3 Comments

  1. Checking out the Cord for the first time in a long time and it’s a treat to stumble upon this opinion piece on the homepage.

    I wrote for the paper in my final year at Laurier and put together something similar on the ‘business model’ of the university. I focused on online courses rather than interactive learning environments, but I think the questions you raise are the same: what’s lost in the process of these apparent gains? What does this mean for the quality of education?

    There’s no sense in being overly cynical, but I think you’re right, these are important questions to ask. And just by asking and being aware, I think you’re taking responsibility for the quality of your own learning experience.

  2. Can we talk about how inefficient those rooms are? Projectors use A LOT of power. In a traditional classroom 1 projector (or 2 for our largest lecture halls) is sufficient for a class. Now we have the same number of people in the room (about 60 for the DAWB) and 8X as many projectors than before just so people can sit at circular tables. Its horribly inefficient.

  3. Hi Nicole! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with this piece. As someone who taught at Laurier, and who cares deeply about relevant learning, I thought I’d share my thoughts. Sorry that this is so long! Just thought you may appreciate another perspective!:
    1) Trying to have a one-size-fits-all approach with undergrad classes doesn’t sit well with me. I agree that some courses are better suited to models liked flipped classrooms or using the Active Learning classroom than others. That said, I do think ALL courses can benefit from more student engagement.
    2) Active learning doesn’t necessarily require heavily resourced classrooms to happen – you can work to incorporate meaningful active learning in many ways.
    3) I find the quote “My learning depends on lectures” to be frightening in the year 2016. The model of the wise prof at the front of the room for a 3 hour lecture every week does not align with the way today’s world works, and the initiative and drive that students need for their own learning and growth.. Learning in unis should not just be dependent on the amount of lecture time you have, or how ‘hard’ tests are – although I understand the shift can be uncomfortable. I would argue, that often, less is more, in terms of content. Students being encouraged to really dive into concepts to really explore the things that resonate, and also be exposed to ideas they may not consider is where some of the magic can happen intellectually. You can still have rigour with more depth on a subset of topics. You can have rigour without having traditional tests. Yes, profs have experience to share, but if well designed, that experience can be channeled into course design
    4) Strong teaching is still not as valued as it should be at the undergrad level (this is a whole ‘nother can of worms). It takes real effort to design courses to be meaningful, with the balance of some info dessimination (lecture style), intellectual rigor (diving into key readings for example) and more project-based exploration that is guided for students.
    5) Change is uncomfortable, and takes time to learn from new models and improve them. Let’s keep in mind that our education system is still roughly based on the Prussian model of the 18th and 19th centuries (Salman Khan refers to this in his book, The One World Schoolhouse). Unis used to cater to a small, elite group of people who could access higher ed, and who were in it primarily for the ‘academic’ path (PhDs etc.). I am convinced that courses do need to be redesigned to reflect current times, but this doesn’t mean they have to lack intellectual rigour or experience. There are courses at Laurier that manage to have both, so let’s keep the positives in mind too :)
    Again, sorry this is so long! I wrote a related blog post if you’d like to check it out: http://www.edumodels.ca/blog/-lectures-suck-a-push-for-more-meaningful-learning-in-university-classrooms

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