“Hybrid education” has become a hot catchphrase recently as faculty blend face-to-face learning with online technology. But the growth of hybrid education has been steered by the unstated assumption that hybrid technology should be used to facilitate discussion outside of the classroom, while classroom time should be spent lecturing.
Now José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, challenges this assumption by asking his faculty to put their lectures online and devote face-to-face classes to discussion. His logic is impeccable. Lecturing is simply delivering delivery, and not much different from reading a textbook in this regard. If so, then why must lectures be held in class? An instructor could just as easily record his or her lectures and put them online for students to view at their leisure. Better yet, the time freed up from delivering the same lectures year after year, course after course, could be spent putting together rich multimedia content that combines narrated PowerPoints, podcasts, Prezis, videos, VoiceThreads, etc.
In fact, why should faculty create their own lectures at all? Bowen notes that our system of faculty creating their own lectures is a bit like having every instructor write his or her own textbook. If faculty wrote all of their own textbooks, most textbooks would be terrible. Why not just use the best lectures that have been posted on iTunesU, TED, etc. for content?
I tell faculty that their real value is not the information stored in their head. After all, nearly all of that information is publicly available in books or journals. A faculty member’s real value is in their interaction with students. The back and forth with students in discussion, or commentary on their assignments to improve their writing, for example, is what gives them value. Faculty should focus on this aspect of their teaching and automate as much as possible the simple content delivery part. Yet most faculty have it backwards—clinging to their lectures as their most important function.
Teachers can test the waters of Bowen’s teaching model by putting one or two of their lectures online and devoting the subsequent class to discussion of the topics in those lectures. I’ve done this with wonderful results. But the secret is to avoid the all-too-easy mistake of falling back into lecturing during class time. As faculty, we think that lecturing is our primary duty, and it is hard to break ourselves of this habit.
One option is to assign students to come to class with one question about the lecture content written on a sheet of paper that the instructor collects to initiate discussion. To avoid embarrassment, have the students crumple up their sheets at the beginning of class and throw them around the room for 30 seconds. Then have each student pick up one of the pieces and start reading them in order to guide discussion.
Give it a try, and let me know how it works.
This video features an interview with José Bowen as he explains why he removed technology from his classroom, and the resulting benefits. Watch it here »
- TED—Wonderful compilation of short lectures on interesting topics. http://www.ted.com/
- Free Video Lectures—over 18,000 free lectures. http://freevideolectures.com/
- Video Lectures—Great lecture exchange site. http://videolectures.net/
- iTunesU—Must download the player to access the lectures. http://www.apple.com/education/ipodtouch-iphone/
As usual, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and cries of outrage in the comments section of this blog.
John Orlando, PhD, is the program director for the online Master of Science in Business Continuity Management and Master of Science in Information Assurance programs at Norwich University. John develops faculty training in online education and is available for consulting at firstname.lastname@example.org.