During my first year, I took for granted that if I couldn't make it to class, I could request a recording and catch up the next day. Further investigation taught me that not every law school offers recorded classes for students, and some prohibit it entirely. Hiding behind an innocent-looking door on the 3rd floor of GW's Stuart Hall lies an extensive media center and systematic process for one of the more technologically advanced systems at a local law school and in the country.
First, a little background: class recordings are always available when lectures are rescheduled. Class recordings beyond this are up to each professor - each fills out a form at the start of each school year, selecting one of four options for consent to record (including an option to opt-out of participating entirely). Because a lecture is the intellectual property of a professor, recordings beyond rescheduled classes are left to their discretion.
Students have two options when requesting a recording: the first is to request a recording from the Office of Student Affairs. This requires students to contact the OSA directly when the recording is required for reasons pre-approved by a professor's consent to record. The reasons include religious holidays, a family emergency, giving birth or becoming a new parent, and until the swine flu disappears, flu or flu-like symptoms. The OSA reviews the professor's consent form and notifies that professor prior to initiating a recording.
The second option is when a student's request falls outside of these pre-approved categories, such as work-related activities, volunteering for voter protection, or even getting married. In this scenario, students must request a recording directly from a professor. If the professor approves, he then contacts the Media Center to initiate the recording. Many professors are flexible, but occasionally part-time students have to miss class due to work and professors are unaware they can (or are unwilling to) make an exception to the standard policy.
Regardless of the route your request follows, as soon as class is over, the media center's system combines with magic at the OSA to initiate the recording and make it available on the web portal. Our media center can automatically record up to 12 classes at a time, and the team can manually record additional classes or events as needed - they keep the office open from the beginning of the first morning class to the end of the last evening class just in case. Many other law schools, including Georgetown and Harvard, offer similar technology and processes, but record audio only. The University of Washington and Louisville's Brandeis School of Law both offer variations on video recordings, and have a strikingly similar recording policy to GW. Interestingly, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has leveraged our technology to conduct and record videoconferences, proof that GW truly is leading in this area.
The GW class recording policy was developed by an ad-hoc faculty committee, appointed to determine the events 'beyond student control' and offer a simple solution. The list is limited to help preserve the value of dialogue-based learning within a legal education. Although the committee is ad-hoc, the Office of Student Affairs is open to regular policy re-evaluations as needed.
As GW's part-time program and tuition costs grow, more students may need recordings for missing class due to work commitments. If that's the sort of thing you'd like to see on the standard list of approved reasons, encourage your professors to take action to make our law school a more supportive learning environment. And the next time you find yourself on the third floor of Stuart Hall, swing by the Media Center to say hi to the team that makes it easy to take the technology for granted.