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At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard

It’s encouraging to see universities adopting different approaches to teaching. While research on the so-called learning sciences is not fully settled, enough is understood about learning to warrant significant reconsideration of how teaching occurs in universities. At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard:

The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.

Changes of this nature still occur within the existing structure of universities. The next, somewhat obvious, question to tackle is “how should universities be structured when access to information and ability to create learning networks shift from instructor to learner control?”.


  1. Tony Hirst wrote:

    How does this impact on the sort of thing that institutions like MIT might release as OERs/OCW?

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  2. Emma wrote:

    Also, how does it impact on teaching hours required from academic staff??
    Do the students get fewer, more personal lectures (so staff working same time), or same – but fewer students, so staff working more?

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  3. Emma wrote:

    I’ve just read the comments on the original article. … seems the students aren’t overly keen. Not the ones that have written in at any rate!

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  4. glen wrote:

    Attendance is up and failure rate has dropped 50%. Hmmm. Might get to the point where it will be unavoidable to conclude that the industrial ed model actually inhibits learning and constitutes malpractice.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  5. Virginia Yonkers wrote:

    This might be fine for MIT with a large endowment. However, many of the large public universities are finding the opposite trend as budgets are cut, yet enrollment has increased. Our school (public university) has seen larger class sizes as there are hiring freezes, yet more students to educate.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

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  1. Random links « Grok 21 on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 9:18 am

    [...] shifts away from big lectures – NYT (via George Siemens). Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Dealing with different learning styles in an [...]