File photo: This traditional way of delivering education content is essentially an incredibly inefficient use of the student’s classroom time. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA

A walk through an education technology expo nowadays will no doubt see you bombarded with messages and keynotes about ‘digital learning’, ‘eLearning’ and the supposed death of the physical classroom.

Is this really a good idea? In our rush for novelty and innovation it’s easy to disregard some simple truths. Businesses and industries revolve around people and relationships.

This is particularly relevant in education. A purely distance or online approach with little or no interaction with peers or academic professionals leaves the student at the risk of not adequately developing two of the most important traits in the modern working world - communication and critical thinking.

A cornerstone in becoming a successful young employee is the ability to communicate effectively. The aptitude to develop relationships and connections, the ability to sell yourself and your ideas and the skill of functioning properly as part of a team are aspects which are crucial to a young person’s success in the workplace. 

Both the traditional and the new age non-physical models of education are flawed, but this should not mean that education consumers need to choose one or the other. We can still easily adapt the technology and ideas of new age education into a physical class space, while also understanding that the physical class space does not need to be the stale, traditionalist and unengaging environment that we’ve become familiar with.

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We’ve become lulled into this mindset that course content must be talked through by a lecturer. Why is this? 

This traditional way of delivering education content is essentially an incredibly inefficient use of the student’s classroom time. 

Therefore, the most optimal use of classroom time is achieved when students, equipped with a basic understanding of content through self-study, are engaging hands on with course content, solving problems through groupwork, and workshopping case studies in order to find the solutions primarily on their own – rather than through the lecturer. Knowledge retention is far superior when the students are discussing a topic, explaining a topic, presenting ideas, teaching it to others or engaging in interactive material on a topic.

The term ‘lecturer’ should, in actual fact, be seen as an outdated term indicating an obsolete learning methodology. In an optimised learning model, lecturers need to evolve into ‘Knowledge Facilitators’, essentially facilitating the learning and knowledge process as students discover ideas and solutions on their own. Indeed, non-profit French university “42” has taken this one step further by having an entire education institution with no academic professionals at all. 

The students work together to solve problems themselves. In an ideal model, technology is still used before lessons for pre-lecture preparation and after lessons for research, projects and assignments. Modern technology should still play a vital role inside the classroom as well, through interactive activities.

Graduates who are able to communicate at a high level, work well as part of a team, think critically and who are able to solve complex problems will be far more flexible and a considerably stronger asset to an employer than graduates who have come through a purely traditional or purely distance model of tertiary education. 

* Jared Louw is a marketing strategist and current National Marketing Manager for the MSC Business College group