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Has teaching in higher education become redundant?

Jul 12, 2018 by

Wafa Singh -Today, we live in a ‘Google’ world, where we have all information, data, facts and theory at one click of the fingertip. For the ‘tech-savvy’ NextGen, Google has become their ‘go-to’ solution. For anything they need, they turn to the internet search engine and the answer is with them, in micro-seconds.

This trend of Google becoming the end solution of all information sought is slowly but surely disrupting the teaching-learning dynamics in all higher education institutions today.

Today, students find classroom lectures boring, monotonous and irrelevant. They skip classes knowing that Google will provide them with all the information or knowledge shared by professors in the classroom.

The same hydrology theories taught in class are explained possibly more eloquently on the internet; the same mathematics theorems are better explained with 3D visuals online or through other applications; and the same Marxist theories at times are better elaborated on Google than by professors in the classroom.

Considering this reality, what happens to the teaching function at higher education institutions? What roles do professors play now? Are they redundant already? Or is there any scope for or possibility of retaining their relevance still?

Think, act and deliver ‘differently’

The questions posed above are important not only in terms of the teaching function, but also have important implications for the ‘holistic learning’ of students. In this scenario, one thing is a given: we cannot move, act or deliver the way we have been doing. Times are changing and so is the student population, their expectations and aspirations.

For why will a student sit in a classroom when everything is available online? Why will the student sit through a one- or two-hour lecture at all if the latter has nothing ‘extra’ to offer than what is available online? Why will the student ‘engage’ if the teaching itself is ‘disengaged’ and ‘monotonous’?

These are critical questions and they call for immediate attention from higher education leadership and policy-makers. The time has come to think ‘anew’, be ‘different’ and act ‘innovatively’, in order to make ‘teaching’ a value proposition in universities, and one which cannot be replaced by Google or its applications.

Bringing ‘value’ back into teaching

Unless and until students find teaching ‘useful’ or ‘relevant’ for their personal growth, they will keep flying out of classrooms. A lot depends on ‘how’ the students are being taught.

If a student in India is being taught the same water management techniques (as a one-way discourse) as a student sitting in Australia, why will he or she need an Indian classroom at all? But if the same student is taught about the water management techniques in an Indian context (in addition to global applications and understanding), while immersed in local settings, the same teaching becomes meaningful.

If a part of classroom theory is complemented with field-based application of the same, the value and usability of the theory being taught increases in manifold ways. This application-based teaching methodology will trigger ‘self and reflective learning’; it will offer a hands-on skill that Google will definitely not offer! It is then that students begin to find ‘meaning’ in what is being taught.

Classroom lectures also need to be structured and organised ‘differently’. They need to be made more interactive in order to develop students’ critical thinking skills, to facilitate student participation and encourage a critical culture where they can question or disagree.

Further, rather than filling students with information, another practice that can be adopted is to encourage reflection. Problem-based tutorials and audio-visuals focusing on real-life problems are some of the ways to do so.

Also, for teaching to continue to be of ‘value’, it is also important to review ‘what’ is being taught. Is it only the age-old courses that continue to dominate the stagnating higher education curriculum? What value will such courses offer for students after they graduate?

These are important questions, and if thought through seriously, will lead us to realise that contemporary times demand the creation of new courses which are in sync with the current realities and are able to ‘aid’ the professional growth of students and increase their employability quotient.

The solutions, therefore, are not difficult. The need is to be ‘real’, to be ‘engaged’ (with the vicinity and also the students) and to move away from ‘mechanised’ modes of doing things and start thinking about what action will have an impact and in what ways.

Finally, to answer the initial question, redundancy or relevance of teaching in higher education depends entirely on the way it is structured, what it offers, and most importantly, what value-addition it can provide to students.

Wafa Singh is senior programme officer for Participatory Research In Asia, or PRIA, and India coordinator of the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research.


Source: Has teaching in higher education become redundant? – University World News

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