College 2.0: No Lectures, But Plenty Of Podcasts, Blogs And Text Messages

from the lectures?--how-1.0-of-you dept

We’ve seen tons of stories these days about professors recording their lectures and posting them online for download, but one professor in the UK is going even further. He’s getting rid of in-person lectures completely. Instead, he’s only recording the lessons for students to download as podcasts or video. Students can then ask questions via email or text message, and the professor will respond on his blog. It’s all very “2.0” of him. While some will say that this is a less personal approach to teaching, that might not really be true. What the professor noticed is that there’s less benefit in large lectures for the students to actually be present. Instead, this way, he can focus on spending time with students in smaller groups, where he’s actually focused on teaching, rather than just lecturing. Not surprisingly, in order to facilitate that, he also has a web-based schedule for students to see when he’s free to meet.

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Comments on “College 2.0: No Lectures, But Plenty Of Podcasts, Blogs And Text Messages”

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dorpus says:

Might work for intro courses

Seeing that everyone hates those 1,000-person Chemistry 101 lectures, including the professors themselves.

Advanced courses are still places of lively discussion, however. There’s no substitute for that.

p.s. These articles make it seem as though everyone in college is using laptops to take notes, but it’s not true. I was scared as hell when I came back to school after a 10-year hiatus, but it turned out almost nobody uses that stuff. Especially when writing down equations or diagrams, computers are useless.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Re: Re: Might work for intro courses

LaTeX is good for looks, but equations are still slow to type unless you have been using it for a long while, and to have to hunt through package docs. to worj out how to do what you want is not something to do in a lecture. Papaer and pen still are good for that, though I would not hand-write an assignment unless forced to, and even word-processing is mecoming less attractive to me.

dorpus says:

Re: Re:

Sure, if you can figure out how to draw human anatomy diagrams with those things, or write equations with lots of Greek letters, subscripts, and matrix notation. It might be easier to just write it down with a pencil. At least, I never saw anyone try to do it, and I was in classes with brilliant people from all over the world.

jon says:

deja vu all over again

How well I remember when it was televised lectures “so the professor would have more time for the students”! But of course the professor was never available, because the extra time was spent doing research, and graduate students were the ones that were supposed to be working with the students, And I was too stupid to know that the grad students were also getting out of working with the students, so I was teaching not only the students assigned to me but all their friends who couldn’t get help from anyone else. If the professor isn’t teaching, he doesn’t need to be there. And the schools with 1000-person lectures aren’t concerned with educating students. [And yes, I was a grad student for a 1000-student Chemistry class, and I felt sorry for the kids who were trying to get an education. That’s why my kids didn’t go to one of those schools.]

Tony says:

Re: deja vu all over again

You are right. It is the pervasive business model that has taken over academia. It is about maximizing the butts in seat mentality of all, but mostly the larger, state schools (and probably private as well). What we have in public ed though is legislators trying to get re-elected and NEEDING to appease taxpayers; their adoption of a business model (more students per class/per teacher = less cost per student!) will ALWAYS sacrifice learning in the end. It becomes a cattle herd where we move students through the gates to completion of a degree that they say … hey what did I learn? In the end, what you have are, you probably guessed it… taxpayers who are disenchanted with the system… they complain that the education system is broken and they don’t want their tax dollars going for education…. so what happens? Legislators keep tightening the reins… classes get bigger, teaching loads get heavier… or (and maybe “and”) you get more graduate teaching assistants teaching classes. It is the vicious cycle of a business model in higher education.

dorpus says:

Re: Tablet PC

The trouble with those things is that you have to tap 4 or 5 different things to get to the template, which may not fit exactly what you are trying to write anyway. By then, the teacher has long since moved on to the next equation, and you also didn’t hear what he said while you were preoccupied with your tablet.

firehazard says:

Re: Re: For example

well if you have any simple graphics program on the tablet PC, then yes. Even in paint you can write like you would on paper. You could even use OpenOffice’s Math program to do all of the fancy symbols and lettering later on if you want to make your notes fancy. And OpenOffice Draw would give you a free graphics program to just draw in an equation.

stephen says:

Re: Re: Tablet PC

… why would you have a POS (Piece of ****) pc for college with this system if you expected to gradute?

furthermore the college could take his lectures than fire him and claim them as government property. just like when a guy from yahoo made something and used it again (and he made it himself) and got sued by yahoo.

