Students managing more class time than anticipated due to prerecorded lecture material


File illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

Some professors have opted to host live lectures and post prerecorded ones online, leading their students to manage more lecture time than anticipated.

Arianna Carpati, Reporter

Almost all Northwestern classes this quarter are run at least partially remotely, giving instructors the option to run their classes live or have students watch prerecorded lectures asynchronously. Some professors have opted to do both, leading their students to manage more lecture time than anticipated.

Medill sophomore Isabelle Kenagy said two of her classes are holding live lectures as well as posting prerecorded material. One of her classes, Startup Accounting and Finance, is scheduled as a three-hour lecture on Tuesdays plus one hour of prerecorded lecture material. Her Computer Science 110 class meets three times a week in addition to two-and-a-half hours of prerecorded material per week that is strongly suggested to be viewed by the professor and will not be reviewed in class.

“Personally, I’m a little bit annoyed because I feel like it should just be stuff we’re going over in class,” Kenagy said. “I don’t really understand how changing things (to be virtual) allows for more time. It’s just like something that wouldn’t normally happen with lectures. In my past classes in-person, that was never a thing.”

Kenagy said on top of this extra lecture material, her homework load has remained as expected. She said she does see a benefit to the prerecorded lectures because she can pause the videos and think through the material. Kenagy added that classes should be the number one priority but still feels the time commitment is more than she anticipated.

Kenagy often watches the prerecorded lectures late at night on weekdays but is worried about the time commitment, as she is slated to begin a job soon.

McCormick Prof. Curt Mastio, who teaches the Startup Accounting and Finance class, said part of the reason for having the prerecorded video content is to allow students to watch half the content before class. That way, he can run the live class for only half the time it is scheduled for — focusing on problem sets and more discussion-based material.

“There’s some data out there that suggests that this concept of Zoom fatigue is very real, and trying to do a three-hour class all virtually in one sitting is a little difficult,” he said.

Mastio suggested breaking the prerecorded video content into smaller sections and to take breaks in order to give students a break from staring at a screen.

Medill sophomore Trent Brown is also taking Computer Science 110. The prerecorded lecture material is meant to teach the concepts, while the live lecture is meant to be a space for students to ask questions about the material, he said. Thus far, Brown said the prerecorded videos were generally 15-20 minutes long, but the longest one he has had so far was 70 minutes.

“It could be beneficial if you do it in moderation because I think it’s helpful to be able to go back and rewatch things and learn at your own place,” Brown said. “But if you assign an hour and a half of video for every single lecture, I feel like that’s kind of unreasonable especially since that’s like twice as long as the lectures themselves.”

Weinberg sophomore Rishab Jayanthi is taking two classes that require prerecorded lectures and live lectures. He said it is unfair that the professors are assigning lectures that exceed the anticipated class time.

Jayanthi said one of his professors has been assigning over two hours of prerecorded lecture a week, on top of two live lectures and a discussion. The extra lectures in the week are time-consuming and students are busy with other classes and activities, he said.

He added that the live lectures often include more new material than is in the recorded lectures, so he definitely has to attend all the lectures plus watch the prerecorded lectures.

“They’ve been exceeding the time of class that we would normally have during the week,” Jayanthi said. “It’s kind of taking advantage of the situation to kind of push more material.”

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Twitter: @ariannacarpati1

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