Sunday, July 15, 2012

University's Quality Assurance Agency against PowerPoint Lectures (Apparently)!

Whist looking for something else I came across this article in the higher education section of The Australian, a daily broadsheet owned by News Corporation.

The title of the article, from 24 April 2012, is UK watchdog is against "power point" tuition. It made me think I must have missed something about the Quality Assurance Agency in the UK press earlier this year. Being interested in the role of the lecture in higher education and the impact of PowerPoint, I felt sure I should have seen this earlier. The original article from which The Australian version was adapted was published on 20 April 2012 in The Times and was written by Greg Hurst, who is their education editor. 

Interestingly the title of the article in The Times is Students must get more for their money, says watchdog, which is not quite as sensational as the anti PowerPoint title of The Australian.

Hurst's article actually reports the response of the QAA's Chief Executive, Anthony McClaran, to the results of research carried out by The Times, which looked at the experience of current first year students in a sample of UK universities. The research covered issues such as contact time, the type of teaching experience during that contact time and the length of time taken to return marked assignments.

The reference to PowerPoint comes in the first line of the article "Students should not tolerate “PowerPoint lectures”, the head of the universities standards body has warned". However, McClaran goes on to explain that what this means is where the lecturer simply reads from the presentation slides in class. He states what students want most is to be able to interact with staff and with other students. This then is quite a long way from stating that the QAA is against PowerPoint tuition per se.

What seems to be the main issue is the largely passive learning experience of a poorly delivered presentation. The challenge to the traditional lecture is to overcome its information-transmission-only heritage that arguably PowerPoint has helped perpetuate.

Universities need to take heed of the extra emphasis of the QAA on the effectiveness and quality of the bread and butter teaching tool in higher education and support staff in their development of different effective teaching techniques.

Donald Bligh's What the Use of Lectures? needs revisiting in the 21st century.