A community college in New Mexico is experimenting with “microlectures”, a format that takes a full length college lecture and boils it down to the key concepts and themes running one to three minutes.

Microlectures, which are being used for undergraduate online courses, have been very popular with students and a number of colleges are considering expanding their use.

But does the format improve student learning?

The format encourages active learning, says David Penrose, a course designer for SunGard Higher Education and online-services manager for San Juan College. He developed the microlectures for San Juan. While the quantity of information that a 60-second microlecture can convey is limited, he said, it primes the student to learn from completing the assignments that follow the microlecture.

“It’s a framework for knowledge excavation,” Mr. Penrose said. “We’re going to show you where to dig, we’re going to tell you what you need to be looking for, and we’re going to oversee that process.”

Maybe I’m wrong (always possible, if not likely), but these colleges seem to be abandoning any idea of asking students to construct their own knowledge and instead will be leading them by the nose to the “right” answers.

Which, I guess, is pretty much what we do in many schools anyway.

However, I also have one question for the Professor at the podium in the front of the hall…

If the concepts and themes contained in your lecture can be compressed down to only three minutes, was there any value in the original full-length presentation to begin with?

Just asking.

[Thanks to Sean for the link.]