On the 29th of July, the Australian National University held a panel to discuss a revision of traditional lecture formats. The panelists featured included Professor Sanjay Sarma, Director of Digital Learning at MIT; Dr. Joe Hope from the Physics Education Centre at ANU; Laura Wey, Education Officer at ANUSA; and Caitlin, a high-school student from Canberra. The panel was chaired by ABC 666 Mornings Presenter, Genevieve Jacobs.

There was no balance on the panel in the form of an alternative viewpoint. There was a single message: technology is breaking open traditional methods of delivering information. The impetus behind a shift to online learning is assumedly to improve student engagement.

However, there is a very real danger that investing in MOOCs will result in a shift to move everything online. There is a clear fiscal benefit to the university in the long-term to invest in digital learning that can be recorded once and presented repeatedly instead of investing in infrastructure and staffing.

Sarma commented that it might be “tempting for universities to take away face-time” and that it was “something we had to watch out for.”

There were two main issues raised by the audience during question time. First, the drop-out rates were a smoking gun, with even Education Officer, Laura Wey, declaring that she enrolled in a Edx course “purely for [her] position” only to then drop it.

Second, an equity issue was raised, in that students without the resources to access digital learning would be excluded from the process due to an unfair cost imposed upon them.  Adding to the question of resource inefficiency, Jacobs asked the panel about ANU’s transition to a “user-pays” model and the impact that the digital learning model would have. 

Both the President of ANUSA and PARSA were in attendance. 

Blow Up The Lecture can be viewed again at: http://canberralive.act.gov.au/events/event/blow-up-the-lecture/.