The Covid-19 virus has forced colleges and universities to move instruction from the lecture hall to videoconferencing. The change is an opportunity to compare the two approaches to student learning (“School’s Out for the Coronavirus,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 18).
I realize that what students learn is not limited solely to what their professors lecture about. Often it’s the interaction in dorms and elsewhere on campus that is equally valuable. But in today’s obsession with measurable outcomes, there is no substitute for subject matter knowledge.
That’s why I wonder if online instruction is not as successful as traditional instruction. In fact, it may prove to be even more so in the final analysis because lecturing is the least effective way of teaching. I say that since students sit passively while their professors talk at them. Online learning, in contrast, engages students by requiring them to make active responses.
Only by comparing outcomes between the two approaches can the issue be settled. But tradition dies hard in academe, which is why I doubt anything substantial will change.
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