A recent article on the BBC News website
asks why lectures aren't obsolete. It seems strange that although research
points to their ineffectiveness as a method of learning, lectures still figure predominantly in higher education. Some academics might argue that when faced with a large group of 150 or more students, the lecture is the only viable method. Patently this is untrue, but moving away from this traditional method seems to be a complex problem to address.
In the light of all the new technologies that are now available to universities, the article asks, why has the lecture refused to go away? One astute observation is that even when universities do adopt online modes of teaching such as MOOCs
, all that seems to occur is the lecture is transferred to digital format. This is sometimes referred to pejoratively as 'shovelware' in academic circles, because course designers and lecturers can't seem to break out of the traditional mode of thinking about teaching, and simply shovel their content across into digital format. As a result, a lot of content found on university VLEs consists of PowerPoint slides or other lecture oriented artifacts - of which more later.
There are three issues to consider here. The first, as has been clearly articulated by Vicki Davis
, is that technology should be used to support student learning and as a set of tools to encourage the creation of original/new content. It should never be used to control learning or to determine the content students to which they have access. Too often, the pace and direction of learning continue to be dictated by the sage on the stage.
The second issue is that lecturers often use technology as a substitute for interactivity, assuming that the inclusion of a video for example, will deliver content in a new and dynamic manner. Video certainly has its place in the learning environment, but it should never be used as a surrogate for good dialogue or other discursive learning activities. Video, as with any technology, should be used as a stimulus to thinking and should never become a stopgap when the lecturer needs to pad out some time.
The third concerns the nature of the lecture itself. If a lecture is nothing more than an expert standing in front of an audience speaking for an hour, then there are clearly issues around its effectiveness. Many lectures do fit this profile, and even those where academics try to embellish with technology can fall flat. This is usually because the addition of features such as PowerPoint slides merely replace or reinforce the didactic method. The majority of lecture slides contain little more than text and bullet points, which tempts lecturers to read from them. The problem with this is that many lecture slides are more for the benefit of the lecturer than they are for the students.
Notwithstanding these issues, I believe there is some hope. In my next blog post I'm going to argue that lectures can be transformed into active learning events with the appropriate application of pedagogy and technology. I hope to offer some examples of alternative methods to lecturing that can, and do, engage large groups of students.
Photo by Archbob on PixabayTo lecture... by Steve Wheeler
was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's