[iDC] Why do we need physical campuses?

Michael H Goldhaber michael at goldhaber.org
Thu Jun 10 22:12:36 UTC 2010

It might be worth stepping back for a moment to consider the historical context of learning and teaching. The lecture of course began as simple reading of books or notes not available to students (before printing) , and many have questioned why the practice survived five centuries into the age of printing. No doubt tradition and guild-like status preservation played major roles, but so I suspect did the benefits  communal experiencing. Even such  simple acts as students commenting or complaining together on leaving the class might add greatly to learning. Learning hardly works if it is simply passive or simply memorization. Getting one's mind around a subject absent informal modes of wrestling with it that student-student as well as student-teacher  dialogue make possible is certainly far more difficult than with such opportunities. This, plus friendships formed and sustained in physical proximity in a variety of activities, probably still make learning on a campus far more valuable than pure Internet courses, though the latter are certainly better than no formal learning and teaching at all. 

On Jun 10, 2010, at 10:37 AM, Stian Håklev wrote:

> Absolutely, there is huge potential value to the physical learning environment. However, the problem is that right now, that is often not exploited very well. Most of my undergrad consisted of sitting in a lecture theatre with 300 others, listening to a lecture for three hours. That is not a good use of my time, and not something that offers fundamentally better value than online (in fact, online would probably be superior in this case).
> Ottonomy made some great comments in his review of Anya Kamenetz' DIY U: 
> The university felt inefficient to me because it didn’t quite get me and my classmates to the level of “deep” learning that I wanted. My classes were more surveys than deep analysis. We rarely got past figuring out what authors were saying about a particular topic, as we usually had more readings assigned than a couple days of class discussions  a week could cover and usually more than a students could manage to carefully digest on their own. The other elements of the inefficiency I felt are in the artifacts and networks my classmates and I created. We each wrote dozens of papers over the years, but I don’t now have access to any of the insights other students’ gained that they didn’t mention in discussion. As I mentioned in my chapter 3 comments, the box of notebooks I have in the garage is a pretty poor artifact of learning itself. Its contents need weeks of effort to turn into something that I could share with somebody else. I want an educational network that builds knowledge together, not focused into our own notebooks and papers that only our professor will ever read. And I regret not taking the efforts necessary to ensure my learning networks would continue after the end of a particular class. To me, successful transformation of this experience means better learning for individuals and better collaboration for groups to get even undergrads to the deep analysis that the valuable curation of perspectives makes possible.
> Professors spend a lot of their effort designing courses to curate up interesting analysis and comparison of high quality scholarship, but the execution is weakened by this inefficiency. Students can’t get as deep into comparing these perspectives as their professors wish they could. Class networks are limited in space and time by the present pedagogy, but they do not need to be. Outside institutions, learning networks grow and decay organically as individuals’ interest in a topic develops.
> (http://ottonomy.net/2010/06/book-review-diy-u-by-anya-kamenetz/)
> Basically, I think that both universities (and conferences) should think about what are the things that are best done offline, face to face... things like experiential learning, group discussions, hands-on experiments, excursions, embodied learning, socialization... and what is best done online (watching three hour lectures, for example).
> Stian
> -- 
> http://reganmian.net/blog -- Random Stuff that Matters
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