The Traditional Lecture Is Dead. I Would Know—I’m a Professor Rhett Allain May 2017

Lecture Hall at University of Jussieu
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When I was young, there was no such thing as the World Wide Web or video streaming. If you wanted to watch something, you had to wait until it appeared on television. Sometimes you might think, “Hey, I think I’ll watch a show,” and flip the channels until you found something interesting. This is how I discovered The Mechanical Universe … And Beyond.

If you are not familiar with this wonderful television program from the mid-’80s, it was essentially a college-level introductory physics class presented by Cal Tech University. It included classroom lectures by Cal Tech Caltech applied physicist David Goodstein, some excellent physics demonstrations, and cool stuff like historical reenactments. The thing I remember most about it is how it mathematically manipulated equations with weird animation. Now that I think about it, those animations probably reinforced the incorrect notion of “moving stuff to the other side of the equation,” but still. They were cool.

Now that the internet exists, you can find The Mechanical Universe on YouTube, and you ought to check it out. Beyond being awesome, it shows why the traditional college lecture is dead.

What is the traditional lecture? It is a model of learning in which a teacher possesses the knowledge on a given topic and disseminates it to students. This model dates to the beginning of education, when it was the only way of sharing information. In fact, you occasionally still see the person presenting the lecture called a reader, because way back before the internet and even the printing press, a teacher would literally read from a book so students could copy it all down.

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