Jack Grove, writing today for The Times Higher Education, tells us about a report that indicates "Internet mentors could supplant traditional lecturers" by 2020. Grove writes that "Traditional lecturers may soon be replaced by networks of online mentors working for several universities" and that "that academic staff are likely to be employed part-time by several universities – often working remotely via the internet – rather than relying on a single employer".
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In the age of more on-line education than ever before, and the advent of MOOCs, I guess that it inevitable that a question about this would be asked. Is the day of the Lecturer doomed?
Not yet - I hope!
In 2020 I will be 61 years old and not too far from retirement, so it should not matter too much to me if I am replaced by an on-line mentor, or if this is a role I would have to take on myself. But what about all the younger lecturers, and the postgrads coming out of College in the next few years - what will the future be like for them? This semester I have 13 weeks of classes with about 100 students. In the same time I will have reached over half a million learners on-line through my YouTube channel. I guess there is evidence in that alone that on-line education is here to stay. On-line paid-for education sources like Udemy and Lynda.com, are becoming more and more popular as a destination for learning by students. Indeed many of the courses on theses sites are by professors/lecturers who are earning extra cash for it.
It is inevitable that the role of the Lecturer will change, and with that will come many challenges for both Colleges and their staff. My gut feel is that we should embrace this and become part of it, rather than be left behind. Don't wait for working conditions to be changed and union negotiations to take place. Each of us Lecturers should have an on-line presence, be free to educate others outside our own Colleges, and to be the drivers of technology in education instead of getting run over by it.