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Monday, September 10, 2007

Local Lectures vs. First Class Lectures

This is a topic that I've been wondering about for a while and Donald Clark hits on it in his post:
Professor Lewin - “It sounds arrogant, I know, but it’s better to see a first class lecture on video than a mediocre one in the flesh."

Use the FREE stuff because it’s better. This is a simple solution to a massive problem. Students are already voting with their fingers and dumping their third-rate, real, local lectures for first-rate, online, global lectures. The same can apply to most standard teaching and training lectures.

Why would a student attend lectures by a professor that aren't great just because they are local? In large universities where there is little to no interaction and the interaction is done with Teaching Assistants, why not have the lecture come from the absolute best teacher (hopefully one that is known in the field as well so you can drop names). You can still have a professor or teaching assistant handle the interaction.

There is also then the question of where your degree is really from at that point. How does branding work anymore? Professor Lewin is from MIT. Do you get some kind of MIT credit? It gets thorny really quick, but there's no questioning:
It’s better to see a first class lecture on video than a mediocre one in the flesh.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

That may be true, but then there's always the question: Why are we doing lectures so much?

To your point on branding issues, wouldn't it be nice if this kind of "professor-sharing" resulted in the dimished importance of where you went to school? Everyone could have equal opportunity to the best lectures, and thus where you went to school would become less important than whether you went to school and how you did while you were there.

Mike B said...

While I wish that some of my university professors were first-rate and could keep my attention during their lectures, there is still something to be said about attending a highly rated university.

A university like MIT brings together some of the best minds in the world. Watching a series of lectures by a first-rate MIT professor is not the same thing as working side by side with MIT students for four years and attending the lectures in person.

Access to knowledge is important, but the experience of actually learning from that knowledge is equally, if not more, important.

The sad truth about university professors is that they are experts in their field of research and often have no training in learning theory or teaching.

Michael G. said...

mike b raises an interesting point. What will happen to the role of the professor if a few of them will be delivering the majority of the lectures? How does this impact the value of the "lecturing professor" and the "non-lecturing" professor to students? To the school? Would we want to or need to compensate and train professors differently?