Dallas Hinton (user link) says:

Distance Ed teacher

Without wanting to make this section deteriorate into a discussion at to whether in person or distance ed is “better”, I’d simply like to say that I’ve been teaching both forms for more than 5 years now. Each has merit; each has disadvantages. The subject material to be taught must be carefully considered before it is put online as some subjects/topics just need the in-person touch!

Xanthir says:

Re: Distance Ed teacher

Good lord yes. I’ve done several distance-ed classes as a student, and some work well (logic, chem) while other fail utterly (western philosophy).

Is it a class which requires discussion? Then it won’t work with distance-ed, no matter how much you try to get the students involved with each other. They need to be there with each other, talking it over.

If it’s the type of class which can be done by simply guiding them through the book, then distance-ed can be useful. It lets the students do things on their own schedule, and they can still communicate with each other if needed.

Tim Arview (user link) says:

Great idea

Regardless of what we want to happen, more and more people are getting the information they need online. Particularly, those who work in the information technology field are “googling” everything. So I say, why not move the lectures online? Many accredited universities offer online courses as it is, so the regular courses may as well move there.

Sure there are drawbacks. There are drawbacks to in-person lectures. The only real problem I see anyone having with this is that is against the norm. To that I say, kudos.

I, for one says:

Hand waving psychology

There’s a lot of non verbal communication goes on when watching a speaker. Even if you don’t consciously watch the hands, hand movements and facial expressions have quite some influence on memory formation. Sorry I can’t dig out a ref to back that up, but I know there’s some psychology experiments that show it quite strongly.

On the other hand (snare roll)…. having a lasting well recorded copy of the lecture has to be a boon for revision.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hand waving psychology

LOL you make it sound like we need hand movements and facial expressions to learn something. The more the internet is implemented in schools, the more learning will be easy.

Personally unless the class is just filled with hot girls I don’t really want to be there, and if I can listen to the class a couple times or read it quietly to myself then awesome. Honestly the whole school system needs a lot of work and this would be a step forward.

brad okdie says:

Re: Re: Hand waving psychology

No one is saying that visual input is necessary for memory production. All we are saying is that non verbal cues aid memory. Are they necessary component of memory formation?….NO. The argument is that we cannot discount other factors that may be involved when we immediately jump from one medium to the next. There are often times, unpredicted results.

Axis_full says:


I’ve been attending a school that offers online classes as part of its normal scheduling for a while now. The courses that are taught online are math (no it doesn’t work very well, recieved most student complaints), economics, and composition. Well it turns out that the school is now making the online classes optional and will start offering online and in house verrsions of each. This happened because of a 47% failure rate.

mamaphoenix says:

It works when proffs will still talk one on one

I have done the huge lecture thing and the online distance ed thing. I have even taken classes online and in class from the same proff. From good proffs, you still learn the same material online and in person, but you often miss the more human examples and more of their personal views on the subject. Lecture notes online tend to be terse. And recording takes time. But for those of us who are parents who have trouble getting a baby sitter and still want to take classes, online courses and info is a godsend.

Glen Moriarty (user link) says:

E-learning 2.0

As a quick example of e-learning 2.0, check out our Website ( We think of ourselves as a next generation platform provider that incorporates RSS, podcasting, blogging, chat, and social networking into the fabric of typical course management systems (e.g., Blackboard or WebCT).

I agree with many of the comments that distance learning has positives and negatives. We are in the process of developing a breeze like module that will address some of these issues (e.g., the ability to read the prof’s nonverbals). Many other companies are as well. I imagine e-learning will be pretty competitive/comparative with in class “brick and mortar” based learning in the next 5 or so years.

champlainer says:

online classes

I have had many online courses. I was able to do fine in all of them. it is just a matter of how much effort you’re willing to put in. My prof. would put podcasts of their lectures up and slide shows of their notes. I thought it was a great idea, didn’t have to waste time in a lecture, and could listen to the lectures when i wanted, as often as i wanted.

