Higher Education: Resources and Finance

By Seymour E. Harris | Go to book overview

Moreover, even in the lower division many courses are not likely to gain from television. A large lecture room seating, say, 600, may be just as well taught in the conventional manner as by TV. The latter is advantageous where experiments, many groups, and the like are required--e.g., the chemistry course discussed above--and large lecture rooms are not to be had. To give an example, at Harvard, Economics I enrolls about 600 students, with instruction almost exclusively by section meetings of 25 to 30 in a section, taught primarily by teaching fellows and a few instructors (Ph.D.s). Many of these young men and women are able and are good teachers. But I am reasonably certain that a first-class lecturer could be more effective; and since the amount of visual material is small and a lecture room available, the course could be handled in the conventional method through lectures. Savings would be large, and part could be used to finance small seminars once a week.

What is perhaps most troublesome to students and teachers is the lack of contact and feedback in the televised courses. This is of course a problem in all large classes, and a special problem in televised instruction only in so far as classes are larger and because of the absence of a direct contact with the teacher. In the feedback improvisations in TV, the students still seem dissatisfied; for what they want is direct contact with the lecturer, not with graduate assistants present in their viewing rooms.

The only answer I can give here is one similar to the Ruml reply: We should have a larger number of large classes, and many of these televised. We should eliminate, wherever it is possible--and it often is not in the advanced courses--the intermediate-sized classes, say, from 25 to 75--and increase greatly the number of seminars and--where financially feasible-- tutorials. Then the student will have an adequate opportunity to discuss problems with his teachers.25

Recently Gordon Ray quoted a statement by Newman of 100 years ago: "A university ideally should be an alma mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill." Indeed this is an ideal. But it is not realized today and will be even less so by 1970. The case against television is largely the case against large classes generally. The case for television is the more effective use of the great teacher--he is largely wasted on groups of 5 to 25--and the economies made available through large classes to finance much greater recourse to small-group instruction.


FOOTNOTES
1
American Council on Education, College Teaching by Television, 1958, p. 151.
2
HEW, Television and Education, 1957, pp. 71-72.
3
C. R. Carpenter, "That's Teaching by TV," College and University Business, March, 1958, pp. 45 and 46.

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