"A great teacher is smart enough and connected enough to run an interactive conversation, a participatory seminar in the concepts that need to be learned. We shouldn’t even consider wasting a professor’s time on real-time monologues.”
Seth Godin recently contended that college and university lectures are an expensive, archaic way of disseminating information to students. Data suggests that students who listen and take notes on laptops don’t do any better than those who write by hand. Seth goes one step further and questions why live lectures are happening at all. With cheap access to good technology at an all time high, professors should be filming their lectures and putting them online for free. Students can watch the lectures at their own pace and can re-watch them for increased value.
In K-12 education we call this a flipped classroom. Students watch the lesson prior to class and use the scheduled class time to review homework, work in small groups and use their new found knowledge to investigate interesting problems. It’s a wonderful way to organize a course and works exceptionally well in technical classes such as math and science.
However, there are some downsides. Flipping a classroom puts extra pressure on students to come to class having spent a significant time learning and watching on their own. In an increasingly busy and stressful world, students are struggling to keep up in a traditional schooling system. What happens when a student misses one or two lectures in a flipped class? They’ll show up and be completely lost. Yes, they can spend the class time watching the lecture, but it’s still a net loss because the other students will have had an opportunity to practice and use their knowledge. What if the student misses a few lessons in a row? It could be devastating.
A hybrid method would likely be more effective. Film the lectures and lessons as they happen with all the students present. Most modern elementary and secondary classes don’t have 60+ minute lectures anyway. Plenty of time is given for students to practice immediately after they’ve learned. Ideally, the teacher would film the lesson and have it available instantly so that students who need to review could do so at their own pace without requiring the teachers attention (a la asking questions).
The reality is Seth is totally right. School is becoming very expensive and the information that the teachers and professors is increasingly becoming a commodity (see YouTube on any educational topic). In his AltMBA, Seth has students work together and review each others work at a pace that is intense. At the end of the day, his students are making art, putting it into the world, having it critiqued and revising it. This is where the real learning happens!