A Learning Experience for the 21st Century


Andrew Delvasto

College is different from high school. In high school, the majority of work was done in class, whereas college demands students to learn on their own time. This teaches students how to do well. However, it begs the question: “Why are classes even necessary?” Professors are certainly beneficial, but why are they annually teaching a curriculum not unlike the one they taught the year before. Is there truly no better alternative? The system is rooted in tradition, failing to adapt to the times.

Lectures are the backbone of modern higher education. They give students an opportunity to listen to experts  any additional learning done outside of lecture builds upon the base already formed. That is not to say that lectures are perfect. Students are usually not excited to wake up and drag themselves to an early lecture. It is a common problem to have to sit in a weird seat, often unable to see or hear the instructor. Most importantly, students find themselves being distracted by phones all throughout lecture.

No one looks forward to that. This system is not the best of all options. There are other possibilities that might be better adapted to the modern world.

First, it goes without saying that different subjects have very different styles of lectures. Math lectures are very different from English lectures. Regardless, the introductory classes of any subject have one thing in common  they hardly change from year to year. There are no real differences in how a professor teaches chemistry from one year to the next, and it is unlikely that there has been a development so large that the history curriculum must change to adapt to it.

For introductory and survey lectures, little changes year by year.  It is not necessary that professors reteach the same material every year. My proposal is like this  would it not be better for them to record their lectures once every 5 years and instead make the videos available online? Their expertise is not in doubt; they are often giants in their respective fields. Nor am I suggesting that section is useless. Rather, with the extra time from not hosting these lectures, I would like to see the expansion of office hours, giving students the ability to interact directly with their professor. Sections should still exist. Discussion would still occur. Questions could still be asked. Students would have the ability to rewind lectures and learn at their own pace.

I hear the main argument already. “If I do not go to lecture, I will not be motivated to keep up with the material on my own.” Put frankly, this is true of any university setting. I do not think it is fair to say the main argument against this would be a fear of lack of motivation.

I will admit, I am looking at this from the perspective of the student, which is hardly surprising, so allow me to best justify this for professors. They will no longer receive emails asking to clarify points from lecture  they can simply refer them back to the video. Professors will be more able to answer in-depth questions that simply can not be answered during the rush of lecture.

I think a better system exists. This might not be how it is solved, but the problems are there, and any suggestion is better than none. We are fortunate to have access to a university that prides itself on providing an excellent education. We can tweak, but why not take a step back and see if we can change the fundamental institution itself?