Changing to Webinar-Style Education: Is it possible?

What do we need to do to really connect to this generation of students? How can we inspire them to accomplish and learn without feeling like we need to do it for them? Can we use the new forum of webinars, workshops, and blog articles with condensed and concise information to hold their attention and get them to do more quality work?

Just the other day on an education forum with veteran female Marines, one young woman vented about her fellow college students:

“Kids are SLEEPING IN THE FIRST ROW! And when one of my professors calls out a kid by name to answer a question and he gave him this stupid look and didn’t even say a word. SAY SOMETHING! Then we had an essay due last night (an easy essay!) and almost the entire class asked for an extension. Which I get when you really need it! But some of these kids said they just didn’t get around to it in time 🤦🏼‍♀️ Plus 90% of the students I come across have NO respect. Y’all, it’s driving me up a wall. I can’t.”

Okay, maybe this is an individual circumstance, or maybe it is a generational issue, or maybe it is because the teacher did not set clear expectations. But maybe, just maybe, we teachers need to admit that the old way of doing things is NOT WORKING!!  Let’s consider that maybe we teachers can use the instant gratification and technological advances of this age to improve our delivery rather than complaining that these students just don’t get it.

Because they do.  They do get it.  They spend hours researching and gaining the information that they want to find out.  They become experts at their video games, researching their favorite artists, and finding out the answers to any random question that they have within seconds of thinking it.

They can and will work hard for us.  But… we just have to give them a reason why they should.

No, this generation doesn’t do anything without having a clear reason or purpose. No, they won’t do things “this way” just because it has always been done that way.  No, they don’t need you to hold their hands, but they do need clear expectations and a framework so they know what it is supposed to look and sound like.

Technology has changed, students have changed, the culture has changed, the way we get information has changed… so why haven’t we?

Well, we haven’t changed because the change is happening so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with it all.  Within just a few years, the vast amount of webinars, workshops, and online education has blown up.  Many people are questioning the purpose for formal education because of the vast amount of information and workshops already available… with good reason.

If the way that our students retain and use information has changed, can we adapt the way that we run our classes to fit the way they learn?

Let’s look at the way that these workshops, webinars, and tutorials are set up:

  1. During the first session they give a large about of purpose, application, and credibility of the author in 45-50 minutes. The students of these programs about the speaker’s background and feel an immediate connection to them through their stories. They find out what the course has to offer and what results they will see immediately and can decide when and if they need to continue the course.  During that first session, they decide to opt-in or opt-out and hear a call-to-action.
    Application: Do the students know why they are in your class? Do they know how the information that you are presenting will affect their lives and future? What is the point?  Will their lives be significantly better if they know about the topic? How can we present it clearly and concisely to hit the clear target and give students immediate results?
  2. Next, the modules are broken down into clearly developed and practical, concise 50 minute classes. Each class gives students a vast amount of information condensed into 50 minute sessions with a Q & A session following. The presenter asks for audience interaction but does not stop or waste any time. Students receive practical knowledge and an assigned response immediately following the session.
    Application: How can we cut the wasted time during class that serves to spend the minutes of class time with “fun” activities. Can we get down to business, lay out the expectations, and teach students to expect immediate results? Can we move from holding students hands through each level of the process to filming our lectures and letting them watch it or pieces of the lecture again if they need it? Can we provide additional resources or activities when necessary for reteaching?
  3. The presenter is a knowledgeable and experienced professional but also personal in storytelling. The presenter is connected yet respects the audience’s time.  The presenter almost always tells stories of their successes and failures.  They are real with the audience and that honesty resonates with this generation.  There is enough fake information to go around.  Raw, professional truth will always build credibility.
    Application: Can the teacher/professor build more credibility and respect by being honest with their struggles, experience, and successes?  Can we build interest by getting to the point immediately, expressing our thoughts and expectations clearly in as few words as possible? Is there a balance of brain dumping information on students, telling stories so that they understand and connect, while also having high expectations?
  4. The presenter always has a call-to-action, an opt-in form, a purchase option, or a response of some sort.  This is done to get an immediate response from the audience. It gets the audience to apply the information immediately and find out what is confusing or naturally wonder what the next step will be. Since the viewers are learning through inquiry and need, they anticipate the next step of the process.
    Application: Can we ask students to show their understanding and knowledge of the subject through their response? Maybe we can ask them to respond in writing, in a verbal or another creative way. Can we ask them to respond in an nontraditional way?   How can we build a natural inquiry process to the lessons?  Can we add some sense of anticipation to the class where they are realizing that they are lacking something they need or are excited to learn more?

Take-aways: There are some things that we do because we’ve always done them. Now I’m not saying that teachers should baby or handhold our students. We definitely shouldn’t. In fact, with this vast amount of information that they are taking in daily, we should be speeding up the information that we give and expecting more from them. We have moved from simply sitting in class analyzing literature together to a world of “what do I need to do and how do I do it so I can get it done and move on.”

My theory is that if students felt the same sense of urgency that they feel daily in hustling in the grind of all the information around them, then maybe they would feel the urgency to put some heart into their classwork.

Do you agree or disagree?

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