Classroom is changing. Or rather Class (session of learning) and Room (place of learning) are becoming distinguishable and not one and the same in today’s learning revolution.
Classroom fundamentally was an outcome of economics of congregation for mass education. Academies and institutes are a bundle of classrooms to economize on the small pool of educated to deliver learning to the large mass to be educated. The fundamentals that drove the system were attendance and not attention. You may recall the first job of the instructor was to take the roll call, to ensure all are in. The classroom, therefore, with the blackboard as the icon for learning & education exemplified the authority driven instruction executed by the teacher and the institution. The enclosure was to separate the privileged few who are inside from the under-privileged those who are outside. Attending and subjecting oneself through the rigour of classroom was tantamount to being educated. It was always when we attribute credentials to a learned person, it is the college/university and the place where he or she attended that mattered. Instructors who could summon the congregation and extract discipline were considered outstanding.
In the old world, the only way to access education was by attending where it was delivered.
If the classroom and institutionalization separated content from instructor in the old world, the current world has separated instruction from instructor. The commercialization of education, the onset of subscribed distance and virtual education has broken the norm of attendance as credible evidence of learning. The instruction has got separated from the instructor. The measures moved away from attending to completing. Classrooms ceased to have less or no significance in the education process that is completion driven. The engine of content material, assessments and tests drove the process. The delivery and administrative engines have taken away the power from instruction. We see that happen in a big way in higher education.
In the current world, the way to gain education is by completing from wherever one could access.
The explosion of digital technologies and the connectivity is moving education to yet another world. The format of education emerging today has the potential to be completely learner-centric. One may choose what to learn, from where to learn and how to learn. Classroom’s relevance may further get diluted when virtual communication processes mature. We are now talking of educational platforms that are technology-driven. These platforms have flattened classrooms by which students become equal contributors to learning as much the instructor through peer learning.
In the emerging world, the possible way to experience education is by contributing through individual assimilation
Is the Classroom dead? No, it isn’t.
The future will be an interesting mix of all the three worlds with each format doing its bit it is best at. Congregation is still an important component for learning. The Classroom shall uphold the virtues of group physically being together for synthesis, debates and synergizing learning synergies and not for instructional or informational monologue. The classroom shall definitively cease to continue to be an attendance punching machine and the intellectual fort. The instructor needs to leave the virtual medium for students to access content. She rather should look at ways to induce dialogue, conversation among the groups.
The irony is for a virtual classroom course (synchronous learning through video) I undertake today, the institution mandates that I sign an attendance sheet on a piece of paper after every session!
Our mindset shift has a long way to go!!