University students prefer the “old school” approach of an engaging lecture over the use of the latest technological bells and whistles in the classroom. That was a finding in a recent study of the perceptions of students and professors in Quebec on the use of information and communications technologies, or ICTs, in higher learning.
“Students are old school – they want lectures. They want to listen to a professor who’s engaging, who’s intellectually stimulating and who delivers the content to them,” says Vivek Venkatesh, associate dean of academic programs and development in the school of graduate studies at Concordia University.
Dr. Venkatesh says this goes against much of what he hears at professional development workshops that stress interactive learning strategies, often using technology.
The study was conducted by Dr. Venkatesh in partnership with Magda Fusaro, a professor in the department of management and technology at Université du Québec à Montréal. Together, they conducted a pilot project at UQAM before rolling the survey out in 2011 to a dozen universities across the province, to which 15,000 undergraduate students and more than 2,500 instructors responded (for response rates of 10 percent and 20 percent respectively).
The results indicate that students and professors don’t always agree on what works best in the classroom, says Dr. Fusaro. “Our analysis showed that teachers think that their students feel more positive about their classroom learning experience if there are more interactive, discussion-oriented activities. In reality, engaging and stimulating lectures, regardless of how technologies are used, are what really predict students’ appreciation of a given university course.”
Nearly all instructors reported using ICTs in the classroom at least occasionally (only 46 of the 2,640 instructors reported never using ICTs). The technologies most frequently used were email and word processing and presentation software. Less used were things like blogs, wikis, specialized statistical software and computer games and simulations.
Another interesting tidbit from the survey: students seem underwhelmed by the prospect of online learning. Dr. Venkatesh says this shows that “we need to understand better the benefits and pitfalls of these technologies before jumping on a particular bandwagon,” such as massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
Dr. Venkatesh says he hopes the results will have a broad impact, especially in terms of curriculum design and professional development. “I’m looking forward to many, many months of analyzing this data.”