Extending the Walls

Ever been blocked out a fantastic course because it was 'overbooked'?

OSHER@Dartmouth has one solution for this vexing problem.  Many members want to register for a popular class in our offerings, but cannot because the demand exceeds the supply of available seats in the classroom.  “Why not move to a larger venue?“ you might ask.  We’ve learned that members taking some courses, especially those that encourage active participation, prefer the intimacy of a small classroom that fosters dialogue and socialization during breaks.  Moving to a more impersonal kind of environment would deflate its value.  What to do?


This year OSHER@Dartmouth is conducting a pilot to ‘extend the walls’ of the classroom to a different time and place.  Expert content presenters in a class on Great Decisions (i.e., vital current events) are being videotaped during their presentations, and that videotape is then viewed on a TV screen in a class meeting that is conducted elsewhere at a later time.  Study leaders for the first class are present in the second class to show the videotape, provide continuity and lead the all-important class discussion.


How is this working out?  Members in the second class have commented that little is lost in the process.  Everyone sees the same expert presentation, sometimes even enhanced by the camera’s ability to zoom in on map or picture details, and the study leaders are well prepared for a second stimulating discussion.


Just showing the videotape with limited or no discussion does not work; but having study leaders who have already been through the process once brings the viewing to life a second time.


The success of this pilot has even broader implications for us.  A classroom environment can also be extended in real-time by streaming the videotaped proceedings to remote sites, where viewers can potentially be in two-way voice and/or video communication with the host site.  This option is being considered for future presentations at OSHER@Dartmouth.

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 We’re finding that the learning environment can be extended beyond four walls in a building at a specific time.  This webinar-style classroom experience has the potential to become a true “meeting of the minds” of people dispersed in time and space.


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