Dan McVeagh Jr. says:

Vista Elearning 2.0

Here’s a link on how microsoft plans to meet education objectives in community interaction, shared annotations, lifelong digital portfolios, licensed content, mobility, and digital media.

Students are able to comunicate easily with the professor and share documents with on the fly corrections and suggestions. This video show how to use the tablet pc to scribble equations that are then converted to text.

Higher Education 640×480

This page shows the higher education video and other fields:

Windows Vista Concept Videos

Erin says:

Tablet PCs ARE like Paper

I have a tablet PC and have lots of different programs on it that make it JUST LIKE WRITING ON PAPER…except on pc I can save it to disc or use a math program to convert it to TYPED text OR I could just save it in my own handwriting if it’s legible enough. Depending on how bad your handwriting is.

If I can write a handwritten note then why wouldn’t it be able to write equations?? It lets you draw pictures and sketches so what’s the difference?

If you know how to write an equation on paper then why couldn’t you write it on a tablet pc???

I do not understand the confusion about this.

A tablet is like paper but electronic instead.

Erin (user link) says:

Tablet PC demo

Tablet PC Home page:

By the way, you only need the math program if you want your handwriting converted to math symbols…. regular text or writing software doesn’t recognize the written symbols but since you like it handwritten anyway and can understand your own writing then why bother converting it anyway right?

You can’t TYPE out your equations with a pen & pencil either.

Barry (user link) says:

The way of the future

Instead of tired old lectures on bad days you will have the best lecture he’s ever given on the subject, more so because its recorded and is part of his legacy. You can start stop pause and rewind, and do so in your pjs at one in the afternoon or 2 in the morning. Or group together as a class or with your college buddies in the same curriculum.

Now the professor is free to outdo himself or find productive things to do with his time. Likely many colleges will tend to overwhelm their professors in an inane fear of not getting their monies worth rather than intelligently cultivating a staff that performs well, but the good outweighs the bad.

I have had a number of online courses and I hope this grows. It is the wave of the future; a lecture you can barely hear or understand can now become a learning experience.

Now what about rights, the college paid for the professor’s time, does the lecture follow the professor or does the lecture stay with the college? Interesting, lectures from a professor that passed away 20 years ago?

Tony says:

Re: The way of the future

At my last job the issue came up about “who owns a WebCT course” (when I was in IT (instuctional technology)? However, the way contracts are tradionally worded and since the concept of “licensing” has become a model for some industries, it seems to follow that faculty are paid to teach a number of credit hours (and yes other things, but to the student its the teaching that matters) and at the end of the year *poof* the teaching has been “consumed.”

Under this traditional contract system, the school should not own the course unless a particular arrangement has been made to keep/compenate the facult member for the course. But, you say, didn’t they pay the teacher to develop the course? Maybe.. maybe not. But even if they did, you get paid the same amount for a poorly developed course or a well-developed course. Over the long-run, a poorly done course could cost you in ratings and promotion, but over the course of a contract, it doesn’t matter.

If I have the ingenuity to create a well-done distance coruse, I should be able to “market” that course and get paid for its repetition WITH or WITHOUT me. Academias obsession with the business model should applaud and reward such behavior!

Mike says:

I'm working on an online degree

I’m working on an online degree at CTU Online (Colorado Technical University Online). Classes are taught over the web with downloadable lectures (no video yet). Lectures are given twice a week and students are welcome to attend by logging into the virtual classroom, but not required. Team assignments are part of the curriculum for every class, and nearly every other assignment is a group discussion effort. Questions, comments, and suggestions are handled through IM and email, and some professors even provide their cell numbers. The classes are accelerated, cramming 22 weeks down to an insane 5 and a half weeks. We are required to complete two assignments a week and we don’t have to take tests–the assignments are our tests.

