The lockdown diaries week 9: the lecture is dead, long live the lecture

Another week of lock down and the death toll in the UK is now over 36,600. As lock down eases across the UK – roll on Thursday when restrictions lift a little here in Scotland – we find out that one man can flout the government guidance and rules without (so far) any consequences. 

As we come to end of mental health awareness week I just wonder how much additional stress finding out that a government aide can be excused for driving half way across England, whilst so many people have been unable to see family, have been unable to visit dying relatives, for the past 9 weeks has caused. I know it’s made me very angry. 

This week there was a bit of a furore around the announcement from Cambridge that it was putting all its lectures online.  The lecture is dead, long live the lecture . . .

In reality, the model that Cambridge uses with very small tutorial groups and lots of 1-2-1 tutorials will allow it to very probably return to some kind of normal far quicker than the majority of UK universities who are also putting lots of lectures online as part of their plans for the coming new academic year.  

There’s also a lot of other ’stuff’ going to be available for students too. Lectures aren’t the only way method of learning and teaching at university level, and haven’t been for quite some time.  However the entrenched myth of “proper” university education equating to rows of students in large lecture halls persists.

Now don’t get me wrong I do enjoy a “good” (and by that I mean engaging, interesting) lecture – but surely this is the time for the sector to be changing the discourse and dialogue around what university teaching is, will and can be.  As you know dear reader, I think we really need to be seriously looking at what the student experience is going to be and using that as the starting point to  reframe our planning.  That would naturally take the emphasis away from the lecture and allow us to work with students to come to more nuanced understandings of what the new student experience actually looks like.

We need to be thinking really carefully about how we make the synchronous time we have with students really worthwhile. I think team approaches could work well here and again that would move away from the “traditional” lecture format to something that could be much more active, and hopefully more engaging for students.  This could also provide much needed opportunities for students to meet for example in smaller break out groups to discuss key issues, and then share back with a larger group.  That’s hard to do on your own but with a 2 or 3 staff it’s much more feasible, and less daunting. We also shouldn’t forget the power of audio.  As most of us hate looking at ourselves, short audio recordings/podcasts are a great lecture recording alternative too.  I will no doubt come back to all  this in a dedicated post.

Until next week, dear reader, stay safe and I’ll leave you with another little bit of covid-19 walks along the canal inspired artwork.

Original artwork by Sheila MacNeill, mixed media on paper

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