scrapping lectures
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Australian and UK universities considering scrapping lectures 

Australian universities have been discussing plans to scrap the lecture model of teaching permanently, after seeing success with a more online-focused model.

Curtin University, in Perth, have announced their intention to scrap lectures by the end of the year. Lectures will be replaced by “CurtinTalks”, multiple shorter videos on a subject, in which students will be expected to have watched prior to engaging in small-group learning. 

Curtin University are not alone in this transition – Murdoch University are planning to “transition away” from the lecture-based format within 18 months to “mini lectures”, supplemented with online asynchronous activities.

The vice-chancellor of Monash, Margaret Gardner, has also commented that discussions regarding the move away from lecture-based learning have become “particularly advanced”, citing the sizeable Australian lecture classes as a justification for the move. 

Trish McCluskey, Associate Provost of Learning and Teaching at Victoria University, described lecture-based learning as an “artefact of a bygone era”.

“Lectures were the transmission of information from the lecturers head through the pen of the student to the exam paper. It never actually made it into the head of the student.”

She also suggested lectures are an unsuitable way for students to learn, as they cannot concentrate for extended periods. 

Lectures were the transmission of information from the lecturers head through the pen of the student to the exam paper. It never actually made it into the head of the student

– Trish McCluskey

Universities in the UK have also considered the move.

Vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, Simone Buitendijk, has also described lectures as “pedagogically not sound” and is pushing for lectures to be replaced with “short-chunks” of learning. 

Dr Buitendijk has suggested that this change in learning format would have happened regardless of the pandemic. 

Other universities are also reconsidering the most effective method of educating students, with the pandemic forcing most learning to be exclusively online. 

Online learning has often focused on more small-group, interactive work, and universities across the United Kingdom are currently considering whether lectures should remain the crux of the university experience or if elements of the online learning format should be retained in the post-pandemic world.

Not all are in favour of this change. Warwick students overwhelmingly voted for in-person teaching to remain in the Autumn 2020 All Student Vote, although the current lockdown guidelines have meant this is not currently possible.

Recorded lectures “cannot replicate the high quality in-person lecture,” according to Graham Virgo, the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of Cambridge.

He also points out that students have said they miss the “residential experience” of university, with in-person lectures forming a key part of the student experience.

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