Robert Vanderburg and Michael Cowling warn against replacing lectures with teaching technology,  in CMM here. Michael Sankey and Chris Campbell expand the discussion.


We have now lost count of how many presentations we have heard, or heard of, or read, that paint the current situation around on-line versus face-to-face lectures as almost polar opposites and that there are just two camps in this debate.

That is just not the case. Each university, as far as we can see, is doing what they think is best by their students (and presumably will continue to do so).

On the other hand, we also have some learned people from other universities  professing that they know what “our students” want in their university experience (outside their own university context). One thing is very clear, universities will do what is best to suit their business model.

Generally speaking, if I (Michael) was a student at one of the sandstones (which I have never been), I would expect to have a quality on-campus experience supplemented with some on-line experiences and resources, as that is what students at these institutions have come to expect over the years.

If I were a student at a regional university (from which I have three degrees and worked in one) I would expect to have the flexibility to study on your own terms in your own time, as that has been the mantra from these institutions for over three decades.

If I were studying at a metropolitan technology-focused university (from which I have one degree, and worked in one), I would expect to have a healthy blend of on-line and face-to-face experiences, but such that I have the flexibility in my study to allow me to work and help pay my way through uni in a real-world experience.

If I was studying at one of the Innovative Research Universities, (of which I have worked in three), similar to the ATNs, I would expect that work will play a significant role in my week and I will fit my study around this as best I can.  This is largely reflected in the way these students enrol in their course/units with far more part-time study happening in these institutions at the undergraduate level.

From the meta perspective, while studies can be quoted that students want an on-campus experience, good evidence-informed teaching is really what students want. As part of my job (Chris) I am programme director of a Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teaching. In this programme academics engage with a scholarly informed inquiry into their own teaching. This allows academics to investigate an in-depth topic that will potentially enhance learning and teaching practices in their department, school, faculty and sometimes outside the university. Often these small-scale inquiries are not formally published but generally the results are overwhelmingly positive, and they enhance the student experience. For the past couple of years, one thing I have noticed is that no one has investigated the on-campus lecture, but many have investigated topics that enhance students on-line learning experiences. Why? Because staff care about how their students engage with their learning.

The point is simple, universities are not going to undercut themselves, they will always do what is in the best interest of their students. Student satisfaction, QILT data and the like are all up for grabs here. If the STARS network has taught us anything over the years, is that central to the health of the university is the health of the student experience.

Professor Michael Sankey, Charles Darwin University, and President of the  Australasian Council on Open, Distance and e-Learning

Dr Chris Campbell, Griffith University, and President of  the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education


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