Monday, April 06, 2009

Academic Earth

The statistical modelling blog raises the question as to whether websites like the ones below herald the end for the traditional lecturing format - if the top people in the world in their fields are willing to make their videos available then it would be foolish not to integrate them into training of students in other institutions. It would certainly be worthwhile for institutions and individual academics to develop strategies to maximise the potential of these types of resources.

I don't see irresolvable problems with students being able to take use these types of courses in the context of a normal set of modules leading to a qualification. In some areas, these could eventually be the lecture content with the lecturer being freed up to offer advanced tuition to the student, guidance on projects and so on, and also free some resources for the universities to develop their own specialised modules.

There would obviously be issues to resolve in terms of pricing, quality control and salary and so on, but to view resources like these as a threat would be a negative view.


Cathy Redmond said...

The end of traditional lecturing and the replacement of a web-based video lecturing format would spell the end of formal university education as we know it today. If these video lectures became the norm there would be no justification for the funding of buildings, lecturers (at least to the extent we have now), etc. Students would no longer go to class. Instead they would log onto the web and watch a lecture in solitute. There are many downsights to this type of structure. It is a less motivating way to study-you might even be put off further education, you lose out on peer effects, you don't increase your social capital, it might increase sendentary lifestyles, etc.

Liam Delaney said...

this is what people say Cathy but I think this is no way inevitable. Modules like this can easily slot into a programme where people are physically located together and its no way inevitable that they cannot be complements to traditional lecture format rather than substitutes. For example, it is debatable for me whether there is much advantage to doing a prepatory stats class in a lecture format as opposed to downloading a cool programme that has been rigorously developed on to your laptop and following at your own pace.

Also, it might encourage universities to really think about how they can add value over the computer format. I dont know for certain but my sense is that a large percentage of students both benefit from and prefer the traditional to the online content though, having said that, attendances are hardly perfect and its really worth thinking about whether the online option really is inevitable for some students.

Thinking about how to really make the "real-world" environment better than just logging on is also something we should be thinking of. In that case, developing the use of class-interaction, small group tutorials, project-based learning and so on can keep the campus ahead of cyberspace.

Also, a culture where universities used their campus to actually develop courses that could be put out all round the world (perhaps for a fee, perhaps as a public service) seems to me something to strive for. The MIT initiative is inspirational and I would love to see a full evaluation of its use. The idea that people all round the globe can simply download an MIT course is potentially revolutionary. I dont think anyone believes its the same thing as going to MIT and, if anything, it probably enhances the demand to go to MIT.

We watch these types of videos all the time in our group and it doesnt remove the advantages of actually being located in the same building. I think it would be a waste not to think about how to integrate top notch material like this into the teaching programme.