Media & Learning Conference, Brussels, Nov 2014 - by slow blog

Lots of rhetoric and discourse about ‘The Lecture’ and poor lecturers (in both senses), who were characterised as illiterate and impoverished when it came to video and its use as part of their teaching. There wasn’t a great deal of discussion about how video is appropriate to different contexts or disciplines, or even how to teach with video. Video was just seen as a universal good in teaching and learning. If lecturers would just engage and use video then our students’ education would improve.

In certain contexts and disciplines, such as medicine with its very content heavy curriculum in the first two years, it seems unquestionably beneficial. This is partly because of a strong visual dimension to the discipline, which deals with the functioning of complex bodily systems, for example. However, it does depend on how video is used, surely? Just bunging on a load of videos doesn’t equal greater educational gain, does it? But in other disciplines, e.g., continental philosophy, what are you going to show: a few minutes of Heidegger mooching about his hutte in the Black Forest, or the great man jumping off the roof of the hutte to explain his concept of ‘falling?’

One argument was that if you use or produce video it should be of the highest quality possible. Going back to medicine, at one level, if you’ve students paying 9K a year for 4/5 years, then a bit of video from your iPhone isn’t really going to cut it. But that’s not always the case. And fortunately there are OERs to plug the gaps. Again, isn’t it more about what’s relevant to the purpose and context of the teaching?

And then there’s the obsession with video capture and the flipped lecture (mentioned by nearly every single presenter), as if it were as simple as flipping a coin. Just show students a video instead of a lecture or video capture of last year’s lecture and then spend the lecture working through activities with your students. Let’s forget that maybe some lecturers have always flipped their lectures with or without video - depends what you mean by flipped.

Unquestioned in much of this rhetoric were the ideological and pedagogical realities of the current economic model of HE and that because of economies of scale, we have few or no alternatives to the large lecture theatre of 250 students. So, even if you flipped this lecture, the lecture theatre is hardly an effective space for thoughtful and close discussions or group work. So the solution is to do away with lectures completely and replace them with small group, flipped teaching? So your five star professor now gives 12 two hour seminars a week instead of one two hour lecture?