October 25, 2014

Will lecture capture replace asynchronous distance learning?

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Harrison, D. (2010) Lecture capture helps Riverside meet nursing demand Campus Technology, March 10

From the article:

What do you do when 500 applicants are competing for 60 seats in your two-year nursing program? That’s just what happened at Southern California’s Riverside Community College. Administrators there didn’t just want to turn those students away. Instead, they scrambled their technology leaders and launched a distance learning program–one that’s built around lecture capture–to meet the demand.

When I read this article and what they are doing, I shuddered. I come from a background where distance education courses are specifically re-designed for distance learners. In particular, they are designed to allow students to interact with instructor and other students any time and anywhere. They are designed to ensure that distance learners have adequate support and help from their instructors. This takes longer and means thinking differently about how the course is designed and delivered – not taking the standard classroom model and multiplying it to extra students.

Now I’m not against introducing new methods of design to accommodate or exploit new technology, but it must meet certain criteria. Does it at least maintain and if possible increase the interaction between student and instructor and between students? Do all students have equal access to service within the course? Does it provide the flexibility and access that distance learners require? Do students learn better?

I would suggest that the strategy proposed by Riverside fails on all these counts. In fact if you read the article carefully, it doesn’t accommodate 500 students by any means – it adds a relatively few students to the existing face-to-face class.

The issue for me is that we have over 50 years experience of what works and what doesn’t work in distance education, hundreds of books and thousands of research articles about effective practice in distance education, standards for best practice and quality assurance standards, yet all this continues to be ignored by many colleges and universities in the United States. Everything has to be invented from scratch as if nobody had ever done anything similar before, just because the technology is new – yet it is not really invention; it’s just the tired old classroom model with technology added.

Is it any wonder that their education system is in crisis?

Comments

  1. In China this situation is the norm. Only 1/3 of those who apply for a place at a university can be accepted. What to do with the remaining ones? One solution are online colleges that take the “tired old classroom model with technology added” and at least offer this type of education. Teachers are used to this kind of teaching and content can be produced quickly.
    It is not ideal, but it is something that can be done immediately.

    What is your suggestion? Better not offering these classrooms? Can you suggest anything concrete that can be implemented right now? I’m teaching and doing research in such a college and I know that this is not the best way of teaching and learning. But still, I feel that it is better than nothing.

  2. Tony Bates says:

    Hi, Carsten

    Thanks for your comment.

    In response to my post on “Will lecture capture replace asynchronous distance learning?”, you commented:

    In China this situation is the norm. Only 1/3 of those who apply for a place at a university can be accepted. What to do with the remaining ones? One solution are online colleges that take the “tired old classroom model with technology added” and at least offer this type of education. Teachers are used to this kind of teaching and content can be produced quickly. It is not ideal, but it is something that can be done immediately.

    What is your suggestion? Better not offering these classrooms? Can you suggest anything concrete that can be implemented right now? I’m teaching and doing research in such a college and I know that this is not the best way of teaching and learning. But still, I feel that it is better than nothing.

    Good questions, Carsten. I’m afraid there is no quick and easy solution. You are in a system of teaching that is given and difficult to change from where you are. However, there are models of designing distance teaching programs in other parts of the world that have successfully dealt with the problems of large numbers of students, such as the Open University in the UK. However, their programs are designed completely differently from the classroom model.

    Even in the campus-based institution where I worked (UBC, a large research university in Canada) the distance courses were designed completely differently from the classroom courses, focused on how students could learn without coming to class. We didn’t try to take classroom courses and make them available to students online, because we found it didn’t work. The drop-out rate was much higher when we did this.

    In China, the Central China Television and Radio University offers fully distance courses to over one million Chinese students, but by Western distance teaching standards, they are poor quality, again being mainly talking head lectures relayed on television, with a great deal of unstructured reading from text books.

    The problem in China is that even if you re-designed your courses, the students would likely not like them, because of the culture and tradition of learning, which is focused on rote learning and memorization, rather than inquiry-based learning and problem-solving. Thus in your context, taking the ‘traditional’ model of classroom teaching and making it available online through lecture capture probably is a good solution. However, in the long run, China will suffer, because it will lose out on the knowledge economy, which requires a completely different model of teaching and learning that requires both classroom teaching and online courses to be designed differently. This then becomes as much a political as a pedagogical issue, because it would mean teaching critical thinking.

    If you are really interested in teaching in a more constructivist way that encourages critical thinking and problem solving, then I suggest you take courses online about constructivist online teaching – for instance, UBC’s Master in Educational Technology (http://met.ubc.ca). But it’s not something I can teach you in a single e-mail, I’m afraid!

    I feel that this is not a particularly helpful response to a really pragmatic set of questions that you have asked. Do others have suggestions for Carsten?

  3. Jimmy Bokerski says:

    Tony, where is real asynchronous online learning occurring – where students can start their course at anytime, move through their course at their own pace and finish the course at anytime? Give me just one example of such an asynchronous situation in a credit granting course.

    • Tony Bates says:

      Hi, Jimmy

      Thanks for your comment.

      There are in fact many public credit-based institutions that offer continuous enrolment as part of distance education programs.

      Thompson Rivers University (which took over the former BC Open University) in BC,and the University of Maryland University College and Penn State University also offer continuous enrolment.

      However, I’m not a great fan of completely open continuous enrolment, because it limits or makes very difficult the possibilities of online group work and discussions, when students are at different points in a course.

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