DNS retreat on lectures

25 February 2013
Prof George Cairns
Prof George Cairns

DNS retreat on lectures: Lectures in the age of MOOCS: Why, what and how?

Convenor: Dr Thomas Bishop

The lecture has been the core of university teaching for centuries. However in the age of MOOCs and easily accessible information is the teacher-centric lecture dead? The Division of Natural Sciences will be hosting a one day retreat to address this question and present alternative approaches for the future. The topics will build upon two DNS forums on lectures held in 2012.

Draft Program:

9:30 Welcome and Introduction

9:50 Talks on current innovation and research within the Division

10:40 Group Discussion: What is a lecture?

11:00 Small Group Discussions: Current practices (Groups 1 - 4)

12:00 Reporting of Groups

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Keynote: Prof. George Cairns, Head of School of Management, RMIT University (see below for more information)

14:30 Small Group Discussions: Future practices and strategic planning (Groups 5 - 8)

15:30 Reporting of Groups

16:00 Summary & Close

Small Group Discussions

Small group discussions/workshops will be held in the morning and afternoon to discuss different issues and questions. Please indicate on the registration page which two you would prefer to attend for each session. We will try to allocate you into one of these.


Group 1: How can we get students to turn up to (be engaged with) lectures?

Group 2: What do I know now that I wish I knew as an early career lecturer?

Group 3: Large lecture classes: how can we make them more student-centric?

Group 4: Lecturing to small classes: how can we avoid it? Should we avoid it?


Group 5: What will a lecture be like in 2020? How far are we from that now?

Group 6: What will learning spaces be like in 2020? How far are we from that now?

Group 7: How should the Division deal with MOOCs and similar online resources?

Group 8: Suggest a theme or question...

Keynote: The Lecture is Dead - Long Live the Academic!

George Cairns

Professor of Management, Head of School of Management, Centre for Business Education Research (CBER), RMIT University


I fully support the notion that the lecture is dead. But, this does not necessarily mean that the academic is doomed, so long as she/he does not stay with the corpse. Accepting the death of the lecture in its historic form does not mean the inevitable death of the academic, despite the cries of woe of the luddites and dire predictions on the impact of MOOCs and other 'technological disruptions'. However, the academic must realise that her/his primary role and expertise no longer lie - if they ever did - in telling students what is knowledge, but in instilling in them the ability to see why some ideas should be valued as knowledge, and why others; based on opinion, bias, propaganda, etc; should be questioned or rejected. Then, the academic must work with students in enabling them to explore how this knowledge can be applied to investigate, elicit options, and design optimal solutions to the complex and ambiguous problems that face society.

The challenges are great, but the potential rewards are greater, and both are outweighed by the risks of not engaging. If the academic stays with the dying lecture, she/he will become redundant. However, the student will then be left at the mercy of an unmediated web-learning environment that will be exploited by commercial and other self-interests that have no concern for knowledge in itself. In this session, drawing upon my background in architecture and my current location in RMIT University's new Swanston Academic Building, I will outline approaches to business education that are based upon a 'design studio' approach. I will show that the 'flipped classroom' and such concepts are not new, but that the advent of new technologies - and the design of new physical learning environments - enables them to be applied and implemented in new and exciting ways. In the new learning environment, the academic remains the custodian of knowledge, but does not have exclusive ownership of it.

Biographic Note

George Cairns is Professor of Management and Head of School of Management at RMIT University. With others, he has worked on development of scenario method since the 1990s. George has facilitated scenario workshops for organizations including UK National Air Traffic Services, South East England Development Agency, the Facility Management Association of Australia, and the Risk Management Institution of Australasia. From 2009-2011, he contributed to a project exploring higher education futures for Romania, funded by the European Social Fund. With Prof. George Wright from the UK, he co-authored Scenario Thinking: Practical approaches to the future, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2011. George has published widely in international journals, including Human Relations, European Journal for Operational Research, Management Learning, Technological Forecasting and Social Change and Futures. George trained as an architect in the UK and gained his PhD from the University of Glasgow.

Time: 9.30am - 4.15pm

Location: Biomedical Building, Australian Technology Park (ATP)

Cost: Free - RSVP by Feb 20th 2013

Email: 273a4b59102c3f4b505c274c7d530c4d1c4a18

More info: