Assembling the heterogeneous elements for digital learning

How to replace the lecture?

Almost 16 years ago I gave my first presentation at an academic conference. It was AusWeb’96 and I was talking to a paper titled “Solving some problems of university education: A case study”. I started out my presentation with “Lectures suck!”.

Some additional encouragement to study
I proceeded to explain why I thought that, especially in my context of a course with 26 students on-campus and 62 off-campus. Including Allen in Cyprus (see the photo).

Fast forward to today and I’m about to take on a course with at least 120 students off-campus, 60 on the campus I’ll be teaching, another 60 at another campus, and yet another 40 or so at another campus. Guess what? There is still an assumption that there will be a 1 hour lecture and 2 hour tutorial for the on-campus students. It is also typical practice to record the lecture (either live during the on-campus lecture or pre-recorded) and make that available to the off-campus students. These off-campus students also get a synchronous online “tutorial” in Wimba.

And this is for a course that seeks to show pre-service teachers about the transformation of learning and teaching made possible by Information and Communication Technologies!!!!

My challenge now is to figure out what (if anything) I can do to move away from what I see as far from terrific modelling of the course message.

My question to you. What good examples have you seen of University courses replacing lectures and tutorials for something different, something better?

A contextual aside

This should not be taken as a criticism of the folk who have taught the case before. The decision about how to teach a course has to be taken within a given context and I’ve yet to see a University context that is truly conducive and encouraging of transformation in learning and teaching. It’s mostly tweaking around the edges.

All of the infrastructure, software, policies and expectations at a university are based around lectures and tutorials. You can’t get fired for giving a lecture. You can annoy an awful lot of students by not meeting their expectations of a lecture.

Which is not a reason to do avoid this, but it is a reason to weigh up the effort required against the other requirements of being an academic and having a family. e.g. 16 years ago when I did the first transformation I was single. I now have a wife and three kids.

Having the time and energy to adopt any transformation is going to be a factor.

Vague current idea

Without any great thought, my current idea is to use a the Moodle book module to create a “learning path” for each week. The path would use a lot of external video, audio and other resources to provide the “content” and use various Moodle (discussion forums, database etc) and external services (Google docs, Twitter etc) to activities. The idea being that all students are able to work through this material when and where they want.

The current scheduled lectures and tutorials would be used for f-t-f and perhaps online opportunities for students to talk with me. Preferably, I’d cancel some of the tutorials and instead invest the time in participating in the course with the students. Interacting with them and responding to their problems, questions and participation.

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