Podcasts and wikis turn cafes into lecture halls

פורסם: 16 בפבר׳ 2011, 4:18 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 16 בפבר׳ 2011, 4:26 ]
Natalie Craig
April 11, 2010

Monash University economics-law student Evelyn Young enjoys a coffee while listening to lectures downloaded on to her laptop.

Monash University economics-law student Evelyn Young enjoys a coffee while listening to lectures downloaded on to her laptop. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Many university students are using new technology to catch up on missed lectures.

FIRST-YEAR tertiary students are spending less time on campus and more time online, as podcasts of lectures become increasingly common.

Three out of four students use podcasts of lectures and a third believe online lecture materials can be a replacement for attending classes, according to the nationwide survey of 2422 first-year students by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne.

Students spent an average of four days a week on campus in 2009, compared with 4.4 days a week in 1994.

They were studying online for 6.5 hours a week, compared with 4.2 hours in 2004 (the earliest online study data available).

Better computer access and an increase in students' work commitments had fuelled the changes, centre director Richard James said.

While students believed online lecture notes could be a replacement for attending classes, he said there was no evidence to suggest that they routinely did that.

''Student engagement is multifaceted and not necessarily indicated by the time spent on campus … For most students, e-learning complements, but does not replace, face-to-face classes,'' he said.

Universities cannot force students to attend lectures, although some tutorials carry a ''participation'' mark.

Many warn students that lecture recordings are not a substitute for attendance, and are designed for revision only.

But while academics and students say attendance at lectures is declining in all year levels, universities say study patterns are more nuanced as students use technology to complement traditional teaching methods.

Monash University has this year added visual content to audio recordings of lectures - with the potential for more than 1 million downloads a week.

Pro-vice-chancellor Marnie Hughes Warrington said that while physical attendance at lectures could be declining, the system had increased participation overall, with students using the technology in different ways.

''Mature-age students listen to the lectures multiple times for reassurance, while students with family commitments now have access to university study … For some, listening to lectures in another space, like a library, where you're next to other people doing the same thing, is understood by some people as being in a lecture in some way.''

Evelyn Young, a fourth-year economics and law student at Monash University, listens to all her lectures online at home, and says she learns best by meticulously transcribing notes.

''It helps me absorb the information better. It takes, like, five hours to type a two-hour lecture but I generally break for coffee,'' she said.

She rents in Glen Waverley and works 25 hours a week as a sales assistant. Her grades are good and she emails any queries to her lecturers. But they would like to see more of her.

Last year, her international law lecturer threatened to turn off the audio-recorder at crucial moments. ''He hated the recording system and he warned us, 'Sometimes I'll just turn it off if I'm going to say something important' … He thought it was bad for us.''

But e-learning technology could be vital to the survival of universities. The federal government has promised funding to universities to increase participation of people from non-traditional backgrounds, so that 40 per cent of the population has a degree by 2025.

Online access to lectures, tutorial discussions and readings is already allowing regional students and those with family commitments a chance to study.

La Trobe University is overcoming the tyranny of distance for remote students of teaching, who are part of a pilot program using iPod Touch to create a ''virtual classroom'' off campus.

Deakin lecturer Paul Nicholson is teaching a course to students at the Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool campuses called ''creating effective learning environments''. There are no physical lectures.

''It's a mediaeval technology, the lecture, and it's so inefficient,'' he said. The cross-campus course instead uses online materials, podcasts and a collaborative ''wiki'' website.

Universities, once the gatekeepers of knowledge, are now disseminating free information online on sites such as iTunes U and Academic Earth.

So why bother going to campus - and why bother paying? ''Students are continually telling us … there's a sea of information out there. I need somebody to guide me through it,'' RMIT deputy vice-chancellor Professor Reid said.

And if students still stay away? ''Good teachers will always attract a crowd.''

Source: theage.com.au

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Podcasts and Wikis turn Cafes into lecture halls