Web based lectures, the way forward?

The woeful attendance at my lectures this week, some attracting less than 20 attendees, has left me wondering what can be done to remedy this situation.

Perhaps it’s time to take a long hard look at the whole lecture process? The current system of sitting in a lecture theatre, passively absorbing the words of a lecturer, doesn’t appear to be working for the majority of students.

Is the future of academic lectures a hand puppet called Professor G. Sockman accompanied by upbeat music and amusing animations? Photo: Mike Hodges

The whole lecture process needs to be refreshed and revolutionised. Revolutionised, that is, for the University of Lincoln. The Open University has been using television programmes to educate its students for decades. It has also embraced the technology of streaming video. Allowing its students to “attend” its lectures at a time and place of their own choosing. Why not offer the same flexibility to the students of the University of Lincoln?

Why not go further?

Let’s face it. Many students find the subjects they are studying less than exciting. Their behaviour in lectures and seminars shows that all too clearly. The answer is to make the subjects we study entertaining, as well as educational. If you are not convinced then look at the success of “Sesame Street”. A programme that has been entertaining and educating children since 1969. Yes, it is aimed at the very young but that doesn’t mean the academic community cannot learn from it.

Perhaps if our lectures, streamed as video content over the Internet, were as entertaining then the majority of students might actually pay attention and learn. Dare I say it but perhaps a more entertainment-based method of education might even improve grades and enhance the University of Lincoln’s academic reputation.

It might sound like I’m trying to turn the lecturers into an academic form of Mickey Mouse but if it attracts and inspires the student body then isn’t it worth considering? If all our lectures, except for the occasional guest lecture, were available to us whenever we wanted them aren’t we more likely to “attend”?

If the lecture content was crafted to take advantage of various learning styles (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic and Olfactory) might we not absorb more of the content? As the old style of lecturing doesn’t seem to connect well with the students of today; who have been raised in an era of bite sized information, Youtube and the iPod, might not a different approach be more effective?

Now there are potential issues over intellectual property that would need to be sorted out. But that is purely a matter of negotiation with the relevant lecturers.

I can see plenty of advantages to a streaming video based system. Freeing up lecture theatres for other uses, freeing up students to do other academic work or even so they can work part-time to pay for their courses. Such changes could be used to put more resources in place for the seminars and workshops which are, in my opinion, an essential part of the learning process that really requires a student’s attendance.

One Response to Web based lectures, the way forward?

  1. Alex Bilbie says:

    To some extent the Chemistry.FM project is along the lines of what you’re suggesting here http://chemistryfm.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/