As 'blended learning' is becoming a reality, we look at whether schools should be offering pre-recorded or live lessons when students are remote learning.

With temporary lockdown situations, or whole classes and year groups working from home, school leaders need to consider what is the best option for their students' remote learning.

Let's face it, remote learning isn’t as effective as classroom lessons because it is very difficult to give and receive meaningful feedback to a class of children sat looking at a screen. So it's interesting to find that the evidence suggests there isn’t much difference on the impact of pre-recorded and live virtual lessons. Because of this, our view is that unless you are confident you can give meaningful feedback and can allow for peer interaction with a live lesson, you might as well pre-record your lesson.

The reasons are that there are some downsides to live lessons, mainly that they amplify the 'digital divide'. Consider a family who have limited numbers of devices, or a weak internet connection. If the child's school only offers live lessons, the school is putting the student in a position where they cannot access the lesson. Furthermore, the cognitive load on teachers is significant with live lessons.
Therefore, pre-recording lessons means teachers can put 100% of their attention into the quality of the lesson, their explanation, and the examples they are giving. It also means students can access the resources at a time suitable to them, particularly when that might mean waiting for a device to become available.

The EEF guidance states that great teaching online is about great modelling, great work examples and great explanations.
A useful model teachers could replicate is ‘Pause and Practice’, which breaks the lesson up into episodes, limits the amount of time students are looking directly at the screen, and gives them time to have a go at practicing. Always bear in mind that it is healthy to build in time to your lesson when students are not looking at the screen.

If you have teachers who are more confident and able to deliver a live lesson, secure and give feedback in that lesson, then there is a breakout function on Zoom which, coupled with the Pause and Practice model, gives the teacher time to set up a breakout room for a particular student(s) to check their understanding and progress.

Another good model is to give a pre-recorded lesson, but couple it with a live Q&A or feedback session.

Take a look at these explanations given by John Coats from Notre Dame High School (above), and Karl Newton from King Ecgbert School (below).