Friday, November 8, 2019

2019 #VWEDU: #DTA: Can virtual worlds support large lecture classes? The past is not the future

Can virtual worlds support 
large lecture classes?
The past is not the future 

Consideration of the need for large lecture classes in virtual worlds.  They are only needed for specialized advanced classes.  Even there they could reach a larger audience at lower cost with a live stream.
A lecture without the internet

Instruction methods for a large audience


It depends on what support you want

  • Colleges sometimes have classes of several hundred.
  • Maybe you can't get that many people together in one place in a virtual world.
  • But why would you want to?  
  • That is not a class, it is an audience.  
  • The only thing you can do in such a class is lecture.
  • On the web you can get a video of a lecture and have it watched by thousands.
  • In a virtual world, you would distribute the audience over multiple places.
  • You would probably arrange small groups with shared interests.
  • The people in a group could interact in local chat as they listen to the lecture.
  • In a university, the small group would probably be led by a graduate student.
  • And there could be an oral discussion after each segment. 
  • If you must have the lecture live, live-stream to as many places as you need.

Do lectures really have to be 50 minutes long?

  • Of course they do.  They have to fit into an hour.  
  • Everything on campus runs by the hour.  
  • They may need to be 45 or 40 minutes to leave time to get people in and out.
  • But video lectures can be different.  A long lecture can be cut into segments.
  • In a lecture with bullet points, cuts might be made on the major points.

What instruction needs live lectures?

Conditions that might call for lectures

  1. The information is too new to be available in text or video.
  2. The audience has reading limitations.
  3. The lecture will include demonstrations that contribute to the instruction. 
  4. Every semester, the school has many students wanting the same class.
  5. The school can provide highly effective lectures for this class.

The information is too new to be available in text or video.

  • This condition occurs at the cutting edge of scholarly research.
  • The likely audience for such lectures is graduate students and other faculty.
  • Modern technology allows live streaming to reach a larger audience.  
  • Live streamed video can be captured and made available in persistent form.
  • Live-streams and video can be directly accessed on the web.
  • Virtual worlds offer no obvious benefit.

The audience has reading limitations.

  • Text-to-speech services are probably a more efficient solution. 
  • These services can be provided on tablets and laptops at small cost.
  • Audio files by a human reader can be provided at modest cost.
  • Assembling an audience offers no obvious benefit.

The lecture includes demonstrations that contribute to instruction

  • Demonstrations can be on video clips, with assurance that they go as expected.  
  • Using video clips allows locations better suited to the content than a lecture hall.
  • Good lecture-demonstrations are being made available as video instruction.
  • Virtual worlds offer no obvious benefit.

Every semester, the school has many students wanting the same class

  • Probably the most common reasons for schools using large lecture classes.
  • The reason is economic, not educational: One professor teaches 500 students.
  • All students are charged the same per credit-hour as with any other class.
  • Teaching 500 students in classes of 25 would take 20 instructors.  
  • Often the professor delivers one lecture per week. 
  • Then graduate students lead related discussion sections later in the week
  • The discussion sections may have about 12 students.
  • The lecture can be on video.  
  • The discussions could be held in a virtual world in a resource-rich environment.

The school can provide highly effective lectures for this class

  • How has the school been measuring effectiveness?
  • And what does it mean by a lecture
  • If that refers to live lectures, the school does not know how to replicate them.
  • If it has evaluated videos of lectures, it can replicate the lectures from the file.
  • But video lectures do not require assembling an audience.


  • Only one of these conditions calls for assembling an audience:  
  • The information is too new to be available in text or video.
  • Even here a live stream offers the potential for a larger audience. 
  • And capturing a live stream would make the new information available on video.


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