Making the Most of Online Lectures

Lectures at the University are often delivered online and asynchronously, which means you can access them at a time that suits you. You can also use the recording to listen again to parts of the lecture you need to revise. Learning from pre-recorded lectures offers you a lot of flexibility but also requires you to be more independent in how you organise and manage your learning. This short and practical leaflet has been written by the ELS team to share some tips and strategies to help you make the most of lectures and, in particular, pre-recorded lectures delivered online.

What are your best strategies for making the most of lectures in general? How can you adapt those skills and strategies to take full advantage of pre-recorded lectures and learn from them effectively? You can the printable checklist on this page to tick or mark the most useful strategies you will try out.


Before the lecture: prepare, predict, get interested

  • Access and read over the lecture slides before watching the actual lecture. What do you think the lecture is going to be about? What do you already know about this topic? How does this lecture fit in with what you've already learned on the module?
  • Review notes from previous lectures and/or tutorials. Also, think how this lecture will be useful for your assignments or exams.
  • While reading the slides, check complex vocabulary or terminology used. If possible, think of examples to illustrate or explain the more difficult words.
  • Try to read around the topic, look up any references or links from slides, get interested and curious about the lecture.
  • Organise your time and space. You'll need to listen to the lecture soon after it has been made available online - this way you'll avoid having a backlog of unwatched lectures and you may be able to use what you've learned from it in a tutorial on campus.
  • Do your best to give the lecture recording your full attention. This may be difficult if you're at home and have other responsibilities but try to find a quiet time when you can be more relaxed and focused. Allocate the time so that you can watch the full lecture. Prepare a clean note pad and a pen or a tablet - whatever suits you to take notes. If you don't have a desk, organise a comfortable space where you are not interrupted too much. Ask the library for a quiet study space on campus if you'd rather watch the recorded lecture away from home or don't have the necessary IT equipment at home.

During the lecture: listen actively, make notes and think

    • Listening is not just 'hearing'. Make notes, as you would in a live lecture on campus, to help you think while listening - check advice on note making skills.
    • Don't try to write everything down - because the lecture is recorded you might be tempted to pause and write things word for word. Be selective. Listen for verbal clues or signposts that the lecturer is using, such as 'The next issue I'd like to focus on', 'this can be illustrated by', 'for example'. These 'clues' will help you organise your notes and distinguish between main points and supporting details.
    • Pay attention to the overview at the start of the lecture to get an idea of what main points the lecturer will cover and in what order.
    • Check whether and how you can slow down parts of the lecture that are important or where the lecturer may be speaking too fast
    • Think about any questions or things you're unsure of that come to your mind
      when you are listening - note them down on the side or margin of your notes.
    • Decide if and when you need to pause or watch parts of the lecture again. Make the most of the software the lecturer used to record the lecture, e.g. check how you can quickly find specific sections or 'chapters' in the lecture that you may need to watch again or review. If in doubt, ask Assist or your tutor for help.
    • You may pause the recording to look up additional resources - it may help you understand some interesting, important or more difficult parts.
    • Before watching any parts of the lecture again, try to recall as much as you can. Summarise the key points in your own words. Consider why and how they may be important!

    Check out this information about Panopto (the lecture capture system used at the University) - there are lots of helpful hints and tips

After the lecture: ask questions, discuss, see the bigger picture, review

  • Proofread and organise your notes after listening. Highlight areas that you think you'll need to listen to again or revise.
  • Watch or listen to selected parts of the recorded lecture again to add any important detail and/or to review more difficult sections.
  • Ask questions! Just because the lecture is not live doesn't mean you're not meant to ask questions! Asking relevant and useful questions will help you understand the lecture better and it will also show to your tutor that you've engaged with their lecture. You can use a face to face teaching block to ask your tutor a question when you're back on campus, and/or ask online after the lecture, e.g. via e-mail or the Hub.
  • Try to summarise the main points of the lecture in your own words.
  • Unpack and discuss the content with your peers - you may use a discussion board online or chat online. Perhaps you can schedule a regular study group with your peers to discuss the content of the lectures?
  • Review your lecture notes on a weekly basis and try to see the 'bigger picture' - how does this lecture add to your knowledge and understanding of this topic? Does it connect with other topics on the module and if so, how?
  • Watch the lecture or parts of it again in a few weeks time. You may be clearer about the topic and the ideas from the lecture then. Perhaps you will be able to pick up some finer detail that you hadn't noticed before?

For more information, check out this information about Panopto (the lecture capture system used at the University) - there are lots of helpful hints and tips.

The ELS team are here to help you with your study and academic skills. You can make an appointment with us using Student Central or get in touch with us by e-mail: or 

ELS Support Enquiries

The ELS is based in room 1153 in the Library.

Opening hours:

Tuesday to Friday
09.15 a.m. - 16.15 p.m.

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ELS Support Enquiries

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