Higher and Further Education – Education versus Learning

As mentioned in my previous post on At MIT Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard , there is a trend in shifting from large lecture to small class with interactive and collaborative learning  among Higher Education Institutions.  This is really a good move from teacher – centered towards a more student – centered learning approach.

However, such an approach also carries some implications.  For those elite and gifted students who prefer exploring on their own rather than attending lessons, what could the Universities do about it?  These students could still be bored by the “easy” tasks of clicking the answers or discussing with their peer students.  Would more challenging tasks in the form of problem-based tasks or collaborative tasks requiring team work be alternatives?  And for those weaker students who have trouble getting the right answers with the clickers, how could they be helped out in the learning process?   Would one-on-one or one-on-few mentoring or peer teaching be an alternative?

In small class discussion, learning with peer students will only be helpful if the peers have also acquired significant experience in the areas.  Otherwise, some of the students may think it to be a waste of time by checking the answers during a session.  Some students really expect to learn directly from the professors, as they perceive that they pay heavy fees to attend the “lectures” delivered by the prestigious scholars.  So, how would an educator strike a balance between giving a lecture against small group work or discussion?  Would a combination of lectures and group discussion help?

Besides, deep learning requires time for personal reflection and application, meaning that simple clicking of the right answer to multiple choice is not good enough.  More thorough discussion in forum or blogs would help most learners in sharing and contributing to emergent knowledge.

Would a review of major teaching and learning techniques be necessary to move this agenda forward?

For educators and learners in Higher and Further Education, here are some of the major methodologies that could be considered for training, learning and development:

Group Discussion/Development MethodsConference, Forum, Symposium, Workshop, Social Networking/Education (Facebook, Ning, Wikis, edublogs), Community of Practice

Group Participation Techniques  – The Case Study, Brainstorming, The In-Basket Exercise, Role Playing,  Games, Laboratory Training

Information Presentation TechniquesLecture, Video lecture, Slide (Powerpoint, Slideshare) Presentation, Videos (YouTube, Myspace, Vimeo)

Individual Development MethodsIndividual Development Plans, Correspondence, distance learning, e-learning, Reading List, Self-Paced Instruction, Job Rotation, Coaching, e-Mentoring, Planned Experiences, blogging, Delicious

So, would educators (professors, lecturers, teachers, education technology/instructional designers) and administrators be re-thinking about how the Learning Management System and Personal Learning Environment (Space and Tools) could  best be used to suit each learner’s needs, under different context (i.e.  learning ecology).   This may require an understanding of the paradigm shift of teacher-centered to learner-centered in a practical sense, not another theoretical approach.  Otherwise, it would just be like a pendulum swinging from teaching to learning and then back to teaching.

Nevertheless, I still reckon that some of the traditional teaching techniques and methods are still relevant in today’s learning environment, especially when young novice learners have only been exposed to a handful of learning techniques in the first year of studies.  Again, it is imperative to weigh the merits and demerits of using each of those “teaching” techniques in the learning process, so as to ensure the learner’s needs are met. 

In summary, formal education and informal learning methodologies need to be considered in its own merits throughout ones learning journey.  A reflection of learning styles and an understanding and practice of those techniques mentioned will help a learner in choosing the most appropriate form of learning.

Who determines and controls the learning?    Who will evaluate the learning?  Will it be the learner(s)?  Will it be in the form of a network of learners?