Browsing the paper online this morning, I came across an article on overcrowding in lecture theatres in universities in Australia: http://www.theage.com.au/national/unis-packed-to-the-rafters-20090403-9rmj.html

(Packed to the Rafters is the name of a popular TV series here in Australia.) This connected for me with my comments on the Australian Financial Review Conference around the need to start investing in electronic infrastructure for elearning to the same degree as we do for capital or physical infrastructure.

This article suggests that the rhetoric around elearning and shifting learning paradigms is still a long, long way from the mainstream - the assumption underpinning the article, and the survey of students that triggered it, is that we need physical lecture theatres to deliver learning - that's what students expect and that's what academic staff want.

Is it? Are those expectations valid anymore? Most universities have learning management systems where lecture material can be accessed and downloaded 24/7. There is always an argument about the need for students to be physically present to increase learning effectiveness, but I'm not sure that the face-to-face interaction in a lecture of 300 or 400 students is always terribly effective. Logging on to accesss resources is probably equally effective in these circumstances.

Maybe the question the survey should have asked is about how students prefer to get their lectures delivered - in an overcrowded lecture theatre or online? And, the more critical issue might be about how to improve the tutorial/seminar experience so that these activities return to the small group, face-to-face intensive learning experiences they should be to ensure effectiveness. Do we need to shift our energies from the lecture as learning to improving the tutorial and seminar experience as the primary face-to-face learning experience?

Have a look at this You Tube Video - I teach, therefore you learn...or do you? It relates more to primary and secondary education but the message for higher and vocational education is the same.