Organisation - January 17, 2013

'Lectures are old hat'

Jan Derksen, professor of clinical psychology at Nijmegen, is fed up with students 'surfing, yawning, eating and chatting'. In Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant he argued for online lectures because forcing students to listen is out of date. 'Give students the freedom to follow their own interests.'

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Text: Jeroen Bok, Albert Sikkema and Rob Ramaker  
Remo van Tilburg
First-year, Soil, Water and Atmosphere
'It's true that lectures are a rather old-fashioned method. The new media have taken over and you could really quite easily study at home. I just sit in lectures literally copying everything down. And I can concentrate much better at home than in lectures. But you end up going because you feel a kind of duty to show up. You need to be motivated and sometimes that motivation is there, and sometimes it isn't.'
Gosse Schraa
Lecturer in Microbiology, Teacher of the Year in 2004
'I don't agree. I have just given a lecture to more than one hundred first-year students. There were quite a few drinking during the lecture and some students had their laptops or iPads with them but it was very quiet and they were interested in the material. What you say needs to be good and you have to be able to get it across well.  My lectures are recorded so the students can refer to them again online. But internet lectures are not a good alternative, for one thing because then a student won't see what concerns other students have. A live lecture is also a means of getting students enthusiastic about your subject. If you can't manage that, you shouldn't be in this job.'
Eliana de Cuba
Second-year, Food Technology
'Lectures are often worthwhile, provided you take notes. I know a lot of people too who just sit there staring like a zombie so I imagine they can't be taking much in. I do feel it would be good to make more material available on the internet because then everyone could find their own way of studying. That really is more modern -  we no longer have to stick to the "teacher at the front of the classroom" approach.'
Michèle Gimbrère
Distance Learning project manager
'In the Distance Learning project group we are currently developing two MSc programmes that you'll be able to do via the internet. Students will only need to be in Wageningen for four weeks of the year. We don't use the entire fifty minutes of a recorded lecture, we use knowledge clips instead: a ten-minute video followed by exercises. I understand Professor Derksen's problem; especially in lectures for large groups you are likely to get students who don't pay attention or are distracted. But a university still has a duty to inspire students and help them study. Lectures by inspiring lecturers are one approach but there are other ways too. We need to find the ideal mix.'
Margret Wenker
Third-year, Animal Sciences
'I don't agree. I actually think they are incredibly useful because going to lectures keeps you actively involved. Other-wise you're just slouched in front of the computer at home, doing hundreds of other things at the same time. In lectures you are forced to listen to the material and you can ask questions at once if you want. It's very useful because it gives you a good overview of the subject. I can imagine lecturers get discouraged if everyone is playing with their smartphones and laptops but I think most students get an awful lot from lectures. People who are not really motivated don't go to lectures in the first place.'
Arjaan Pellis
Study adviser for Master's in Leisure, Tourism and Environment
'I have my doubts about the benefit of standard lectures. They are a passive form of learning where students don't absorb the material effectively. I much prefer interactive methods that demand more initiative. You should make students think for themselves about complex issues. Another objection is that lectures only take place in lecture rooms whereas Wageningen degrees are all about improving the quality of life. I would give more lectures on site, especially in the social sciences. You shouldn't just talk from books, you should also talk with people in the field. That's more interactive and more inspiring.'
Soline de Jong
Third-year, Communication Sciences
'I think it would be better to look at how lectures are given rather than just saying lectures are old fashioned. For example, I took a course with two different professors. I found one of them fantastic to listen to, while the other one was terrible. A subject may be interesting but can still be presented in such a manner that I lose interest anyway. But abolish lectures? What would the alternative be? If you had to learn everything
on the internet you might as well do an LOI course.'  

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