Where Learning Happens

I’ve had some spirited conversations with faculty in my one-on-one meetings about how we deliver our curriculum: the advantages and disadvantages of lecture capture, whether we should use more on-line formats, what we can do to engage students and so forth. I am impressed by the commitment of faculty to their teaching, have learned a lot about what we do in the classroom and my thinking on these issues continues to evolve. I’m not a Luddite, but believe our future lies in face-to-face education and blended learning formats. In a nutshell, here’s why:

On-line formats are about convenience and flexibility. The course can be consumed where the student wants at a time convenient to him or her. On-line products allow the student to “fit it into” her schedule and promise to let him learn on his own terms: to balance education with all the other things going on in a life.

In contrast, face to face education requires discipline and discomfort. This format demands students’ attention. It happens at inconvenient times. It forces students out of their comfort zones and into situations they would rather avoid. It does this in public where students are surrounded by peers.

Yet, it is in this discomfort where “ah ha” moments happen, horizons expand, perspectives change, and people transform. No meaningful learning (or change in organizations) occurs without it. Don’t confuse such learning (or fundamental change) with getting good grades or acquiring information (or writing new strategic plans), those can be generated with no discomfort at all.

It would be great if learning could be convenient: on our schedule and in the safe confines of our homes. It just doesn’t work that way. The sooner we embrace the discomfort, the better off we will be.


4 thoughts on “Where Learning Happens

  1. Although some students will learn no matter what the instruction mode and some will not even if it is one-on-one, learning is always more effective in a smaller, face to face format. However lecture capture maximizes enrollment and minimizes the number of faculty we need to put in those classes. In the time of constant budget cuts and when university relies on tuition dollars to help with the budget cut I don’t think the college can afford not to do the lecture capture format with some basic business courses … I guess the key is about finding the right balance and make sure we do not overdo it.

  2. There are truly benefits for both the university and student to both teaching environments and since we know that everyone learns differently its only fair to examine some pro’s and con’s of both styles. Some of the more previously stated benefits include classroom balance & enrollment, budget and flexibility.

    I have always learned best in a classroom environment where I am fully engaged with the professor and fellow classmates. I believe this is because face-to-face teaching allows for the open exchange of ideas and thoughts. It’s at this moment where I reach my “ah-ha” moment. However, I am an extrovert by nature and enjoy asking questions. What about the passive or shy student who is reluctant to get involved?

    I have never been one to voluntarily select on-line learning options. I am just not keen on the idea of sitting behind a computer and typing in thoughts to strangers twice weekly. I need live, instanst interaction. For me, this requires discipline.

    On-line learning combined with classroom teaching could provide a portal for the passive student to find their voice and potentially thrive. What if all students were forced into a new learning environment? Would this allow students to grow? There are challenges including changing technology that faculty and students must be accustomed to amongst others. Despite minor challenges I also belive a blended learning style is a possibility to increase student engagement.

    • Ah, but Eirini, that would be part of my point: the passive or shy student needs help getting over being passive or shy. This is part of that discomfort I was talking about. Real learning, the transformative type, is hard work. While, electronic communications (and hence on-line learning) offer shy people an opportunity to participate without being full exposed, eventually they need to get past this and learning to interact with people across a broad spectrum of situations and circumstances. An education isn’t just about knowing, it is about doing. If the education doesn’t change behavior, it isn’t really worth much…….

      • That’s a great point. I completely agree that there is no replacement for experience. You can study European history, but once you actually visit European sites do they come alive. The trip to Europe allows you to remember and learn because it’s very hands on!

        To come back to your point, I think it depends on how involved the faculty want to get. I’m thinking back to the times that I remember when I learned the most in class and it’s not when the professor stood in front of us talking the entire time. Learning usually took place when we were presented with a goal or task and challenged to present a solution. Personally, I love teamwork because different viewpoints only enhance the learning process. This is a hands-on-approach that reminds me of mini internship in many ways.

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