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Let me apologize in advance for what might seem to be a longwinded harangue but I think I have had a lot of experience with the format that MIT has in mind.
To begin with, my credentials are more about my career as a community college professor than as an MIT senior lecturer. In 1968, while I was a professor of mathematics at Corning (NY) Community College, I was recruited by Harold Mickley, on the advice of George Thomas, to develop a refresher course in calculus. Harold was the founding director of the MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study and he wanted to be able to offer the course to the Fellows who were coming into his program for post graduate study.
Working in conjunction with Harold, we developed a three part course that was called “Calculus revisited”. It was taught for 6 weeks in the summer for 6 hours a day. The course was so successful that harold decided to make the course available for industries to use onsite. I developed the course and it consisted of 84 video lectures and 17 volumes of study guides and supplementary notes (plus the Thomas calculus book).
I mention all of this because, at least as I see it, it was a prequel to what is now being called the edx program. More specifically, each industry chose its own in-house facilitators and the either the students used the course as a self-study course where the facilitators were available to answer questions or they viewed the videos in a classroom setting with the facilitators acting as the classroom teachers. The feedback was excellent.
Once the Internet became available it was decided that the black-and-white-talking-head format of my video lectures would not be well-received by the current generation of technologically- sophisticated viewers. However two years ago, under a grant from the Gabriella and Paul Rosenbaum Foundation, OpenCourseWare uploaded the entire course on its website and the comments have been extremely positive. As an aside I should mention that the video portion of the course has been posted on YouTube where there are hundreds of comments that have been posted by viewers, all of which praise the lectures.
The video courses were made beginning I n 1969 and ending in 1973. After leaving MIT to become the founding math department chair at Bunker Hill community College. When I discovered how many students were “math-phobic” and had trouble with arithmetic and elementary algebra, I use the “”Calculus revisited” model to develop the same type of course at the lower levels. And when I reached the age of 80 four years ago I decided to make my own website where I could post all of my materials for anyone to use free of charge. The link to my website is www.adjectivenounmath.com and if you peruse the guestbook on the site you will see the same type of comments that were made about my calculus course.
So with the above as background, let me share with you my answers to the questions you have posed:
• Are in-person lectures a thing of the past?
Not necessarily. However what is true is that a video lecture is systemic, at least in the sense that every viewer, at every point in time and at every location sees exactly the same thing. Hence a lecturer on the Internet (or video tape) can be in thousands of locations at the same time. And in that sense, one “great” lecturer can replace many poor/mediocre live lecturers.
The comments that I have received about my work indicates that some students can do well without the presence of a live instructor. However, I believe that most students would do much better having excellent online lectures facilitated by competent in-class facilitators. That is, they need the guidance and assistance that a “live” facilitator can offer.
• What does the classroom of 2020 look like?
I see it as being an electronic version of the old one-room school house where students will be watching a monitor and absorbing the content of a lesson at their own pace, assisted when necessary by the in-class facilitator(s)
• Should we rethink the 4-year system of residential education?
I believe we are going to be forced to have to rethink the traditional model. More and more, students are going to discover that there is good material available on the Internet that is free of charge.
Printed below is a comment from a viewer who is watching my calculus course on line:
ImageRaiter 1 month ago :
Why do I pay thousands to sit in a lecture hall only to be confused, when I can watch these amazingly enlightening videos in the comfort of my home for free? It's time to click the donate button on the MIT OCW page. Once again, thank you Mr. Gross. I hope these videos live on forever.
This doesn’t mean that traditional courses and/or seminars etc. are a thing of the past but it is something that we have to consider in the future. It is possible that students can take courses on their own but pay the university a fee for validating the student’s knowledge of the course.
In closing I would like to add that it is my opinion that many students fail, not because they can’t learn the material but rather that the pace at which they internalize the material is slower than the lock-step pace of the traditional classroom. By using the Internet, students can take the course at their own pace and not have to worry about being ready to be tested at a fixed item that is determined by the instructor.
These are, of course, my own personal opinions but they have been formed from decades of personal observations. I hope that they prove to be at least somewhat helpful to you and you should feel free to contact me, especially if there are times when you feel that my input might be helpful to you.