Friday, July 10, 2009

Abolish Lectures

A pretty radical statement - from a student no less. I've been making the case lately that our classrooms haven't changed in the last 100 years. According to this story, the current classroom approach to teaching/lecturing may be nearly 1000 years old.
University lectures are past their sell-by date and should be abolished in favour of virtual teaching, according to a student leader.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, says lectures are old-fashioned and increasingly irrelevant to modern learning.

For generations, students have packed into cramped lecture theatres to listen to professors enthuse about their subjects.

Some students take notes attentively and others struggle to stay awake, but Mr Streeting says the whole concept should be eradicated.

Instead students could make greater use of lecture handouts, online learning, chat rooms and downloads, with more time freed for staff to conduct small and intensive tutorial sessions.

Writing in Policy Review magazine, Mr Streeting said: ‘In my higher education revolution, the lecture would be first up against the wall.

‘Why is it, in the age of mass higher education, that we keep packing lecture theatres with hundreds of students for a format designed for teaching no more than 20 in an elite system?

‘Come the revolution, I’d see virtual learning environments acting as a space for students to come together and collaborate.’

Mr Streeting said that with record levels of public borrowing and a ‘relatively poor’ settlement for higher eduction in the budget, universities should be thinking creatively about the challenging financial climate.

‘While our vice-chancellors might not be tempted to storm the barricades to overthrow our political system, it should serve as an incentive — alongside the more important catalyst of student appetite — to revolutionise learning and teaching in higher education.’

Lectures are an established part of the university process. The huge numbers on some courses mean that 300 to 400 students have to be taught in one go.

Documents at Oxford University refer to lectures taking place as long ago as 1116, although this would not have been in the modern mass format. The University of Cambridge estimates that it began using lectures in the late 13th century.
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