Teaching large groups: Lecturing

TCT Lecture Theatre @ NTU

Designing educational experiences is something that I really enjoy. This goes for everything from workshops and tutorials to Lecturing. Here at NTU, I have been teaching larger groups than I am used to from back home in Sweden. My largest group in Sweden is during the first unit for the new MSc in Interaction Technology and Design students that arrive every fall. We admit around 50-ish students and that is what I have to work with. Here at NTU we enroll over 400 students on their engineering programs. That is a big difference and the methods for keeping interactions with students during lectures do not work.

I had my lectures in Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre (or just TCT-LT for short), which is regarded as “small” and cozy with its seating capacity of 306. Some of the other lecture theatres can take up to 700 students. It is a very nice lecture theatre and I must say that I really enjoyed having my lectures here. It had an amphitheatre kind of style which made the distance to the students decrease and the interaction to increase (at least a little bit).

The interior of the very nice TCT Lecture Theatre
The cockpit at TCT-LT

The lecture theatres are all equipped with everything that you might possible need, from computer to document camera. Everything is controlled from a rather impressive cockpit.

At NUT all lectures in the common lecture theatres are recorded live and posted online for the students to view. The large groups together with live lecture recording make up for a sort of flipped classroom approach. The interaction between the students and the professors are in labs and tutorial rooms. But more about live lecture recording and tutorials later.

Fun fact:
Tan Chin Tuan (1908-2005) was a Peranakan Chinese businessman and philanthropist that is credited of building the bank OCBC. A bust of him stands in front of the lecture theatre at NTU.

Compared to Sweden the lectures are shorter. In Sweden, we usually have two-hour blocks for each lecture with 15 min break in the middle of the session. Even though I might be a master of long lectures, I really enjoy the shorter format. It makes you focused, prepared and deliver the material in a high quality fashion. However, the lower level of interaction that follows larger groups makes the lecture be more of “deliver the material in the book” sort of lectures. This is not what I want with my lecturing. But this is probably why many students do not show up for lectures, but watch them online later on.

Lecture in TCT Lecture Theatre

I must say that even though I enjoy having the students for longer sessions, I becoming a fan of the 45-60 min lecture system. However, this seems far looking back to Sweden since they even change the system so we actually pay for two hours in a lecture theatre even if we want to have shorter lectures. This might be something to think about…

Here are some pros and cons of teaching large groups in lecture theatres:

  • + Very cost and time effective for the teachers.
  • + Each lecture theatre is equipped with amazing technology and easy to use interfaces (nice when working with interaction design).
  • + Shorter lectures.
  • – Low level of interaction.
  • – Harder to get to know the students.
  • – Impersonal.

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