Access Denied

7 June 2017

The University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU)Education (Academic) Department is lobbying the University for a fairer lecture recording policy.

The Department wants current policy strengthened, with clearer grounds for lecturers to opt-out of lecture recording. This means establishing a midpoint between recording and opting-out. One example is creating password-protected lecture recordings, available only to students with a legitimate reason for their absence.

The current policy has been operational since 2016. It stipulates that all subjects – barring “valid” reasons – must record and upload all lecture recordings on to the Learning Management System site for students to access. “Valid” reasons for opting out can range from guest lecturers not wanting to be recorded, or “interactive” sessions making substantial usage of discussion-based activities.

UMSU’s Education (Academic) Officer Caley McPherson stressed the importance of having a flexible option for lecture recording.

“We’re very aware of how crucial access to lectures is for students who have barriers that prevent them from attending in person. We don’t intend that any lecturers currently making lecture recordings available will switch to password protecting them, but we hope it may provide a better option for lecturers currently opting out of recording altogether.”

One student, who has asked to remain anonymous, says one of their lecturers in a currently enrolled class only allows students to view recordings by request.

“The problem from this is that it feels like you have to justify yourself to access it. What if you have social anxiety? What if you have reasons, such as parenting or distance, that would subjectively be seen as not reasonable grounds?” the student said.

In 2016, Dean of the Melbourne Law School, Carolyn Evans, sent an email to students saying the school had rejected the move to recordings. In 2017, the decision was overturned in order to accommodate for those with medical conditions or carer responsibilities.

President of the Later Law Students Network – a group representing mature age law students – Laura Blanthorn, believes this is not enough to cater for students that have other circumstances restricting attendance.

“In a postgraduate courses, it’s unrealistic to have classes from 9-5. Seminar recordings are one thing but having the option of evening classes will benefit the diverse law school community especially later or mature age students,” she said.

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