UC Berkeley Launches YouTube Channel

UC Berkeley Launches YouTube Channel

Again, "old news" as of October 3rd, but still noteworthy news. It appears that some at UC Berkeley have upped the ante and gone beyond simply podcasting--they've gone YouTubing. Yasmin Anwar quipped in the press release, "UC Berkeley is the first university to make videos of full courses available through YouTube. Visitors to the site at youtube.com/ucberkeley can view more than 300 hours of videotaped courses and events. Topics range from bioengineering, to peace and conflict studies, to "Physics for Future Presidents," the title of a popular campus course. Building on its initial offerings, UC Berkeley will continue to expand the catalog of videos available on YouTube."

I can hear the cry now, emanating from many faculty across the nation, "If I were to put my lectures online, no one would ever come to class."

[Stop. Think about that statement. Please.]

As a past and hopefully-again-future faculty member myself, I implore those who would say that to please reconsider your methods and approaches to teaching. If the only thing that is keeping your students coming to your class is the fact that you are withholding information (or worse, because you forcefully take attendance), then you really are not teaching in the first place. You're playing a game of deceit and coercion. Yes, I'm being truly serious. Let me explain why.

Teaching (and subsequently, learning) is not about espousing everything you know about your subject while on top of your soapbox. It is not supposed to be a passive, disengaging experience. For many faculty (at Virginia Tech, Chico State, and at many other colleges in the nation), this is exactly what it has become. I'd know; I've seen and lived it firsthand.

I've also experienced fantastic professors at Virginia Tech, Chico State, and other places. These exemplary instructors engaged in the genuine act of (reciprocal) teaching. These people are the reason I don't throw my hands up in disgust and run away from the field of Curriculum and Instruction. The fact is, if you make your "boring" information available online, you can make your in-class time productive. Imagine if you had 50 minutes at a time to actually do something with your students. (Wait, you do!) You could create group work opportunities, Q&A sessions, practical application activities, or even let them teach you a thing or two.

Faculty often rightfully lament, "Great notion, but how do I get my students to do the homework prior to coming to class?" I agree. This is a toughie. There's no doubt that if your students did not do their homework, they cannot fully participate in class. My attitude is "So what?" Don't give them any leeway on it. You're not the "good cop" or the "good parent" here. You're the bridge between high school and the workplace for many students. Tell them that. Let them know why you have [reasonably] high expectations. Do you think their employer would cut them slack regarding preparation for an important meeting or project? I think not. Issuing them a pink slip would be more likely.

Am I being too tough? Yes and no. Each student is different and each requires a different level of support and guidance. It would be ideal, but nearly impossible, to give all of our students that kind of attention. At the same time, I have to say that the human mind and soul is incredibly resilient. You'd be amazed at what your students could own up to if your expectations were clearly defined and you stick to them. You don't have to be mysterious or dole harsh consequences, just be clear and consistent. Consult with those in your field (not in academia) to ask what are the freshly-graduated workforce expectations. Write those down and put them in your syllabus. Most of your students want to learn, but you need to tell them why it's relevant, and how you expect them to go about the learning process.

If you expect your students to come to class to actively work, have them review your lectures and readings online as homework. In conjunction with this, acknowledge that intellectual property and rights are changing. I realize that the idea of no longer "owning" your ideas anymore will be very disconcerting to many professors. Many of us have made a name for ourselves as being an expert. It's changing because this new generation is bringing with them the new idea of collective intellect. This concept really isn't new, not by constructivist standards, but it flies in the face of the well-established norms of academic institutions. Interestingly, UC Berkeley, a research one institute, seems to understand that collective, community learning yields some kind of outcome that is greater than the witholding of knowledge. This is an interesting concept and future we all need to ponder and discuss.

Q: What do you think of UC Berkeley's decision? Justify your answer.