Why should a teacher force chattering students who are on facebook during lectures to listen? Two weeks ago, professor Jan Derksen from Nijmegen argued in favor of online lectures. This week EUR-students and –teachers give their opinion on the future of traditional lectures.
Niall Deasy, IBA student and member of the RSM Faculty Council, is afraid online lectures would mean the end of student life as we know it. “The value of a university degree lies also in the personal development and acquisition of fresh talents.”
During the Christmas break an article by Professor Jan Derksen from the Radboud University in Nijmegen about only holding online lectures, instead of “old fashioned” plenary lectures, stirred up quite a debate. According to Derksen, students nowadays don’t pay attention during lectures and instead surf the web, talk to each other, eat or drink. He argues that university should do away with compulsory attendance and let the student be free to chase their own interests.
In general Derksen raises some good points. I certainly agree that lecture attendance should not be made compulsory. First of all, students less interested in the subject aren’t forced to sit in a lecture room together with students who want to pay attention. They will ultimately only be a nuisance to the professors and the motivated students. On top of that I also agree that students should not be treated like school children. If universities become too similar to schools, with mandatory attendance, step-by-step help along the way and explicit learning goals, as described by Derksen, then the individual development of the students will suffer and they will not accept responsibility for their own actions.
On the other hand, moving lectures online is not a solution in my opinion. Many students are motivated and interested in their subjects and do want to attend classes. Holding lectures online would virtually reduce all interaction between professors and (interested) students and also remove oral academic discourse, one of the most important features of studying at a university.
The biggest consequence though would be that Derksen’s proposition would mean the end of student life as we know it today. Why bother moving out of your home town to a university city if the lectures are only online anyways? A student’s chances of gaining new abilities and the chance to meet new people in an academic setting would be virtually reduced to zero. Currently the amount of possibilities to do this is almost endless. Whether students join a study or a student association, a sports club or one of the many other societies, there are countless ways students can enhance their skill set and expand their horizons beyond the knowledge acquired in the lectures. The value of a university degree in my opinion lies not only in the knowledge gained in class but also in the personal development and acquisition of fresh talents students go through during their studies.
There always will be students less motivated than others, but putting lectures online will not remedy the situation. Not physically holding lectures would have more negative than positive consequences overall.