Monday, January 17, 2011

Student Demand for Streaming Lecture Video: Empirical Evidence from Undergraduate Economics Classes

This is the title of a recent paper by Nicholas Flores and Scott J. Savage in the International Review of Economics Education. The abstract is below. For context, one should note that 4.6 million students in the United States (1 out of every 4) took a college-level online course at the start of the 2008/9 academic year. That figure has risen to 5.6 million students in 2009/10, according to the (recent) eighth annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning, a report which uses data from more than 2,500 colleges and universities in the United States.

The importance of face-to-face lectures for students’ academic achievement has been demonstrated in previous economics studies such as Schmidt (1983); Romer (1993); Durden and Ellis (1995); Dolton, Marcenaro and Navarro (2003); Martins and Walker (2006) and Cohn and Johnson (2006). It should be an immediate priority to establish how online lectures compare; as some amount of online learning may be inevitable in the future. Finally, another possibility is that the availability of online materials may discourage attendance. According to the results of a MIT survey, the penalty to not going to a lecture is reduced by the presence of online learning materials (Clay and Breslow, 2006).

Abstract from Flores and Savage Paper: Real-time lectures recorded on video and streamed over the Internet are a useful supplement to non-classroom learning. However, because recording confines the instructor to the podium, the classroom experience is diminished when there is less social interaction. This study uses choice experiment data to estimate economics students’ willingness to pay for streaming lecture video and instructor movement away from the podium. Results show a divide between students who like the flexibility of catching up on missed classes with video and students who do not. For this former group, video enhances the learning experience and students are willing to pay an additional $90 per course for video. An important source of streaming lecture video’s value to students is its impact on performance. Knowledge equation estimates show a positive correlation between students’ use of video and their cumulative final grade.

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