Columns, Opinion

Let Your Hair Down: Recorded classes threaten students’ ability to learn without fear of judgment

Online classes present unfamiliarity, awkwardness and unease for students and professors. Practically every standard that defines the experience of a typical college learning environment has suddenly been retouched. In a setting that normally felt so bound by rules and structure, college classes are now free of any universal measure to fall back on.

This leaves students and professors to choose the terms and limits of their own rules.

It’s no surprise that the remote learning format breeds complications and disadvantages. Students who typically thrive in class discussions and peer collaborations may find it uncomfortable to engage in these ways through their computer screens.

Professors who are accustomed to speaking with their students face to face may confront challenges attempting to connect their students to the class material. In general, everyone is entering a brand new domain of learning — and it comes with a toll.

Lecture recordings play a big new role in our learning experience and are used as an essential resource for students. We can go back and rewatch a lecture as many times as we may need. We can spend more time with the material and internalize the information.

However, recorded lectures influence students’ willingness to ask questions and make comments in open and honest ways. If we enter a class knowing that everything we say and do will be recorded and distributed for any student to access, we may be less likely to step out of our comfort zones and behave authentically.

The fear of failing and making mistakes in a classroom environment, especially in those as large and daunting as lecture halls, is already prominent in college. Mixing in elements of permanency to our comments in class creates an atmosphere in which we feel suffocated by hesitation.

Students have the right to feel nervous about this additional component. Imagine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a current U.S. Representative and former student in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, sitting in one of her classes, speaking outwardly and asking genuine questions.

If every comment she made in class were to be on file for people to later have access to, the politician would most likely face serious critique or judgment. No one is perfect, and that shouldn’t be an expected standard for students — especially in a classroom, where the objective is to learn.

The permanence of recorded lectures can impact the way students conceptualize their role in a classroom environment: rather than being an active learner who openly participates and eagerly assimilates, a student may start to shift into a passive learner who holds back and allows those with more mastery of the material to dominate the space.

Classrooms are looking less like a center to learn and more like a stage to perform on.

To truly absorb as much as possible from a class, students have to grant themselves permission to make errors. If we all acted in fear of being wrong, we would be stripping ourselves of the opportunity to grow as people. Classrooms should symbolize a platform for development — not a manifestation of students’ insecurities.

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