Double Classroom Value, Without Doubling Classroom Time

To: University Faculty 

Re: Double Classroom Value, Without Doubling Classroom Time

This week, Chicago schoolteachers walked out in a historic strike, in big part due to a disagreement over working a 90-minute longer school day. While studies have demonstrated that more classroom time and work at the high school level results in higher test scores and greater graduation rates, teachers understandably do not want to work substantially longer weeks for about the same compensation. This fracas got me thinking about the opportunity to extend the classroom in a way that benefits students and teachers – not just in the K-12 space, but throughout all levels of education. The answer lies in harnessing technology to extend the teaching moment outside the classroom.

Readers of my blog know that a focus is on exploring a variety of new approaches to drive innovation in higher-education. The average time that students are in the classroom at universities and colleges is 15 hours per week. That’s not much time considering all there is to do, learn, ask, discuss, and test in class. How can we effectively double this classroom time – and not add any burden to faculty?

Here is one idea: move the lecture out of the classroom.

The in-classroom lecture is an educational dinosaur that can evolve using current available technologies. How can we shift to a blended learning model where teachers can re-imagine the classroom experience? Cost-effective and easy-to-use technology is now readily available to record a lecture in advance and be available for students to watch it before (and after) they come to class. For students, it is more effective to be able to pace their learning, speeding up parts they already know and repeating parts they do not yet grasp. It is also better to take in a lecture at a time and in a place most conducive to one’s individual approach, since the lecture note-taking format is really a solitary exercise. (I can’t count the number of times that despite my best intentions, I awoke startled mid-lecture at 9 a.m. with my notes in gibberish). For teachers, it sure seems boring and a bad use of brainpower to give the same lecture over and over again. On the flip side, it sure seems an interesting proposition to be able to perfect that lecture into a “greatest hit” that is recorded for repeated use. With this model, classroom time is free for much higher-value teaching-learning moments, from debate and discussion, to projects and guests.

Can this idea be implemented today? Yes. The lecture capture technology is simple and already available in more than 1,000 higher-education institutions. Would this “flipped classroom” approach make the job of the faculty more at risk? No. Faculty become even more valuable, as their deep expertise to research and discover new things and their unique ability teach and connect with students is now front and center. Is this idea cost-effective? Yes. The total cost to host, store, and stream all the lectures at a university or college is only about $15 per year, the same as just three lattes.

So what is now 15 hours of “class time” per week can be so much more — with the teaching-learning moment extending beyond the boundaries of physical place and scheduled time. No more time for the faculty; twice as much time for the students. And more interesting for both.


Donn Davis

Donn Davis is Managing Partner of Revolution Growth and he co-founded Revolution LLC with Steve Case in 2005. Revolution Growth is a venture capital firm that invests in and helps build innovative, consumer-facing companies that aim to disrupt large, existing industries.

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