Andy Lausch is Vice President of Higher Education for CDW•G, a leading technology provider to government and education.

Aug 14 2012

Will Technology Push Colleges Away From the Traditional Lecture Model?

A new survey by CDW•G finds that students learn best when professors use a mix of traditional lectures and hands-on and group projects.

With the rapid influx of mobile devices, more students today are bringing their notebooks, tablets and smartphones into the classroom to enhance their learning experience. Add in day-to-day use of video and social media, and it's no surprise that this generation expects something much different from the "sage on the stage" classroom their parents learned in.

Students want options for learning in new ways, and this is where the flipped classroom model comes into play: Students view online lectures on their own, leaving class time open for discussion or collaborative work. Allowing instructors to be the "guide on the side" lets students have more interaction with their peers in class while using technology to help them learn.

To understand how the flipped classroom model can improve teaching and learning, CDW•G conducted a spring 2012 survey of 1,015 public high school and higher education students, faculty and IT managers. The resulting Learn Now, Lecture Later report recommends that schools and colleges take four important steps:

  • Get to the heart of what students and faculty want. This means understanding the technology users already have, how they want to use it, and how they best learn and teach.
  • Consider how to incorporate different learning models. Work closely with faculty to meet their course, curriculum and personal teaching styles.
  • Explore how technology can more effectively support and enhance the "learn now, lecture later" model. Encourage members of the educational community to consult with one another and share best practices.
  • Support faculty with professional development and IT staff with infrastructure. Unless faculty are comfortable, change will be slow; without adequate technology, real change may not happen at all.

Driving Change

On many campuses, leaders have already begun to embrace this flipped classroom approach.

For instance, the information technology staff was a driving force at Lassen Community College in Susanville, Calif. Over the past year, the technology team has retooled all 23 classrooms on campus with interactive whiteboards, projectors and document cameras.

"Our students crave the technology," says Cheryl Aschenbach, a Lassen professor. "They are immersed in it. Their attention spans are so much shorter. Research has proved that the more interactive classes are, the more we will reach [students]. We want better student learning and student success." (To learn more, read "Colleges Go Proactive with Flipped Classrooms.")

The CDW•G report supports the notion that students learn better when technology integrates seamlessly with the curriculum. For example, 36 percent of "very satisfied" students say their faculty has moved away from the traditional lecture model. These students also are more likely than their peers to report that the faculty uses technology in conjunction with a broad range of alternative learning models.

As colleges expand the variety of learning methods they offer, information technology often will play a critical supporting role. Colleges must adapt to meet the learning styles of today's students (and, increasingly, the teaching styles of their professors).

Our hope is that this report offers insights into these important issues and helps establish a framework for moving forward. 


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