If you’re a busy professional, stay at home mom, or someone just thinking about going back to school, consider an online university. I’m glad that I did.

dorpus says:

Re: Tablet PC usage

Every single comment I’ve read says that a tablet PC should be able to do it, or that it is capable of doing so. I have yet to read any comment that says people can write advanced math equations, with its many non-ASCII symbols, nested subscripts, simultaneous subscripts/superscripts, with the same ease as paper and pencil, just as quickly as paper and pencil.

diana says:

Re: Re: Tablet PC usage

well in that case why dont you just go to the store and try out a tablet pc to see if it can write your complex sub/superscript equations. Any online video demo of a tablet shows you how fast and simple it is. You have a stylus( pen) and the software, and you start writing. There is no delay, if you make a scratching motion over whatever you just wrote it erases and you can also select your equation/diagram/sketch/text and move it around. No one is going to post a screenshot here of what a tablet is capable of. If your so skeptical go look for demos of a tablet.

starless says:

Re: Re: Tablet PC usage

You’re missing the point.

As someone above already said, writing on a tablet is just like writing on paper”

You have your pen. You have your screen. You write on the screen just like you would write on paper. It’s that simple.

Yes it is capable, yes it works, because there is no handwriting recognition involved, it’s just like writing on paper.

Converting the handwritten notes and equations into “type” may be a different story, but what is the point if you can read your own handwriting?

I don’t know how to explain it any more succinctly, dorpus. When I say it’s “just like” I actually, literally mean exactly that.

dorpus says:

I have tried out these things in the past. In my experience, the machine was not able to distinguish between small subscripts and “scratching motions”.

My main point is that a tablet PC, even if it is advanced enough to understand the intricate equations I am writing, will tend to consume more of my attention than note-taking on paper. In class, I need to listen to the instructor as much as writing things down.

dorpus says:

Another simple mechanical point — all the tablet machines I have seen use styluses with tips that are as thick as a magic marker, or at best a very dull pencil. When I write these equations, I use a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil, because even 0.7mm is too thick.

Are there styluses that are 0.5 mm? I bet not, because it would 1. scratch the tablet, and 2. wear out quickly. By simple laws of mechanics, they would have to make a hard tablet surface that squeaks horribly, and a stylus whose sharp tip wears out quickly, so I would have to replace the stylus often. By then, maybe it is exactly like writing with paper and pencil anyway?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: dorpus

You write too small then. If you write bigger then that .7mm pencil works just fine. Its when you are trying to write small to begin with and then get smaller for the sub/super-scripts or anything else you may be writing. If you were to use a tablet, you wouldn’t run out of paper, so writing a bit bigger wouldn’t be much of a problem there. As for being able to write the math equations or anything else with symbols. Its not like on palms or similar devices with the handwriting recognition (graffiti), whatever mark you make, is what it records. If you screw up when writing one of your symbols, it records it the exact way you did it, screw up and all, and doesnt try to fit the closest thing to it. No one said you need to use a tablet, they just said its an option, and its an option that you dont seem to understand fully (or I could be wrong and you are just being difficult because you think its fun)

Anonymous Coward says:

Online classes for me will never hold vast amounts of respect. It says something about someone when they can devote an amount of thier life to go to college, as opposed to just taking a course online whenever, and in thier underwear. I understand the necesity for flexibility in some situations, see the hard-working parent trying to get a leg up in the world. As long as I am here at the physical university however, I would kindly appreciate it if all my professors at least acknowledged that by holding physical class times.

Jennifer says:

About damn time...

…someone realized the fallacy in lecture courses. I’ve had a couple of classes that were over the 200 marker in enrolled. It simply gets ridiculous to attempt to hold a discussion or ask a question. There is so much material to get through that they simply don’t have the time. Not to mention the fact that the professors are frequently ignorant of web-based technologies that could assist in keeping the class more personal.

Probably some of my best classes were web-based classes with the OPTION of a lecture segment or one-on-one meetings. I got answers to each and every one of my questions, I could recieve extra resources through email (namely due to the large amount of material that my university has available as PDFs and electronic documents), and I could even request meetings and such with the ease of clicking a button.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tablets are better than paper

As someone who doesn’t internalize concepts very well from live lectures, I definitely favor online lectures because it allows you to watch things again when you don’t understand. But since my school doesn’t have much of that yet, my tablet has helped me enormously in class.

