Within certain quarters of the administration of my fair university (and of the state university system of which it is a part), it is now taken as given that the classroom is a relic of a bygone era.
Lectures, it is declared, don't work. Besides, the Internet abounds with free streaming lectures (the ones from MIT, the TED Talks). What could we possibly have to add to that? So, it's time to phase out classes in classrooms and move our instruction online.
It's interesting to me that what is offered is a general declaration, rather than an identification of any particular lecture classes of ours that are not working. As it happens, the particular classes are what we offer, not some abstract generalization of "the lecture class".
Moreover, to the extent that lectures are a suboptimal delivery method for information and skills, this seems to be connected to a lack of opportunity to engage in what we in the biz call "active learning". This can be as simple as a pause for questions, or to have students work through a problem where they try to apply or extend something presented in the lecture. It might also involve a more elaborate small group exercise or a facilitated discussion.
Here's the thing: many (if not most) of us who teach "lecture" courses already incorporate a lot of active learning.
And, if the concern is that we should do more of it, or do it better, why would one conclude that the answer is to take this interaction out of the classroom and move it online? Why, especially, would one conclude that one should move it online while making class sizes much, much bigger?
Wouldn't it be more reasonable to conclude that the way to increase active learning is to make class sizes smaller?
Of course, that would cost more.
However, if the goal is really better pedagogy, not just cutting a few million dollars here or there, it might be worth remembering that facilitating active learning -- not to mention evaluating it to provide students with useful feedback and/or grades -- requires more instructor labor, not less, when it's done online.
Or, maybe the administration is only interested in improved pedagogy if the improvements (and whatever extra labor they require) can be had for free.
The whole thing kind of makes me wish the folks further up the org-chart than I am would just spell out exactly what they care about, and exactly what they don't care about. As it is, enough is left implicit that it's really hard to know whether there's any common ground for us to share.