What's a Cal Poly Engineering education if not hands-on? So it comes as no surprise to find Cal Poly in the vanguard of schools taking hands-on right into the classroom and turning the traditional lecture-homework model on its head.
Students typically spend 90 percent of their time absorbing lectures and only 10 percent applying what they've learned. Cal Poly IME professors Dan Waldorf and Liz Schlemer, however, have initiated an "inside-out" teaching model, which emphasizes student engagement by reversing the traditional roles of lecture and homework.
"Lectures have been around since Socrates," noted Schlemer. "Inside-out re-engineers the classroom itself, teaching a new generation of students in a manner in which they typically communicate. The use of technology is key."
"In inside-out classes, students watch the lecture content at home via the Internet," explained Waldorf. "Homework, including projects and activities based on the lecture material, is completed in class, thus enabling more face-to-face time between the instructor and students for interactive and group problem-solving. With the help of basic technology, such as on-demand video, we're transforming classrooms from lecture-driven, one-way exchanges to fully interactive environments – we're moving hands-on into the lecture hall.
"There is more doing because the students are spending class time in collaborative problem-solving rather than listening to a lecture. We're finding that students have to catch up on the concept of directing their own education, but this model is also the right fit for industrial organizations that not only incorporate more distance learning but also seek to capture the knowledge of their organizational leaders."
An inside-out classroom doesn't look like a regular classroom, noted Marshall Jones, a manufacturing engineering senior. "The students are working in groups on an in-class assignment that pertains to the lecture video they watched the night before. The professor is walking around helping individual students with the assignment."
Said industrial engineering senior Danielle Vigent: "Listening to the lecture in the comfort of home, I can replay any portion of the video as many times as I need to understand or clarify what's being taught. In class, I feel more engaged since I not only have to work with my group in order to complete in-class assignments, I must be prepared to explain and defend what I present to my group.
"The class also forces each of us to prepare ahead of time or risk running out of time to solve problems Students working in groups are able to receive guidance from their peers and benefit from the opportunity to teach others during the session. Also in class, the instructor becomes an open-book resource in the best sense. Overall, there is less stress and more learning. There's a relaxed feel as if I'm attending a group office hour."
Although there is a startup investment in time, Waldorf said that recorded lectures can bring dramatic gains in the long run. "Considerable time is spent each quarter unnecessarily repeating material. Putting my lectures on video means I get to spend more meaningful class time coaching my students to solve problems and less time repeating factual content. The result can be better relationships with students. I can also see in real time if anyone is stuck. I get a better sense of individual problem-solving skills and where they stand in learning the materials. The technology creates a more human experience."
"This strategy requires us to stretch ourselves," said Schlemer. "I am using video in almost all of my classes to one degree or another. It's the way of the future."
To see examples of video lectures, click on the following:
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Return to the Winter 2012 Newsletter.