Background: Students can now often choose to attend live lectures or review recordings of the lectures made using lecture-capture technology. However, data on lecture attendance in such cases is scarce, and there are few comparisons of the learning outcomes of the different learning approaches. This study reports data relevant to this issue.
Methods: Attendance data was collected at 13 of 40 voluntary lecture sessions in the Medical Pharmacology course in Fall 2013 (192 students) and Fall 2014 (207 students) by use of an audience-response system. All 40 lectures were recorded using lecture-capture, and students could attend lectures or review the online recordings and PowerPoint files as desired. The data illuminated the features of student lecture attendance and its relation to exam performance.
Results: Only 25-31% of students attended any given monitored lecture, and only 12-14% exhibited high attendance (>80%); 41-52% of students did not attend any monitored sessions. On average, exam scores of students with high lecture attendance were significantly higher than those of other students with a significant shift in scores to higher ranks. Exam scores of students with intermediate to low attendance (77-8%) did not differ from those of non-attending students. The exam scoring advantage associated with high attendance remained evident 20 weeks after the Fall semester when students took a comprehensive NBME exam in pharmacology.
Conclusions: Only a small fraction of students had high attendance at live voluntary lectures providing foundational material. On average, students with high attendance had higher exam scores even though all students had unlimited access to the identical material on-line. The exam scoring advantage associated with high attendance appeared to be long-lasting. The data indicate that high attendance at live lectures was part of a very successful learning approach for some students.