Australian universities
Fewer lectures and more bite-sized, TED Talk-like presentations for future university students in Australia? Source: David Gray/AFP

Australian universities are mulling the idea of scrapping lectures in a post-COVID-19 world. Times Higher Education (THE) reported that universities such as Curtin University and Murdoch University are considering transitioning from large-scale, face-to-face lectures into more bite-sized ones, moving forward.

Curtin University, for instance, has proposed scrapping all lectures by the end of this year. They plan to replace them with “CurtinTalks,” or short videos of 10 to 15 minutes for each topic or concept. Students are expected to watch two or three a week for each subject. Murdoch University pro vice-chancellor (education) Kylie Readman said the university is giving teaching staff 18 months to “transition away” from lectures. “We are not going to be having large-scale face-to-face lectures anymore,” she told THE. 

The university will curate and squeeze information previously delivered through lectures into “mini lectures”. They will be integrated with online activities. Remaining online lectures will be timetabled, recorded and broadcast in a “synchronous” mode that allows for interactions between students, said the report, but Murdoch is still consulting staff over the proposed changes.

Will other Australian universities follow?

Other Australian universities are also considering similar moves. University of Leeds vice-chancellor Simone Buitendijk wants to replace long-form lectures with “shorter chunks” that students can watch before class so students have a better understanding of the material to be more engaged with the teaching. She previously told THE that long-form lectures were “pedagogically not sound” and not evidence-based, and that the change would have happened regardless of COVID-19.

Monash University vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner does not believe “that all lectures will disappear, but the notion that they are the key to education is gone – all of us understand that. They are going to happen less frequently and they are going to be more considered for what they’re offering that you can’t get some other way.”

Victoria University has a “block teaching” model, which is based around small class groups, and says there is no place for lectures. Trish McCluskey, the university’s associate provost of learning and teaching, believes lecture formats are too long, and that shorter presentation of 15 to 20 minutes —  the typical duration of a TED Talk —  were superior because “that’s the amount of time that students are known to be able to concentrate for.” Leeds’ interim deputy vice-chancellor for digital transformation Neil Morris believes there will still be a place for lectures, but that there will be fewer of them as they get replaced with “more online pre-recorded content and use of class time for small-group problem solving and creativity.”