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  1. Alex Kuskis
    June 16, 2013 - 1:29 pm

    It’s amazing to me that some “experts” are only now announcing “the beginning of the end of the lecture hall.” Marshall McLuhan, still unacknowledged as an important commentator, if not theorist, on education during the ’60s declared the obsolescence of lectures as an effective pedagogy decades ago. Lectures have continued to be a primary pedagogy in education way beyond their usefulness because the environments of lecture halls have continued to be built and still persist as legacy technologies.

    “… just as the old mechanical production line pressed physical materials into preset and unvarying molds, so mass education tended to treat students as objects to be shaped, manipulated. “Instruction” generally meant pressing information onto passive students. Lectures, the most common mode of instruction in mass education, called for very little student involvement. This mode, one of the least effective ever devised by man, served well enough in an age that demanded only a specified fragment of each human being’s whole abilities. There was, however, no warranty on the human products of mass education.”
    – McLuhan, M., & Leonard, G.B. (1967). The Future of Education: The Class of 1989. LOOK Magazine. Feb. 21, 1967, 23-25.

    “The lecture is finished in the classroom.” – McLuhan, M. (1969). Counterblast, p. 72)

    • Tony Bates
      June 18, 2013 - 12:32 pm

      Hi, Alex

      Great quote.

      My worry is that while the lecture hall may eventually be replaced, we are still perpetuating the lecture model through new technology, lecture capture.
      Again like most technology, lecture capture has its uses in education, but MOOCs are just one example of how new technologies perpetuate old methods.

  2. Tom McDonald
    June 19, 2013 - 8:16 am

    All of the research on student deep learning, transfer and application, resulting in advanced, sustained, individual performance improvement strongly and consistently states that one size fits all methodologies don’t work

    The event based large lecture is the worst offender

    We continue to embrace this medium, with all of the evidence against it, because it works best for us, we are resistant to change for the better and there is no incentive to change for the better

    Education must mean short and long term individual learning transfer and application and the lecture at best provides short term, superficial, initial individual, understanding which is soon forgotten

    The horse and buggy is lecture…we need to move into the motorized, personal vehicle, age

  3. Deborah Arnold
    June 23, 2013 - 5:45 am

    Thanks for this Tony,

    I particularly like the scenarios for ‘new uses of lectures’.

    One of the biggest challenges in France concerns the sheer numbers of students in entry years – the lecture is still seen as the most efficient way of ‘delivering content’ to large numbers: efficient in terms of faculty time rather than effectiveness of learning, and this is one of our major obstacles. How to convince HE teachers to invest time in rethinking pedagogy?

    The project-based, collaborative learning in smaller groups is slowly gaining acceptance at Master level, but if anyone has success stories of how flipped classrooms and other scenarios work with large numbers they would be most welcome.

  4. Beverley Oliver
    July 4, 2013 - 4:01 pm

    The lecture hall is not the ONLY problem: the lecture is ALSO the problem…essentially, lectures are predicated on the concept of a teacher telling or explaining new information to a group–usually large. Lecture halls make *largeness* possible. Regardless of size, to have new information explained to you in a monologic form for an hour or so is usually not interesting, helpful or digestible. But when size kicks in, being able to interact with learners gets really challenging–it can be done, but takes skill…slides are usually dreadful–few use them well, so many lectures end up being “powerpoint karaoke”.

    At my university, we are currently working with teaching staff to replace longer transmissive lectures to short, visually engaging videos, preferably leading to learner interactivity. We are calling these Cloud Concepts because they should be focused on a concept, preferably with some animation or illustration. But often, we fall into the same old pattern–the video is predominantly a talking head. (Yes, seeing the speaker is great–it helps us connect with a person–but we can see so much more when it’s a person plus illustration of some kind). But we are making some progress (more info: I feel though that we are not as an sector learning from television: documentaries, for example, can be an in-depth explanation and illustration of a topic, and they are rarely a film of one person talking with a few slides thrown in. I am not saying lectures should be replaced by documentaries: but we should use the filmic principles to produce short engaging ‘bites’.

    I totally agree though, with large group meetings–these need not be lectures. At the beginning of a course, or half way through, it’s often great to get people physically into the one space. We humans do enjoy this. But this can be to hear general information, get a sense of camaraderie, make new connections, hear and see messages of a generic nature, even a short ‘presentation’ which is not really the same as most lectures–I would suggest we use such large group meetings for very little “content broadcasting”. We tolerated this in the 70s and 80s–lots of it was dreadful. But our constant connection, TV and a much more engaging screens on broadband-enabled mobile devices have driven our appetite for shorter, sharper messages. I believe we still have books and text books, PDFs and papers, short and long video resources that explain concepts to us–these are terrific. Our challenge is that, largely through habit, we are tempted to be the broadcaster ourselves, and talk at our learners. Yes, i know there are some teachers who can do this type of teaching in an amazing and inspiring way, but most of us can’t. We have known for years that lecturing as it mostly happens is not great use of anyone’s time–now we have called it a new name–flipped classroom–we are giving ourselves permission to act differently at an institutional level and in my view that’s a good thing. Let’s focus on teaching in ways that help learners learn–that’s the key.

    Enjoyed reading your post and others’ comment, thanks

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