When I heard about the problem-based learning (PBL) case at Queens College or listened to the TEDx lecture by Seth Godin, I recalled my confusion and embarrassment when I first encountered a PBL-style class. It was the first class I attended when I returned to academia after years of professional life. The class was for learning a computer scripting language, but the professor did not give any lecture in the lab and just shared his tutorial videos that he posted on YouTube. There was a little project assignment each class that students had to figure out how to complete by themselves watching the tutorial videos. The professor stayed in the classroom just to answer the questions.
My first thought was as follows: why am I here paying the tuition? Did I make the hard decision to come back to academia giving up my career and salary spending all my savings just for watching YouTube videos in the classroom? I can watch them at home or in my office without paying the tuition! Moreover, I had never seen that type of class when I had been a college student, thus, the professor not giving a lecture seemed like a dereliction of his duty. Due to these thoughts, I was lost during the first class and finally dropped that course.
Ironically, this issue of YouTube learning came up again in another lecture class. In that class, a guest lecturer was invited one day, who was a young CEO of a consulting company for Building Information Modeling (BIM). He said that nobody was teaching BIM when he was studying at architecture school because it was a new system of which not many experts were available. Therefore, he could self-learn BIM only on YouTube, and he could be one of the few BIM specialists when he graduated. He said the self-learning through online platforms would be the future of the education, and we should be more active and comfortable with learning new area utilizing those supports. The guest lecturer’s session helped me open my mind toward the new learning method.
Afterwards, more and more classes in my schedule turned into PBL. I could learn a lot, even though the learning process required significant efforts. During the three years in academia, I could see the guest lecturer was right, also, the scripting language class would have been helpful if I did not drop the course. As Godin explained, the definition of learning seems to move from “collecting the dots” to “connecting the dots” these days. I was educated in the system of “collecting the dots” earlier. Although I knew the system was burdensome and uncreative, it was harder to break through the familiar methods. Finally, I could start moving toward “connecting the dots” accepting the new system of learning, which seems like a valuable gift from my graduate studies.
TEDxYouth. (n.d.). STOP STEALING DREAMS: Seth Godin at TEDxYouth@BFS. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXpbONjV1Jc