The classroom option you should not ignore

I’m sure you know the feeling. You’re sitting in a classroom watching a presentation – which started late to allow the “stragglers” to show up – when about 10 minutes in it dawns on you…

What am I doing here?

Either you’re already familiar with what’s being presented, or it’s so straight-forward it didn’t require 30 or 60 minutes of your time. But whether it be due to politeness, shyness, peer pressure, or a sense of obligation, you remained bolted to your seat until the bitter end.

It’s such a waste of time – both for you and for the presenter.

Trainees sleeping in the classroom.

Traditional classroom

Despite my obvious predilection for e-learning, I am actually a fan of the traditional classroom.

I appreciate that sometimes it is more efficient for someone who knows more than you to teach you something. As a novice, you don’t know what you don’t know. But the expert does, and he or she can get you up to speed.

Also, away from your desk you’re free from those universal distractions such the phone, email and uninvited guests. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to ask questions and receive immediate feedback from the human standing right before you.

However the traditional classroom has plenty of downsides too. For example, you typically can’t influence the content that is being delivered, you’re beholden to the pace of the presenter, and there’s always that *@#! idiot who hasn’t bothered with the pre-work yet is happy to prolong the misery for everyone else by asking inane, redundant questions.

Virtual classroom

A modernised version of the traditional classroom is the virtual classroom.

Delivering the content over the internet allows people to attend wherever they are geographically located, without incurring travel costs and losing time in transit. A virtual class also allows people to attend to other tasks if need be, and to slip away on the sly if it becomes clear the session isn’t adding any value.

Of course, the virtual classroom also has its fair share of downsides too. From technical glitches to the challenges of e-moderation, it is common knowledge that virtual presenters fantasise about the good ol’ days when everyone was in the same room at the same time.

Flipped classroom

A postmodern twist on the classroom delivery model is the flipped classroom.

Taking root in the school and university environments where regular classroom sessions are mandated and homework is the norm, the “flipped” concept posits the content delivery as the homework (typically in the form of a video clip) which frees up the in-person session for value-added instruction such as discussion, Q&A, worked examples, role plays etc.

I truly believe the flipped classroom is on the cusp of revolutionising the education sector.

No classroom

Notwithstanding the advantages of the three aforementioned classroom options, there is yet another option that is often ignored by educators: no classroom.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my obsession passion for informal learning environments, but in this instance I’m not referring to the constructivist approach. Still true to the instructivist paradigm, I maintain the “no classroom” option can work.

It’s so simple: record your class on video. Then deploy it to your audience, so they are empowered to watch it when convenient, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and even play it again later.

The model is similar to a flipped classroom, but there is no in-person follow-up. And you know what? Frequently that’s all that’s needed. When the content is so straight-forward that it doesn’t require a classroom session, why on earth would you waste everyone’s time with one?

In cases where the content is more complex and follow-up is necessary, why not combine the video with formative exercises? An online discussion forum? A buddy program? Again, you probably don’t need to drag everyone into a classroom.

My point is, under the right circumstances, video can provide effective instruction.

But don’t just take my word for it. Why not get a second opinion from Ted, Lynda, Salman or David.

8 thoughts on “The classroom option you should not ignore

  1. Thanks Ryan for such an enlightening and timely article. Trying to convince some stakeholders and subject matter experts of alternative/more suitable training modes over the traditional classroom approach will always be a challenge for us trainers. I came across the “Five Moments of Need” framework designed by Dr Conrad Gottfredson some time ago which can be used as a guide to determine the most appropriate training delivery approach. You may already be familiar with this framework. There is lots of info on Google about this framework but I quite like the article below:

    BTW, I went to leave a comment via the “comments” text box at the bottom of your post but for some reason I was unable to enter any text.

    Have a great day.


  2. Thanks Catherine, and cheers for the link to the Five Moments of Need. Indeed, Gottfredson makes a lot of sense with these guidelines (and I like Jay Lambert’s treatment of them).

    For me it relates to the novice-expert principle. As a novice, you need a lot of hand holding, so an instructivist approach is appropriate. As you develop your expertise, however, a more constructivist approach becomes appropriate.

    Classroom-based delivery for Moments 1-2 could be substituted with other modes of delivery (such as video), depending on the nature of the content. Certainly for Moments 3-5 classroom-based delivery would be inefficient for everyone involved. I could, however, see a classroom-based solution for Moment 5 if the change was significant.

    I’m not sure what the issue was regarding the comments box, but I’ll look into it. Thanks for letting me know!

  3. I love Lynda. I’ve been using it to teach myself everything from web design, audio engineering, image and video editing to eLearning software (Moodle, Connect and Captivate) as well as quirkier things like interaction design or project management. It’s pretty amazing.

    However, I wish there was an interactive element to them. A quiz, forum or just…something! Learning happens through more than just mere exposure and repetition. Of course I can go out and apply my new ‘knowledge’ on a project I’m working on bit often I’m not quite there yet and need more playtime (interaction) before jumping in the deep end.

    When I mentioned this to my wife she also added that it’s probably not a great way for kids to learn, as the social aspect of learning is missing entirely and it’s crucial for them. Less so for grow ups and in fact, I’m glad that there isn’t a(nother) f@&$ing idiot in the Lynda videos :)

  4. Thanks for your comment, Guido.

    Yes, I think bites of instruction via video are better suited to the corporate sector where the learners are time poor and they don’t have the luxury to explore the subject matter over the course of a semester. They need the knowledge *now* and they are very happy for the expert to transmit it to them!

    If the content is straight-forward, that’s fine, but if it’s more complex, I agree that complementary pedagogy would be necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lynda et al were to add quizzes and discussion forums to their delivery model.

  5. No Classroom!! Thumbs all the way up on that. Real, natural activity that yields learning! woo hoo. that said…

    Capturing instruction on video and creating effective instructional video aren’t quite the same. As a mechanism for transmitting information, straight up capture is fine, but personally for that I’d rather have the written materials I can skim, than be forced into passive linear medium. Still video is good for a lot of things.

    If learning has to be demonstrated at some point, then you should break video up a lot with opportunities to do something.

    Also, brain waves of people watching TV go into beta pretty easily, which is a pre-sleep state. Not exactly the wakeful engagement toward which we aim.

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