Boring University Lectures are Doomed

Or so says Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia in a BBC News article.

“I think that the impact is going to be massive and transformative,” says Mr Wales, describing the importance of the MOOCs (massive open online courses) that have signed up millions of students.

“It’s also been slower than anyone would have anticipated. But I’m not a person who thinks that people will be able to just go online and get a complete education without the guidance of the teacher. That sort of simplistic model shouldn’t be our framework.”

Instead he thinks that universities need to use online technology where it really works

This is a slightly less hyped view that we usually see from the technological gurus of our age – all of a sudden the MOOC might not be about to consume all that is in its path, and the guidance of a teacher is again needed.


Mind you he does say:

from his own experience as a student, the traditional university lecture should have been condemned decades ago and replaced with an online video recording that can be stopped and started.

Knowing what we know of lectures – no-one is listening after 15 minutes, the students get bored, the staff sometimes are bored, we really should start to question how the relatively simple technologies that the MOOC companies are using could be used to enhance on campus teaching.

For instance, using the video lecture to transmit information, and using staff for the more valuable tutorials or seminars that students so badly need?

For instance, recruiting lecturers to create videos who have the presence and skill to deliver material?

For instance rethinking the way in which we design modules? The way in which we design the physical estate? The way in which the academic year works? Do students even need to attend for all of their modules in every year? Is there a way in which by changing the learning and teaching environment and pedagogy we could massively improve the outcomes for students?

Obviously if I had all the answers, I wouldn’t be asking the questions. But these are the kind of questions we might want to think about asking in the very near future.

And as for the lecture? It’s probaby time to get rid of the boring ones. Let’s work out why and when we need to lecture to people.

One thought on “Boring University Lectures are Doomed

  1. Indeed – some good point and food for thought here Mike.

    Your last sentence on boring lectures will be ever more applicable when students are paying a fortune to sit in lectures. But what do we do with boring lecturers….?

    Thomas Baker
    University of Hertfordshire

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