Eating Your Lectures and Having Them too: is Online Lecture Availability Especially Helpful in "Skills‑Based" Courses?


  • Steve Joordens
  • Ada Le
  • Raymond Grinnell
  • Sophie Chrysostomou


online lectures, webOption, calculus, performance, surface versus deep learning


At the University of Toronto at Scarborough, we provide enhanced flexibility to our students using a blended learning approach (i.e., the webOption) whereby classes are videotaped as they are offered in a traditional manner, then posted online for subsequent student access. Students can attend lectures live, watch them online at their convenience, or both. Previous research examining the webOption in the context of Introductory Psychology revealed that (a) students were satisfied with the webOption in general, (b) students used and appreciated the pause and seek features afforded by the webOption interface, and (c) those who used the pause and seek features performed slightly better on exams (Bassili & Joordens, 2008). The current research examines similar issues in the context of two mathematics courses. These courses differ from the lecture‑based Introductory Psychology class in their emphasis on the teaching of mathematical proofs; cognitive skills that, like any other skill, are enhanced with practice (Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977). Access to online lectures allows students to re‑experience the professor as they teach these skills. Given this, the webOption might be especially potent in these learning contexts. Surprisingly, the results we report here do not confirm that prediction. Students do use and appreciate the features of the webOption as was the case in our previous work, but those students who augmented their class attendance with online viewing, and those who used the lecture‑ control features the most, were actually the students who performed most poorly. Said another way, those students who had the most trouble with the course did indeed use the webOption as a way of understanding the material better but, interestingly, doing so did not result in better performance. Several possible reasons for this surprising result are considered.



1 Dec 2009