A growing divide?
Some would argue that this is a trend that has been gathering pace for the last decade or more. Traditionally, learning has been situated in classrooms or lecture halls, where the presence of an expert or specialist in a subject takes to the stage and delivers knowledge directly to the assembled students. The didactic method is cost effective in terms of the amount of contact time lecturers or teachers need to invest in the process. The student is then left to think and reflect on the knowledge they have 'received' and eventually, is assessed on how well they can remember, apply and evaluate this knowledge. Classroom centric learning has established itself as a 'tried and tested' method of pedagogy, and it doesn't seem to be waning. Every organisation it seems, continues to practice this approach, and educational institutions everywhere continue to build classrooms and lecture halls along the same design. Although the didactic method has been severely criticised as less effective than more active and participatory pedagogies, it persists.
And yet, with the advent of mobile technology, learning can now take place any where, and at any time. Perhaps even more critically, learning can take place at the pace of each individual learner. Formal learning, though methods such as the flipped classroom, and Massive Open Online Courses, seems to be migrating slowly but steadily away from traditional learning spaces, at least in some quarters. Those who are proponents of these methods claim that a paradigm shift is taking place, and that many traditional environments will either need to adapt to survive, or face extinction. Others are not so sure, claiming that the traditional learning space will always be with us, because people need to connect socially and the best way to do this is through face to face interaction. A third position is that traditional learning environments will change to meet the needs of the digital age, and that the flipped classroom is one example of how this will proceed.
The question we now need to ask is: Will there be a divide between learning that continues to rely on traditional learning spaces, compared to learning that takes place largely outside the walls of the traditional classroom? Moreover, if there is such a divide, will it be delineated by its cost effectiveness, its conceptual differences, or its pedagogical impact?
Photo from VCU Libraries
A growing divide? by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.