Do we need classroom lectures?

After careful thought and feedback from current students, former students, other instructors, and philosophers of education, I have decided to kill the classroom lecture and kill homework assignments.  What, you might ask, am I going to replace it with?  Nothing - I'm not replacing anything.  I'm switching.  I'm going to do things backwards.  Instead of classroom lectures, all of my lectures will be recorded digitally and made available to my students to watch on their own time.  Instead of homework assignments, I will have in-class assignments.  I will present students with worksheets, practice problems, and discussions conducted in class and with my feedback instantly.  This is all in an effort to fulfill my goal of creating an environment for classroom success.

I came to this decision after considering this question: "What is the value to face-to-face classrooms?"  Certainly students can read for themselves or listen to a recorded lecture.  As long as a student has access to those books and lectures, why would they need to come to class?  Most likely because understanding the book's or lecture's concepts are not always an easy task.  Often times, questions come to mind about parts they don't understand, confusing passages, complex concepts, difficult problems, or comparisons with other ideas.  Other times, practice working with those concepts or skills help students to better learn the concepts.  Classrooms are a great oppportunity for students to ask those questions and practice those skills.  Furthermore, I can give instant feedback, rather than hours or days later.  Why then, do we spend such a little amount of time in class discussing and practicing?   Why indeed.  Often times it is pushed out into homework problems or online message boards.  While this helps, I have always wondered if there was a better way to teach concepts.

Here are some of the reasons and evidence for this change:
  • One of the premiere private schools in the LA area does not assign homework.  VanDamme Academy, which turns out an endless stream of highly educated graduates, has a no homework policy.
  • Many of my face-to-face students listen to my face-to-face lectures again after class.  That's right, I currently record my face-to-face lecture which I provide to my online students.  The face-to-face students have frequently chided me if I'm late in posting the lecture.  They find lots of value in re-watching it at their leasure or while doing homework assignments. 
  • Schools are starting to use Khan academy to provide recorded lectures for students, with good results.
  • I send my kids to a Montessori school because I believe their curriculum is solid.  Montessori education focuses on classroom materials that facilitate learning (with only introductory instruction, not lectures).  If it's good enough for my kids, why not my students?


  1. Switching. (class/home) ... sounds like a flash of genius. I'll be curious to see how it goes.

    I've been listening to some free Yale online-lectures and it struck me that the biggest thing that was missing (compared with being there) was the ability to ask the professor certain questions.

  2. Thanks! I'm curious how it will go too. Part of it will depend on how well I can brainstorm activities for the in-class work.