Saturday, 1 January 2011

Reflecting on a workshop session I attended at a university

My reflection is on a workshop that I attended at a university. I suggest that technology could provide an increase in class size for Further Education (FE) colleges and reduce barriers to learning by providing access to a 'live' lecture from various locations. I would be very interested in comments on this reflection, especially those that address quality in terms of presentation, interaction, bi-directional feedback and post lecture support.

The workshop session “In conversation with... Personal experiences of teaching at [name withheld]” was a very informative session which allowed me to hear first-hand what it is like to teach at an university. I found that the very large increase in class size and the method of providing a Graduate Training Assistance (GTA) to provide small group tutorials or follow up laboratory work to be a major difference between FE and Higher Education (HE) methods of learning and teaching. While reflecting on this method of learning and teaching I posed myself the question... could this be provided by a FE college?

I do believe it is possible to have large classes of students learning core subjects such as mathematics and to provide the opportunity to have tutorials that will contextualize the subject to the students' own specialism. And this does happen in some curriculum areas but the class numbers will be in the tens, not the hundred or so (in some cases hundreds) that can be found in universities. To reach the numbers mentioned, curriculum areas will need to work closer together to obtain the class sizes in the hundreds. If this was achieved there could be an infrastructure design issue... many colleges do not have rooms designed for that number of students.

On further reflection there may be a technology solution... the lecture could be streamed to a number of classrooms and displayed on a screen at the front of the room. Student feedback could be obtained through the use of services such as Twitter or Textwall and displayed for the tutor and students to see and respond as appropriate. This could be taken one step further by streaming it to students' at home and therefore making a truly (inter)national course. The video stream could be recorded and made available to the students for revision or to provide an opportunity for learning if they were unable to attend the live session.

Thank you in advance for your comments.