Learned Today 2008 09 02

Relics like lectures have to give way to the advances in cognitive sciences specifically, we must account for the fact that we know a whole lot more on how we learn (ok, not that much but enough). This means that we must have more interactive classes, more lab and less lectures. The sad thing is that I think that only a few people specially from my alma mater try to buck these relics of the past. I long for the day when instead of lectures we have coaches. If the academic programs can learn something from the sports programs its that coaches are also good teachers and its mainly due to how they teach.

from Brad Delong here, do read the whole thing:

Why Are We Here? (In a Big Lecture, That Is)

Why do we still have big lecture courses in universities? It is somewhat of a mystery…

The Pre-Gutenberg University:

  • Universities have their origins in the medieval need of the powerful to train theologians (for the church) and to train judges (for the emperor and the kings of France, England, Castile, and other kingdoms.
  • A manuscript hand-copied book back in 1000 cost roughly the same share of average annual income as $50,000 is today.
  • Hence if you have a “normal” college–eight semesters, four courses a semester–and demand that people buy and read one book a course, you are talking the equivalent of $1.6M in book outlay. Can’t be done.
  • Hence you assemble the hundred or so people who want to read Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy in a room, and have the professor read to them–hence lecture, lecturer, from the Latin lector, reader–while they frantically take notes because they are likely to never see a copy of that book again once they are out in the world administering justice in Wuerzburg or wherever…