Just like everyone else who actually uses a tablet, I don’t understand the confusion. People behind me in class will often comment on how amazing it is. When you use it enough, it actually becomes far more efficient than paper.

I am a computer science student, so I bought the tablet because I like electronic notes but obviously can’t type diagrams and math equations. So now I hand write them on my computer. It’s just like paper, except I never run out of space. When I reach the end of a page, I scroll down and keep writing. When I make a mistake I don’t have to fumble with a pencil to erase, I just scratch it out to erase and keep going. One tap changes the pen color to make sidenotes or emphasize a point–plus you can customize the pen size. Still not small enough for you? Zoom in the page and write–when you zoom out it will be nice and small. Too small now? Select and drag to enlarge it. And if I realize that I want my diagram somewhere else, I select what I want and move the entire thing. You can’t reorganize the placement of your writing on paper. Plus, when professors post notes online before class I can print them to OneNote and write on top of them. It’s fantastic, and easy! And the most helpful feature for me is that during class, I use OneNote to record the lecture and write at the same time. If I’m studying and don’t understand what I wrote, I click next to it and listen to what the professor said at the time I wrote it.

Granted there are still drawbacks like battery and memory limitations, but having all my notes in one place, organized and printable with recorded lectures…it’s absolutely been worth every penny, best thing I’ve ever bought.

boris says:

Yes. I’m sure tablet pcs work just like pen and paper, however, if you’re in college, chances are you won’t have the money (or the need, honestly) for a tablet pc! Why any sane student would spends hundreds of dollars just so he can write on something heavier, more time consuming, more battery consuming, and harder to write on (yes, it is harder, an lcd screen is far from having the same feel and texture of paper) than a piece of paper with a pen/pencil is beyond me.

Tablet PCs are gimmicks. They’re supposed to replace something they will never come close to replacing (paper), and at the same time immitate something else they will never successfully immitate (a pc). They’re for spoiled brats, businessmen who like to rub their success in everyone’s face, and people who need to have the newest technology and gimmicks when they come out, regardless of if they have any use for them.

OpheliaAwakens says:

Re: Tablet PC

I have a tablet PC and have been using it successfully in college for a year and a half now. I bought it when my old laptop didn’t have the processing power I needed to do my computer science work. I keep a pad of paper and writing utensil in my bag, as back up, but I have succeeded in going paperless. I download my readings and send them to OneNote so I highlight and mark up papers just as I would if I had a paper copy. I don’t have to keep notebooks of all of the background material I need to read in grad school and they are always accessible. It has a full size keyboard and a graphics card that lets me program anything I need to do. Naturally, I don’t program in tablet mode, I program in laptop mode. My tablet is also insanely lighter than my old computer and much lighter than carrying tons of binders for my classes.

Tablet PCs cost the same as a laptop and have much more functionality, I had a four hour block of classes this last semester and I never ran out of battery power, I just put the computer on the highest power saving setting.

Oh and I bought this computer with a scholarship, not from my parents.

jon says:

Re: Tablet PC Is Just Like Paper / SL E-Learning

/*I played with a Tablet PC in a store recently, and cannot understand all the confusion. You write on it. That’s the end of the story. You can have it recognize your writing if you want, but if you’re going for the “exactly like written on paper” thing then, well, you can just write on it.

More importantly, to the dolt who said it didn’t feel like paper: Tablet PC screens are NOT standard LCDs. They are solid and no amount of pushing on it will cause the colors to distort. Furthermore, they’re covered with a clear polymer coating that, in conjunction with the tip of the stylus (which is actually quite fine, and rounded like a ball-point pen), feels EXACTLY like paper.

The drawbacks? You can’t fold a Tablet PC into an airplane… Um… And of course the price point is high.

The battery life is, of course, an issue. But it’s a moot issue. An average Tablet PC will get you through a day of notes plus some without charging. And if you’re that concerned about it, well, you can stick with your paper. Or, you could try to find a seat near an outlet. Or you can do e-learning from your desktop.

