conference

Should lectures be banned?

I’ve just been listening to Donald Clark at the #altc2010 conference in Nottingham.  His keynote speech argued that lectures are rubbish.  Thought I’d share a hastily-written post in the aftermath.

Clark asked why students are still lectured to. He suggested that a complete rethink is necessary, not just the odd tweak.

photo by iwouldstay

Would you like to see the back of these? (photo by iwouldstay)

@GeoShore sums things up amusingly via Twitter:

#altc2010 keynote summary: “Lectures don’t work. Lecturers can’t lecture. Everyone’s been doing it wrong. Arse. Feck. Nuns.”

Despite a couple of questions from the audience asking about alternatives to the lecture, no specific answers were forthcoming.  Clark replied at one point that the answers are “staring us in the face”.

I’ve attended both great lectures and awful ones.  That suggests lectures aren’t automatically a bad thing.

The lecture is just one part of the learning process.  We read, we’re lectured to, we participate in seminars, we have one-to-one tutorials, we form study groups, we have online participation…

Clark said he enjoyed TED talks and appreciated their production values, but he seemed to be looking for more.  TED talks are still, essentially, lectures.

Same with podcasts and videos.  Clark agreed that it’s better to record a lecture than do nothing at all.  However, he argued that this method merely results in a load of poorly delivered lectures streaming out, providing no further value to learners.

Other than end lectures altogether, I’m not entirely sure what is required.  A complete rethink may result in new delivery methods, so will they look like lectures at all?

If new techniques do resemble lectures, why have other delivery styles so far been given a lukewarm reception (if that) by Clark?

If new techniques don’t resemble lectures, the result has been to abandon lectures, not rethink them.

Clark suggested that there needs to be more collaboration and discussion present in this type of learning.  That’s what seminars and tutorials are all about.  This isn’t an either/or situation; different methods of teaching and learning are delivered.  If lectures were the single focus for all information intake, we’d be in trouble.  But they’re not.

Over to you.  Are lectures dead?  Is the lecturer to blame?  What are the alternatives? Are podcasts and video lectures good, or not good enough?  Is the physical process of attending lectures a hardship in itself?

I’d love to hear your views!