Learning Outside the Classroom

Despite mission statements, learning objectives, and other verbiage that faculty expend much time and effort creating, many of our students still regard learning as something that only occurs in the classroom, with an older authority figure telling them what and how to learn.

I had two recent experiences that demonstrate the limitations of this perspective. The first involves my own efforts to learn how to create video/audio content for my upcoming hybrid course. The course meets only once per week and I’ve vowed not to do any formal lecturing in class. As a substitute, I decided to create a series of 3-4 minute lectures for the course website. Keep in mind that I have never uploaded a video to YouTube or podcasted, and for the past week I’ve been experimenting with microphones, a webcam, lights, and various pieces of software. Creating a quality product, or at least one that I find satisfactory, is something that I’ve had to learn how to do quickly and independently. I suspect that if I presented my undergraduate students with a similar task, many would simply give up at the first technical glitch. A few of them would probably ask friends for help, but most would probably come to class with the task uncompleted. And they’d expect me to show them which button they hadn’t pushed.

The other example is a local non-profit organization, Building a Community of Learning in Retirement (BCLIR). BCLIR promotes learning for retirees through community engagement and a peer-to-peer collaborative model  of instruction. BCLIR courses often tap into the expertise of local academics, but outside of the normal university framework. Its academic program is instead dependent upon the initiative of its members — in other words, its a true learning community that is very unlike what most college undergraduates experience.

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