Dec 23 2013

Building Better Lessons: How the Classroom Will Change in 2014

The web will become more important but how can professors integrate it into the classroom?

It’s exciting to think of the possibilities that await professors and students in 2014 as technology continues to offer new ways to revolutionize the classroom. While the traditional lecture hall will continue to play an important role in higher education, it is becoming increasingly difficult to define what a “typical” college classroom looks like. A growing number of tools, resources and teaching styles offer an opportunity to turn each classroom into its own unique learning environment.

As a professor, I constantly think about ways to incorporate relevant and timely material into my teaching, and the Internet is a veritable treasure trove for these resources. In a 2011 survey from the Sloan Consortium, 65 percent of higher education institutions said online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy. Many higher education faculty members are now trying to turn that strategy into reality.

While physical textbooks still offer a solid foundation on which to build lesson plans and instruction, supplementing that foundation with creative online material offers huge benefits. Incorporating real-world examples and presenting materials in a variety of formats, including critical articles and videos, goes a long way in capturing students’ imaginations, which helps them internalize the learning experience.

The challenge, however, of incorporating these types of resources into instruction is the time it takes to find material that both makes sense to include and comes from a reputable source. The Internet offers a plethora of material, but just as students are held to high standards for citing work from credible sources, so too professors need to be selective with the resources we use in our instruction.

Whether it's a recent newspaper article that illustrates how history is repeating itself, or a video that explains the economic breakdown of fair trade coffee, the 2014 classroom will include more valuable online resources that help professors not just teach the material but truly teach students.