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Teaching Spaces

Teaching Spaces

This is not one of my usual categories, but it may be time for some radical proposals, based on things we already know.

To wit, a number of faculty are already usefully combining class sessions with online, in hybrid offerings that, properly arranged (and this is a registrar challenge in part) can relieve pressure on classroom spaces.

To wit, many of us increasingly believe that there’s no reason to lecture much anymore. A good lecture, if useful, can be videotaped. To be sure, physical presence may count for something, but this is an electronic age, kids attach to people they never see, and questions can be handled through email. So: let’s be even more active than we now are in “capturing lectures” and rearranging faculty and student schedules accordingly.

To wit, the most popular kind of classroom is increasingly becoming, and should become, not only technology rich but also flexible, to encourage maximum participation. Students and instructors should be able to regroup, move around. These classrooms are great, but they are larger and more expensive than the conventional offering, which raises important challenges for funding. (Note to critics of University spending, I’m talking about better learning, not climbing walls.) We will or should have more demand for these kinds of classrooms than we will have supply.

Which brings to the final point: tight state budgets may be easing a bit, but for those of us in public universities it may become harder and harder to get capital financing, even in states that are urging us to expand enrollments. We got a signal of this sort from our state officials recently.

So: we may need to shake things up even further, while of course seeking private support for some attractive capital additions. We may need to rethink weekly schedules, with say one session in a  premium classroom and the other handled either online or in a more conventional setting, possibly with some captured lectures thrown in that can be watched anywhere. Revisions of this sort will be challenging for faculty where we may have to learn to calculate effective encounters with students differently, and for students as well, who will have less routine schedules. They will call for much more active and innovative Registrars, and we may need a bit of a new breed here (and probably more staffing, not less, as we seek to save money on space itself). But my honest guess is that some complications of this sort are an essential part of our future, as we take advantage of new knowledge about effective teaching, but also ration around new resource constraints for an increasingly expensive good.