College students have spoken and lecture-based learning is prehistoric. An emerging trend on which colleges are reporting solid success rates is lecture-free classes. This approach to learning is being designed to promote deeper student learning, collaborative learning, skilled communication, self-managed learning, and cross-disciplinary and technology-enhanced coursework. Lecture-free classes are a response to growing criticism of the traditional, often passive lecture-based college classes which some educators say are a turn-off to students, leading to aggravation and poor grades.
This emerging approach is causing a disruptive change in the traditional approach to teaching/lecturing. At the core of this approach is encouraging students to work on “real life” problems and issues. The coursework is collaborative, group-based and utilizes highly interactive technology that allows for 24/7 remote learning, which increases student engagement. Through the use of mobile technology, students have access to their courses and their group members 24/7. These seemingly opposing forces (independent digital learning and collaborative engaging technology), are operating in concert with each other to facilitate critical thinking and problem-solving.
What is drastically different about these emerging trends in education is that they are being driven in many cases by the user (tech-savvy students). It will soon become a basic expectation rather than a competitive advantage to offer classes in this mode. Additional characteristics of this “Curriculum for the 21st Century” are:
1. Flipped Classroom/Problem-Project-Issue Based. Class time is spent in application, evaluation, and debate around group problem-solving processes, not content. Faculty will utilize “lecture capture” to video lectures or narrate PowerPoint presentations, which will be archived and available to students 24/7 for purposes of “content delivery.” One of the many benefits to this approach is that students can view these resources whenever and as many times as they want.
2. Mobile/tablet-based learning. A major component of this learning approach is to make the courses available 24/7. This involves utilizing mobile devices. A staggering statistic shows that as of Dec. 31, 2012, 85 million iPads were sold. Conservative projections have 377 million being sold by 2016. Additionally, 83 percent of incoming freshman in the fall of 2012 had some type of Internet-enabled mobile device. Mobile devices will be provided for those students who do not have one.
3. This curriculum will be delivered via Learner Relationship Management (LRM), which will provide:
• Lecture capture and video downloading.
• Classroom time that is problem-, project- and application-based.
• Shared digital space for remote collaboration/sharing that is available 24/7.
• Emerging and enhanced one-click digital tools for easy connectivity and communication with classmates, professors, professional networks and social media. Use of Skype/Jabber, etc.
• Renewed interest in informal learning.
• E-books, which are emerging and inevitable as the standard textbook platform. E-Books are much more than a digital textbook. They are evolving into highly interactive communication systems.
The role of the teacher is changing
Professors will not utilize classroom time lecturing from a PowerPoint presentation or developing structured, content-laden lecture outlines. Professors will instead be focused on creating student activities that address real problems, projects or themes that require critical and creative thinking. Professors will guide students to research and fully utilize outside resources. Students will come to class with questions based on content that they have already wrestled with through outside homework, archived lectures, PowerPoint presentations, on-line discussions, independent research, social media and other paths. Class time will be spent:
In this model for the 21st century, professors will:
• Provide learning activities for discovery learning.
• Guide students to understand the process of independent learning.
• Create roadmaps for navigating emerging technologies.
• Foster information and effectively utilize digital literacy.
• Evaluate the different levels of student competencies and foundation knowledge by using learning analytics.
Expectations of student responsibilities are changing
Time outside the classroom will be spent learning content for thoughtful participation in classroom discussions. Service learning projects will supplement classroom experiences. Technology is embedded in all aspects of the learning process and its utilization is understood. Students have access to 24/7 on-demand learning activities and are expected to bring and utilize their own technology. Final projects may be in the format of collaborative projects, website creation, blogs and YouTube.
Students will learn how to communicate effectively, think critically, locate reputable sources of information to support arguments, analyze situations and create solutions to problems. Regardless of major, the refining of these skills as a result of this teaching model will prepare students for success in any real-world experience.
Michael Carroll, Ph.D, is the dean of Benedictine University at Mesa.