1. positive experience with Web-based Learning Technologies (WBLT);
  2. perceptions of benefits for learning; and
  3. perceptions of achievement of better results.

Regardless of age, gender, enrolment mode or attendance pattern, 76% of students reported positive experiences with WBLT almost always or frequently. Staff experiences, on the other hand, were more varied with 54% of respondents finding use of WBLT to be generally positive, while another 26% found the experience to be negative.

Overall, there was a clear mis-match between staff and student views on learning and achievement of better results. Sixty seven percent (67%) of students compared with 30% of staff agreed that WBLT helped students achieve better results. In addition, 80% of students compared with 49% of staff agreed that WBLT made it easier for students to learn.

This mis-match between student and staff perceptions is one of several key themes that have emerged. Insights into the range of issues at the heart of this mismatch were explored more thoroughly through qualitative comments on the surveys, interviews and case studies. They are as follows:

Students appreciate the flexibility in access and support for learning - staff have concernsEdit

Although it has long been acknowledged that external students need flexibility, the data indicates that students enrolled in internal mode also appreciate this aspect of WBLT. From the survey responses, 56.2% of students indicated that they didn’t attend at least some of the face-to-face lectures available. Of these students who listened to WBLT rather than attending face-to-face lectures, 75.3% indicated this was because they ‘couldn’t attend’.

Responses from staff supported this view with a high proportion of respondents (81.9%) introducing WBLT to support students who could not attend. Staff also recognised the value of the technology as a study tool with 64.5% of staff providing it to support students in their learning. While many staff agreed that WBLT was a useful resource for external students, some were concerned that on-campus students were choosing not to attend lectures as a result of using the technologies and this was perceived as having a negative impact on their learning.

WBLT have contributed to a blurring of the boundaries between internal and external studentsEdit

Many programs and individual units are being offered both internally and externally, with the same lectures being delivered to both cohorts. The data suggest that staff perceive access to recorded lectures is beneficial for external students but use of WBLT can be disadvantageous to internal students if they use them as a replacement for attending lectures. Students, on the other hand, do not perceive the difference. Moreover, internal students exhibit strong similarities to their external counterparts in the way they use WBLT as a study tool - to revise for exams, review complex materials and take comprehensive notes. This raises the question: Is there any difference between the learning needs of an internal student who cannot attend and an external student who is not expected to attend? More generally, where WBLT are used in combination with other eLearning technologies to access and interact with content, communicate and collaborate, we need to question whether the distinction between external and internal modes of enrolment is of relevance to an increasing number of students.

Introducing WBLT will change lecture attendance patterns and may raise questions about the role of lecturesEdit

While staff seem to understand the need of flexibility for their students, they are, nevertheless, concerned about falling lecture attendance.

Students appreciated the flexibility offered by WBLT with 75% using the technology because they couldn’t come to class and another 69% because it was the only class they had on that day. Importantly, they also viewed lectures as important to their learning. They found lectures motivating, they valued contact with the lecturers and their peers and they found the visual aids helpful. Importantly, the use of WBLT did not necessarily exclude lecture attendance and students often ‘double up’ by attending lectures and listening to the recordings.

Our findings indicated that students are quite strategic about the choices they make, basing decisions on lecture attendance around three types of factors: educational value; convenience and flexibility; and social opportunities to meet other students, exchange ideas and make new friendships. With students being offered the technologies and choosing not to attend, some academics have begun questioning the role of lectures. At least 80% of the staff surveyed use lectures to inspire and motivate students; build conceptual frameworks; establish connections with students; use multimedia content; provide structured experiences for students; impart information and make announcements. This raise the question of whether there are more effective ways of achieving these functions.

Using WBLT demands changes in the way students learn and teachers teachEdit

The statistics are compelling - 68% of students using WBLT believe they can learn just as well using WBLT as they can face-to-face. They use the tools to help revise for exams, review complex materials, work at their own pace and place of convenience, pick up on things that they missed in class, go back and take comprehensive notes after the lecture so they can concentrate on what is happening in the lecture, and check what was said before approaching their lecturer for clarification of issues, ideas or misunderstandings.

Aside from some concerns about IP around the re-use of lectures and copyright issues associated with using visual aids such as videos on WBLT, staff were most concerned about WBLT reducing two-way communication with their students and their ability to inspire and motivate students. On the other hand, there was recognition that the technology could help to provide a structured experience for students and facilitate information exchange.

From the findings it is clear that many staff recognise the strengths and limitations of WBLT and are concerned about the impact these technologies may have on learning. Nevertheless, there has been a mixed response to dealing with the changing context. Approximately one third have not made substantial changes to what they do in lectures. A common approach has been to maintain the status quo by re-emphasising the importance of lectures and the need for students to attend. In managing the limitation of the technology some have reduced their movements around the lecture theatre and reduced multimedia content due to copyright restrictions.

On the other hand, another third of lecturers have taken a more proactive approach and made changes to cater for students who are present as well as those using WBLT. Many of the changes are reflective of sound inclusive practice for example changing teaching strategies to accommodate students not present by explaining the actions in the class and by repeating students’ questions when they are being recorded, scripting the lecture more tightly to provide a more controlled presentation, and using discussion forums and other activities to extend communication and interactive opportunities beyond the lecture experience. .

Introducing WBLT is more than a teaching issue – it will affect the design of the whole curriculumEdit

The introduction of any new technology is not an isolated experience and it impacts the entire teaching and learning context: including the ways in which students and staff communicate and the relationship between other elements of the curriculum. Despite this, our study clearly showed 75% of staff reported they had not changed the structure of their unit.

Rather than focussing on the lecture alone, a shift is needed for staff to consider the whole curriculum, taking into account the learning outcomes and needs of students and using a range of different activities and technologies (tutorials, workshops, online communication, etc) to provide stimulating and engaging learning environments and experiences.

Introducing WBLT has professional and organisational development implicationsEdit

In addition to strategies for successful implementation at a curriculum level, the project also highlighted several professional and organisational implications. For staff, a correlation between choice in the use of WBLT and a positive experience with WBLT sends a strong message that policies enforcing the uptake of technologies may be counterproductive. Empowering academics by encouraging a culture of innovation and experimentation with new technologies and enabling them to make informed decisions about the appropriateness of technologies in their own context may be more effective and sustainable in the longer term. Professional development is an essential ongoing requirement to enable staff to implement new technologies into their curricula. Similarly, students need support to use them effectively and the technologies themselves need to be embedded in a robust infrastructure and technical support network.


  1. Gosper, M., Green, G., McNeill, M., Phillips, R., Preston, G., & Woo, K. (2008). The Impact of Web-Based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching (pdf) - See also Overview


  1. This page can also be accessed via these shorter URLs:

See alsoEdit