Lecture theatres to go the way of the dodo

Large lecture theatres are going to disappear say Australian vice-chancellors. Ian Barbour

Large lecture theatres are disappearing and will soon be gone from university campuses say Australian vice-chancellors.

The trend is evidenced by the major campus upgrade being undertaken by the University of Technology Sydney, which will favour more interactive learning environments over lecture theatres.

“At UTS we’re in the middle of spending a billion dollars on our campus and as part of that we’ve got two new buildings going up … there’s a not a single traditional lecture theatre in either of those new buildings,” UTS deputy vice-chancellor Shirley Alexander told the audience at a conference on high-speed broadband and education.

Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young said undergraduate students are increasingly voting with their feet and not turning up at lectures.

“On-campus education is going to change. The large lecture theatre, if not dead now, is disappearing.”

Professor Young said universities that saw their role as providing on-campus education would need to demonstrate they were providing some sort of value-add.

“Why in the world would a student come along and sit in a passive lecture with 300 other students when they can access the material online themselves?”

He added that this should be seen by universities as an opportunity rather than a threat.

“The transmission of content into an online environment gives us an opportunity with an on-campus environment to give a richer environment in small groups and tutorials - the thing that education perhaps was once in the past.”

University of New England vice-chancellor Jim Barber said with very few exceptions just about anything students could once do on campus would soon be available anywhere via the NBN.

“In place of the traditional campus, then, we will see nodes of activity connected over the internet such as UNE’s ‘Future Campus’ which is to be a very high technology enabled, informal learning space.”

Professor Young said despite the trend towards the delivery of content online, campuses would remain important, particularly for young students who needed the physical discipline of turning up to learn every day.

“To interact with your social peers for short periods of time online is one thing, to do the hard slog of a whole course and have the discipline to do that is another.”

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