I want to know whether there is any necessary entity (quality/property) in the traditional classroom teaching that cannot be done without a physical classroom with intended students. Please keep aside the administrative responsibilities such as minimum teaching hours in classroom, availability in office, maintaining attendance of students etc.,

Afaik, most of the tasks that a professor (any lecturer) can do in the classroom can also be done without classroom with assembled students, nowadays, with high availability.

For lecture, a professor can publish her recorded video lectures to students. For query solving or interaction, she can use the Q&A site for her students. Announcements can also be streamed in a similar way. I'm referring to the sites such as Google classroom, piazza, slack, etc.,

In such a case, I'm getting the doubt whether there exists a necessary entity that a professor cannot provide without (her direct presence) a classroom teaching.

If such an entity exists, then what is that?

  • Doing the original video, dealing with a myriad of errors...
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 31, 2020 at 5:03
  • @SolarMike doing the original video. It does not need a classroom with students. She can do it at her comfortable place and can post it. I'm asking for tasks that demand her presence in the classroom. Sorry if my question is ambiguous.
    – hanugm
    Jan 31, 2020 at 5:07
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    How will the video know when it needs to do a new version of itself?
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 31, 2020 at 5:15
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    Lectures are one thing. Let's suppose you study biology, chemistry or something similar. You need the lab infrastructure to pursue your studies. So most of the time you will be physically present anyway. Might be different in other fields. Jan 31, 2020 at 8:46
  • 1
    IMHO on-topic, just with awkward language
    – Flyto
    Jan 31, 2020 at 13:13

2 Answers 2


Have you ever taught? When you explain something to a class, have you ever seen understanding happen in students' faces, or confusion? When the former happens, have you stopped your speaking and prompted the student to continue your thought and make it their own? Or in the latter case, have you stopped and asked what was unclear, had a discussion about it, and then tried to explain it in a different way?

None of this happens in an online setting: You give students a textbook chapter to read or a video to watch, but it's not interactive: You can't catch students where they need to be caught to learn efficiently because you don't have the personal interaction and contact. Personal contact really is a very powerful thing.

  • 6
    I perfectly agree. I would like to add that apart from the lecturer-student interaction also the student-student interaction is easier to be productive in personal contact. Not necessarily only during the lectures, but also afterwards. Socializing is difficult if you sit alone in a room watching some videos. Or am I getting old? Jan 31, 2020 at 8:50
  • @Snijderfrey -- yes, excellent point. I'm teaching a class with groupwork this semester and find it exciting to see how much they debate and explain while in small groups! Jan 31, 2020 at 9:31

Although I think this question is both too broad and is just asking for opinions, I answered part of it in a related question:

The fast development of the technologies involved has meant that we regularly experience new waves of communication trends whose popularity waxes and wanes. It often moves so rapidly that a medium is defunct before any study of its usage is ever made. I've been using waves of leading edge communication technologies from the mid 1970's. For me there is much deja-vu; I am reminded of Thomas Edison's fascination with the latest media of the day in education. He too though that the embracing of the latest technology would be the solution. I am also reminded of fashionable predictions of how 21st century eduction would be performed using modern media. Each time a new technology becomes fashionable, be it computers, email, web pages, cellular telephony, smartphones, wearable computers or social media they are projected as the ultimate solution to any perceived ills of the education system at any particular time period.

Also there are many relevant answers in this question: What is the point of a lecture when you have a textbook?

  • During a several year period 10-15 years ago, I went through all the bound volumes of several math-related journals at a nearby university library (for various reasons not important here), such as Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Sciences and Mathematics Teacher and School Science and Mathematics and many others (primarily U.S. based, with a few from other English speaking countries), and I saw the deja-vu you mention throughout several time periods involving solutions such as Saturday radio shows on science topics for rural schools (mostly 1930s), (continued) Jan 31, 2020 at 11:16
  • various audio-visual innovations (a several mid 20th century decade period), television shows beamed to or recorded for rural schools (mostly 1960s and 1970s), and probably other things I've since forgotten reading about. These solutions were mostly intended to provide teaching of topics that no one locally could adequately give, and none came anywhere near as widely used as their early proponents said would happen. (continued) Jan 31, 2020 at 11:18
  • As a wild guess, I can only think of two innovations that have radically changed education in math-related areas (restricted to this because this is what I know best): the influx of cheap calculators in the late 1970s and the rise of the internet (to replace encyclopedias, dictionaries, newspapers and magazines, library books/texts, etc.). Jan 31, 2020 at 11:18
  • @DaveLRenfro: Your reasons might not be relevant, but I'm sure we're all curious nonetheless! :-) Jan 31, 2020 at 12:22

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