What’s the classroom good for, anyway?

Many in the class seem to agree that the classroom provides some value over entirely remote learning approaches, and many stated advantages are in the area of how well the teacher is able to monitor student engagement (e.g. catch a sleeping or slacking student, detect the end of an attention span, etc.)

In a hypothetical environment where students are more mature – or at least more motivated – and are able to reliably self-police their engagement, to what extent does the value of a classroom meeting diminish?  Some students thrive in personal face-to-face conversation, and this should be encouraged, but video chat and video conference technologies are getting to be remarkably smooth and reliable, and study sessions with other students and the professor or teaching assistants may be more use of time spent together.  Additionally, the internet has made a ton of information available for interested students of any topic.  Wikipedia has a Wikiversity branch in which volunteers put together lesson plans and reading on topics ranging from religion to engineering.  Admittedly, the content currently available is pretty limited, but it is sure to grow, and there are myriad other similarly open resources. I think that a suitably motivated student could self educate to a remarkable level of understanding simply by consuming existing online material, participating in online forums, and even jumping into contributing to wikipedia pages. Oh, if only I could reach such hypothetical maturity! :)

I’m not saying the classroom isn’t valuable.  After all, even internet nerds see the value in meeting often for conferences and symposia.  It’s thrilling to experience the amount of learning that can happen in such a short span when lots of motivated individuals get together in person, but I think it’s a mistake to rest on the classroom as mostly a tool for policing lazy students.

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4 responses to “What’s the classroom good for, anyway?

  1. I think that those self educating students are already out there…check out the literature on personal learning networks!

  2. I made a lengthy comment to this post…and WordPress said that I already sent it…hmmm…I noticed that other comments I sent are not being moderated. Can you check you comment queue and let me know? (I included some html…so maybe it thinks I’m spam ;-))

  3. I think this is an interesting idea, and I think it has been tried with interest courses thus far. It would be interesting to see classes in mostly video conferencing; however, I do not see myself as the type to sign up for such a course. While I am a self-motivating person, it is the technology aspect that would turn me away. Technology can be scary for many individuals for a variety of reasons so it may not be that the person is lazy, but rather they are not used to such advances in technology. Therefore, they avoid such circumstances and may appear lacking or “lazy”.

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