When i was at university, you had lectures, delivered for an hour, then seminars to follow up, of a similar length. Sometimes the lectures were delivered by dry and dusty professors, sometimes by energised and experienced guests, and sometimes those characteristics were reversed, but it was a predictable learning experience.
Tomorrow, i’m delivering the first full lecture i’ve done for a few years, which led me to wonder if the method is still going strong, or if i’m heading on a hiding to nowhere. There’s no doubt that since i last was on the receiving end of a lecture, things have moved on significantly. Distance learning, online course materials (including videos of those lectures), podcasts (and vidcasts), interactive modules: the range and breadth of media is almost endless, yet within that pantheon, is there still space for the humble lecture?
Indeed, i almost forget that my last Masters degree had no lectures whatsoever, being entirely conducted in the online space, through a forum, by a dozen engaged individuals. Today, learning feels more immediate, more choppy, broken down into a hundred chunks and inevitably involving a screen. Indeed, i may have been slightly disingenuous saying that i’m delivering a lecture, because it’s actually delivered online, and so firmly embedded in the virtual world, but it is, nonetheless, a 45 minute monologue, and one for which i feel somewhat underprepared.
You see, i’m concerned not that the media of delivery have changed, but more that the learners may have changed. I’ve never had to face an audience who are probably checking their Facebook, clearing their emails and, quite possibly, booking a holiday whilst i talk before.
There is a certain elegant form to the lecture, the chance to tell a mid length story. It’s more involved than the Tweeted soundbites that form so much of our online experience, and yet significantly shorter than a book. It gives the space to take the learner on a journey, but it’s longer than you can just wing.
So much of the content we consume today is rehashed, reworked, hyperlinked and blogged that it feels almost luxurious to be able to dedicate such a chunk of time to a single subject, with original content and the chance to explore it in depth.
Well, for better or for worse, i’m committed now, so only time will tell where i end up on the dry and dusty or energised and engaged spectrum.