This whole thing has, however, gotten away from the point of this post. E-learning is exciting for me, as I’m unfortunately geographically bound. Second Life, an online virtual world of sorts, is already becoming a place of e-learning, for topics relevant to Second Life, anyway. People are slowly introducing various classes on real-world topics, from Java programming to “knitting 101″… I can see SL universities in the hopefully-not-too-distant future.

End comment. */

PC University Grad Student says:

Sounds good to me!

The advantages to this delivery are numerous for those who have the discipline to work and learn on their own. As someone who is pursuing an on-line master’s degree, I prefer this format to the traditional lecture. Students wishing to ask questions must form their questions well and nobody will drag the class back by constantly asking, “Could you repeat that?” Brilliant.

Operator says:

Boris says: Tablet PCs are gimmicks. They’re supposed to replace something they will never come close to replacing (paper), and at the same time immitate something else they will never successfully immitate (a pc). They’re for spoiled brats, businessmen who like to rub their success in everyone’s face, and people who need to have the newest technology and gimmicks when they come out, regardless of if they have any use for them.

Boris I work in a power plant. I have access to thousands of procedures. I have the ability to place-keep and to refer to other procedures. I can look up diagrams and schematics. The data I record can be instantly checked for accuracy. I can perform all of these functions without carrying a room full of books (which I hope are up to date). I can be out in the plant and have all of the experience I possess along with all of the references I need to make the most informed decision. Boris I use a tablet PC everyday and I never want to go back to the limitations of paper. I am a little spoiled after experiencing how technology can benefit us all.

Mike says:

online education and the hearing inparied

Anonymous Coward, you asked how instructors deal with the hearing impaired? Well, in the virutual classroom, they have access to a whiteboard, instant messaging, and live chat capabilities. If that isn’t enough, the university automatically transcribes all lectures for later reference. But not all online universities are exactly the same. Some organizations don’t provide some of these skills and abilities

Mike says:

one more thing

For a blog that pertains to the merits of online education, it seems the topic has been hijacked by tablet pc jihadists.

No offense, but tablet pcs are mere tools, like hammers. There is often a learning curve involved in using new tools. If you’ve never used a hammer before, it may take time and a little practice before you can start pounding nails like a champ. Well, the more complicated the tool, the longer the learning curve. And, tablets are complicated tools to say the least. It may take a while before all of the intracies and procedures involved in the effective use of a tablet becomes second nature, but with sufficient practice it can be. Just look at typing as an example. When I first began typing, it was a painful and slow process. But with practice, hardwork, and dedication, I am now proud to state that I can type in excess of 80 words a minute. In most cases, I can type faster than my instructors can lecture.

Personally, I do not have a tablet, but look forward to getting one. I know that it will take some time before i am proficient in its use, but I also realize that if I want it, I can use that tool better and faster than the archaic pen and pencil.

bshock says:

I can see a certain utility to this. However, answering questions via text messaging or email seems less than optimally productive. It would probably be better to use a Web-based forum for questions, such that all students could learn from the questions of others.

Most online universities already use this method. Having “attended” online universities, I consider most of them rubbish, designed as money mills for large corporations like Apollo College. However, they needn’t be a waste, if designed properly.

Stefano (user link) says:

This seems like a good idea for subjects such as 1st year Law modules, or even Second Law year modules. I can imagine it being to the advantage of the students. Especially with law, where one needs to listen carefully to what is said, and in a classroom environment, one cannot do this. Another downside to the classroom for a law student is that the messages is only relayed once. Where as, with a podcast, the student can replay the message however many times he/she wishes to do so.

There are many course like this, for which this method of teaching makes perfect sense.

That aside, one of my majors is economics. This would work for economics, but would be more timely than a normal lecture. All the graphs would be in the textbook, and the podcast would be on yout digital player. There would be a hell of a lot of refferals by the lecturer to the student, which would me more time consuming that an ordinary lecture.

I think a system like this would work for certain subjects, even certain courses, but i don’t see the classroom environment being replaced entirely by this method.

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