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Classroom Lectures are Very Obsolete! September 3, 2008

Posted by federalist in Education.

My previous discussion of this topic wondered why live course lectures persist in a day when modern media can give students a recorded version that is both cheaper and better.  Brad DeLong suggests that the lecture course is far more obsolete: It dates to the epoch before movable type, and the innovation of relatively cheap books made the lecture (literally, “reading out loud”) method of pedagogy obsolete.

Indeed, other than the potential for ancillary entertainment what educational substance can a professor present in a lecture that he can’t just as well put in writing?  And if he’s not a good enough writer to get his lecture printed, or a good enough showman to get his lecture recorded, wouldn’t the students be better off reading or watching somebody who is?



1. ReasonableCitizen - September 11, 2008

If we follow the meme of education as entertainment, do we not find ourselves trivializing studying and learning? Do we also not aggrandize the learning of triviality?

When we are children with short attention spans, teachers with showmanship can re-direct us onto topic. When we are adults perhaps we should be directing ourselves.

I think I would not want the education industry to become one in which there are five economics classes or five meteorology classes for people to take. There is something to gain from interacting with other students and discovering that others have beliefs different than our own.

I have had 4 experiences as an adult taking classes that broadened my thinking. I found myself viewing the class from someone else’s perspective as well as my own.It was the knowledge plus the group learning process that made it more valuable.

I think there is a place for recorded lectures in learning and I am considering purchasing a DVD lecture series right now. However, it is because I live in a remote area and classes on this topic do not exist.

For me, add the DVDs and CDs to the process but retain the student classes and the teachers, too. Something is lost in learning without a teacher and students.

2. federalist - September 11, 2008

My argument is not against classroom learning in general, where certainly interaction between students and teachers can contribute to the pedagogical experience, only against traditional lectures that are a one-way performance by the lector.

3. federalist - October 6, 2009

Marvin Olasky presages a mass movement to online higher education (“Class Without Rooms“):

It’s a waste of time and money for students to sit at the back of a big lecture hall as a time-serving tenured mediocrity drones on. The Washington Monthly last month ran an article, “College for $99 a Month.” Author Kevin Carey wrote, “The day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before.”

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