Many students record teachers’ lectures or test reviews to aid in their study, but not every teacher feels comfortable allowing electronic devices in his or her classroom.
Teachers at Dixie State University addressed different issues concerning recording devices in the classroom, and the university has guidelines established to make it clear what is and isn’t OK. DSU General Counsel Doajo Hicks said the university applies the principle of academic freedom as well as state and federal laws when interpreting the rights of both students and faculty.
“Most policies in institutions, it’s the academic freedom of the professor to determine whether or not he or she wants to give the student permission to record,” Hicks said. “If there’s an [Americans with Disabilities] issue, so a student with disabilities and things like that, then the professor’s rights are trumped by that.”
Utah is what is known as a “one party consent” state, which means that nearly any form of communication including classroom lessons and lectures, can be recorded as long as one person in the conversation agrees to the recording and participates in it. This includes faxes, texts, emails and even Skype conversations.
However, Hicks said it has yet to be determined in the courts on the academic side.
“I would say all of the states more or less look at it as academic freedom where the professor can say what you can do or cannot do,” Hicks said, adding that it was still a legal gray area.
One issue that arises with students recording has to do with information also depends on the class being taught, Young said.
“When I’m in a class that gets into direct application of theory, say visual communication, I’m not getting off on much in terms of personal opinions and politics or philosophy or things along that line, so that class I really have no hesitation,” he said.
However, other classes that he teaches, such as social media, look into issues such as how social media influences human communication behavior, and the inherent nature of the discussion involves a lot of opinions on both his and his student’s part, so a recording presents more risks.
“Another class I teach is interpersonal communication, and I use my life experience to teach there,” Young said. “What I say in the room stays in the room. I make that pretty clear to them, so at that point, you can record it, but I’m going to trust you not to distribute it, which hasn’t happened.”
On multiple occasions, students at colleges across the country have recorded teachers who have been venting about politics or have become verbally abusive and then the instructor has lost their job. A recent example of this lead to Orange Coast College, California, banning students from recording in the classroom. A teacher at the school was recorded comparing people who voted for Donald Trump to terrorists. When the student posted the recording of the teacher, the professor received threats and went into hiding after it went viral.
Professor of communication Dennis Wignall said while he does allow students to record lectures in his classroom if it facilitates learning and success in the course, he does ask students to refrain from the use of all other forms of technology.
“There are a number of factors — distraction being one of them,” Wignall said. “Unequal ownership of technology puts lower-income students at a disadvantage, and it is difficult to tell what students are doing with their technology if they are using it in class.”
Wignall said technology isn’t an appropriate tool for some classes, such as non-verbal communication.
“How can that be taught using technology?” Wignall asked.
One further reason not to use recording devices in the classroom is that science has shown that deeper learning is accomplished if done in a tactile manner, Wignall said.
“Learning is enhanced by physical engagement,” Wignall said.
Casey Kinross, a sophomore general studies major from Beaver, said she uses the recording app on her phone to help her on days when she feels unfocused.
“Somedays when I’m not all the way paying attention like when I am tired, I just record their voices,” Kinross said. “It’s easier for me to listen to them later when I’m in full focus or doing the homework. It’s easy for me to just listen to them and have them right there.”
Most teachers are accommodating about being recorded, she said.
“There’s this one teacher who’s really strict on having cell phones out, and if you tell her you’re just recording the lecture, she’s fine with it,” Kinross said.
Kinross admitted she does not always ask permission before recording a class.
“I just put the phone on the desk,” she said. “It’s not really noticeable because I’m not playing on my phone or anything. I don’t really tell them. I feel like if they did know that they would be fine with it. There’s only one teacher that has asked about it.”
Young said when it comes to a bottom line, the student should do what he or she needs to do to help them succeed.
“If you need to record it, record it,” Young said. “Use that for your amelioration or understanding of what’s going on.”