During two academic semesters, Spring 2017 (Feb-May) and Fall 2017 (Sep-Dec), we live-streamed all the lectures of 8 compulsory courses of the bachelor program in Economics&Management at the University of Geneva. We chose these courses as they were taking place in the largest auditorium of the school, the only one we could equip with the necessary technology. The official maximum capacity of the auditorium is 450 seats. Only regular lectures and not assistants' sessions were streamed.
The experiment involved the courses of Introduction to Macroeconomics, Probability and Statistics and Human Resource Management in the Spring semester 2017. All three classes were taught in French. Probability and Statistics was compulsory not only for students in the Economics and Management (EM) bachelor but also for those in International Relations (IR) and this is the reason why it is the most numerous of the three courses taught in this semester.
The following term (Fall semester 2017), we experimented with three additional courses: Introduction to Microeconomics, Mathematics and Introduction to Management. Introduction to microeconomics was taught in three parallel sections, two in French (one of which entirely dedicated to IR students) and one in English. Each section was taught by a different professor but all three were fully harmonized, i.e. covered exactly the same content, used the same problem sets, the same slides and lecture notes (only translated in the two languages). All students in the three sections took the exact same exam. Students could take the exam in the language of their choice. Students were assigned a section at the beginning of the term and were not allowed to switch. IR students were all assigned to their dedicated French section, whereas EM students could choose the French or English section but were asked to stick to their choice for the entire term. Mathematics was also compulsory for both EM and IR students.
All these courses are organized according to the same model, with one lecture and one TA session per week, each of them taking place in a time slot of 2 hours, with 90 minutes of actual teaching. Usually the teaching sessions (both the lectures and the TAs) start at 15-past the hour, run for a first part of 45 minutes, allow a 15 minutes break and run for another 45 minutes.
The students involved in the experiment in the two semesters are for the most part different students. In the Spring 2017 we mostly have first year students (first enrolled in September 2016) attending their second semester of compulsory courses. In the Fall 2017 most students have just enrolled (in September 2017) and are attending their first semester of compulsory courses. A few students are present in both semesters.
The streaming platform was accessible 10 minutes before the lecture started and until 10 minutes after the end. The video showed the lecturer and the projector screen. In addition it showed the screen capture of the classroom computer on an adjustable window. The stream video could be zoomed and frozen but it could not be recorded for later viewing.
Students accessed the streaming platform using their usual university credentials, i.e. the same credentials needed to check the university email, to enroll in courses and exams, etc. Hence, sharing access with other students was problematic as it would have implied also sharing access to all these other services.
At the University of Geneva terms consist of 13 weeks (plus 1 week of mid-term break). In week one, the professors of the participating courses presented the experiment in class to their students, who then had two weeks to enroll in the university's e-learning platform (they would have to do this regardless of the experiment as the e-learning platform is regularly used for sharing documents, announcements, submitting assignments, etc.). Based on the enrollment lists of each course from the e-learning platform, we first randomly assigned students to three groups. A first group of students (15% of all students) never had access to the streaming service and we label this group the never treated. Another 15% of the students were given access to the service in all the weeks of the term and we label this group the always treated. The remaining 75% of students were given access to streaming only some weeks at random and we label this group the sometimes treated. Every week, a a varying share of students in this group was given access. In the Spring semester 2017 we randomly assigned weekly access to 50% of the sometimes treated. In the Fall semester 2017 we decided to vary this share: 80% in week 3, 40% in week 4, 60% in week 5, 20% in week 6, 80% in week 7, 40% in week 8, week 9 was mid-term break, 60% in week 10, 20% in week 11, 80% in week 12, 40% in week 13, 60% in week 14.
At the end of week 2, students were notified by email about the exact sequence of weeks when they were given access to the streaming platform. Lectures started being streamed in week 3 and through the entire duration of the term. When a student had access to the streaming platform, she could watch the lectures of all the participating courses she was enrolled in for that week. Physical attendance in the classroom was always possible and students could freely decide to go to class in person even in the weeks when they had access to streaming.