The BBC reported yesterday that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says that the "boring university lecture is going to be the first major casualty of the rise in online learning in higher education". As I am lecturer I was of course interested and concerned when somebody of Wales' stature makes a statement like this. In the article, Wales tells us about learning more about learning calculus from betamax tapes than from his "very boring and bad teacher". A few weeks ago I wrote about "Boring" Classes - You Can't Polish a Turnip, when one of my own students had come to me after class to tell me that he found the class "boring". So are lectures, and by extension lecturers, "doomed"?
Image Source: Wikipedia (of course!).
Well - I have to agree with Wales on this point - we are doomed if we keep doing what we have been doing for the last few hundred years. He tells us that "you're still likely to be in a large lecture hall with a very boring professor, and everyone knows it's not working very well. It's not even the best use of that professor's time or the audience". The more I do this job, the more I agree with this sentiment. On Monday last, 8 (out of a class of 68) students attended the last class this semester for one of my modules. On the same day my YouTube channel had 7,806 learners. You can guess which was the more productive, and satisfying.
While all professors/lecturers are not "boring", some of course are. We risk voting ourselves out of a job if we don't adapt and use technology more - and I'm not talking about simply using email and putting class notes up on Moodle/Blackboard. College authorities and management are shamefully lacking in initiative as they struggle with tighter budgets and increased demands of students (Wales calls this "a certain inertia in the system"). USA colleges are leading the way in accepting MOOCs and making lectures and content freely available on-line. The signs are slowly showing in Ireland that MOOCs are getting some attention with Sligo IT, UCD, and DIT recently announcing MOOCs. Many lecturers see MOOCs as a threat (I do), but many will embrace this and other on-line technologies (I do too).
Last word to Wales on the model of using recorded lectures, and class time for discussion: "It seems much more effective and is the direction I think we're going to go".