Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm not ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille

I am still thinking about the second job letter post, but until then:

From Inside Higher Ed: I’ll Take My Lecture to Go, Please

It looks like students can be open-minded after all: When provided with the option to view lectures online, rather than just in person, a full 82 percent of undergraduates kindly offered that they’d be willing to entertain an alternative to showing up to class and paying attention in real time.

A new study released today suggests not only a willingness but a “clear preference” among undergraduates for “lecture capture,” the technology that records, streams and stores what happens in the classroom for concurrent or later viewing.
It doesn't surprise me that some students would have a "clear preference" for downloadable lectures, but 82%?

In a way, this is a logical step. Distance education programs since the 1960s have had a television component and many still do, although many are still talking heads with PowerPoint instead of talking heads with whiteboards and charts. There are also the university lecturers on YouTube, which Virginia Heffernan ranks in the New York Times Sunday Magazine ("I'd give it an 85: the beat is good, and you can dance to it.")

But--and this is not news--unless you're delivering a rigorously ordered lecture and allow no questions, a classroom session can't be captured as a static performance. It's not a Puritan sermon; it's more a call-and-response, with reactions from students helping to shape and guide what gets said. If students don't come to class, what will happen?

Even if the classroom experience can be recorded and put into iPod video form, if no one shows up in the classroom, preferring to listen to the class later, we won't have any student responses and nonverbal reactions to help make the class a really good one.

Teachers aren't exactly performers, but we are closer to that model--the comedian or actor or singer--than to the model of the, ahem, politician who reels off what's on the teleprompter and refuses to take questions. We need that energy. Some days we give more of it than we take, and some days we get energy from the students. It's an ecological system, and I worry that the studentless classroom translated to video form will mess up that ecology.

Having said that, I've recorded (or have had recorded) video lectures and indeed whole classes for distance learning on occasion. For one class, my predecessor told me how the classes would be used, for he'd heard from the students about this. "They like the videos," he said. "They write to tell me that they watch them when they're ironing, and they fast-forward whenever the students talk or things get dull."

I guess our lectures deserve to be fast-forwarded or skipped through if they don't hold the interest of students, but maybe, just maybe, the students in the classroom had something useful to say that some--not all--of the distance students were too busy ironing to hear. (And did they take notes? I didn't ask.) Somehow, though, it's disturbing to think that a class could become like a TiVo version of Days of Our Lives or Family Guy.


The_Myth said...

How can anyone be surprised that so many undergraduates want lectures-on-demand?

This is the generation of McEducation.

They think they know more than the professors.

They think they learned everything they need to know in High School (where they were patted on their heads, told "Good Job!" and then sent along with a high GPA and little actual skill).

How will educators be able to gauge how well the students are learning when they fail to comprehend those McLectures?

I mean, it's not uncommon for most students nowadays to not even do the course reading. Are they to be expected to watch the recorded lecture too?

Not everyone is an auto-didact.

And while I think the whole podcast/lecture phenomenon is an excellent *supplemental* option, it will not serve undergraduates to become more or better educated.

Not these students.

And not at this time.

Bardiac said...

I listened to a couple lecture courses when I was teaching abroad last semester, and they were really interesting. I don't remember them the way I would have if I'd done reading, taken notes and so forth, but they were well done.

They seem to work relatively well in large lectures of a couple hundred people. There's no pretense of discussion, but occasional questions. And the business of administrative stuff becomes really noticable, but not a problem.

BUT, there's real conflict between the ways we educators talk about getting students involved, even in large lecture halls, and taping lectures. All those clickies to see if you understand, the note cards to pass forward with questions, consulting with your peers, all that would be dead time on tape. And wouldn't work for students not in the room.

I don't have any answers. I hope to retire before I have to leave my smallish discussion based classes for a taping studio.

undine said...

the_myth, I wonder if they will listen to/watch podcasts if they won't read. All that new research on internet reading seems to suggest that it's faster than either listening to a lecture OR reading a book. I know I won't listen to a podcast or even most video clips since I can scan a page a lot faster. The "F-shaped reading pattern" makes short work of most pages, even if Mark Bauerlein thinks we're going to hell for reading this way.

Bardiac, that kind of listening for information can be really interesting; I've listened to a couple of lectures this way when transcripts weren't available. The large lecture class would be a better choice for this kind of thing, but it's ironic that the more in-class interaction there is, the more boring it is for students watching.

undine said...

P. S. Maybe we could stop the lectures in the middle, as in the Disney movie of Peter Pan, and ask everyone at home to clap their hands if they believe in Tinkerbell.

Anonymous said...

Given the size of classes, there is rarely any opportunity for real interaction. Recommended read:
"Don't Lecture Me, I Can Read!"

Not ready for film, but ready for improv?!

undine said...

anonymous, I read the material at that link, and it's right--to a point. But smaller classes, and larger classes with gifted lecturers, are still worth having, I think.