Making university education scale.
I teach 3D animation at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Universities have been struggling in recent years to make education scale, and by that we mean teaching hundreds or thousands of students at a time. We pack students into theatre style classrooms and hire teaching assistants to field questions and grade homework.
There just isn’t enough content delivered during a given class meeting.
But teaching animation – which demands of students countless hours of detailed work to master modeling and animation techniques – has caused me to think about the other way in which we need to make university education scale: delivering a body of knowledge far too large to be shoe-horned into a university course slot.
The problem is the very small amount of face time that students get with professors. This problem is getting worse as universities struggle for new revenues, and as a result, take professors out of the classroom and commission them to focus on writing research grants. (This is what is happening at my university, especially in the school of engineering, where I am rostered.)
The old days: Go read and memorize and prepare to spit it back.
The traditional answer is for the professor to quickly and superficially overview a topic and then order the students to go home and read a detailed chapter – on which they will subsequently be examined.
Using the Web: a potent alternative.
But the Web provides a road to a better solution: audio, video, and multimedia presentations that fill in the gigantic gaps and that students can selectively watch. And, students can fast-forward when necessary, which provides a fairly effective way of optimizing their time.
Another thing I do is augment the library of extended lessons with a weekly blog as a way of maintaining a sense of direct contact outside of class lessons.