The old live lecture won’t be enough

On the weekend NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet joined the hurrampathon about universities not opening on-campus classes fast enough

It’s a bad look for universities that look like they want to keep zooming when they don’t have to and the sooner tutes, pracs and the like are live and in-person the less reasons conservative will have to criticise.

But lectures are a problem – in fact two.

Problem one is that when students can attend live lecture plenty don’tMarnie Hughes-Warrington once tracked lecture attendance at ANU and found numbers declined 35-45 per cent across a semester (CMM July 9 2015). A legion of lecturers empathised with Adrian Raftery (Deakin U) when he famously photographed an absolutely empty lecture-room, complaining no students at all had turned up to his lecture on estate law, (CMM July 13 2017). Universities can talk till they go woad in the face that students are engaging with lectures on-line and it will not stop criticism of the where-are-the-students kind.

The solution is problem two. Mitch Parsell (U Tas) points out, “good reasons for keeping lectures tend to be focussed on students—how we can or should interact with our students in real-time face-to-face sessions. If the lecture could talk perhaps it would say: ‘I’m not dead! I’m just different! I’ve and now I feel much more confident in making friends and building (learning) relationships!” (CMM April 11 2021).

Good-o, but teachers who spent last year getting everything on-line might pause at the prospect of making-over their live lectures.