ADJUSTING to life after lockdown is a process, not an event. Firms and individual employees alike are going to have to give themselves space and time to figure out who will be best placed to continue working from home, who might return to the office more or less full-time, and who would do better with a blended approach.

Likewise colleges and universities. As we approach the new academic year, it’s already clear that the new normal on campus will not be like the last 18 months, when everything moved online and faculty buildings lay empty and dormant. But nor will higher education simply revert to the old ways that dominated in the years BC (before Covid).

Knee-jerk reactions that universities which decline to teach all their students face-to-face are somehow selling those students short, or letting them down, are neither thoughtful nor helpful. For the truth is that our universities have thought harder and deeper about teaching and how to deliver it in the last year and a half than they have for decades.

READ MORE: Obituary: Nanci Griffith, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter

I joined my first law school as a young academic at the beginning of the 1990s. It was a time when the dreaded Research Assessment Exercise was new. The mantra was publish or perish. It was research and writing that would get you promoted. Teaching was simply the price you paid for a research career.

More recently the focus has been on grant-getting. University managers love nothing more than the thrusting, entrepreneurial academic who wins a major multi-year research grant that not only monetises their research but buys them out of undergraduate teaching altogether.

Instead, the grant will buy in graduate teaching assistants, who will pick up the burden of tutoring first-years and marking their assessments. How the students are supposed to benefit from their top professors absenting themselves from the classroom in this manner does not appear to have mattered very much.

The silver lining in the cloud that Covid has certainly cast over the lives and livelihoods of students is that, for the first time in years, faculties are having to devote significant resource and energy into rethinking how they teach. It is individual academics’ research agendas that have been required to take a back seat, as their focus has shifted to the students.

Courses have been reimagined. Assessments have been redesigned. Reading lists have been digitised. And teaching itself has migrated to Zoom, Teams, and YouTube. Some of it has been what university managers would call “challenging” (that is, some of it has failed). But quite a lot of it has worked remarkably well and should not be jettisoned just because campuses are beginning to open up again.

READ MORE: Stunning film tells story of former slave’s amazing life

Tutorials and seminars – small-group teaching – struggle on Zoom, just as other sorts of meeting do. Yes, you can rely on on-screen learning as an emergency substitute for the classroom when you really need to. But we all know that it is inferior to the real thing. The best seminars leave you buzzing with the excitement of it all – it’s mighty hard to replicate that on a screen. The best tutorials don’t stop when the hour is up, but continue over conversation in the corridor or over a coffee. Yet “end meeting for all” is a big red button on a Zoom call that means exactly what it says.

Lectures, however, are a different story. At their best, they may make for memorable performances, but they are and always have been a lousy way of teaching. As one old adage has it, lectures are a means of information passing from the lecturer’s notes to the students’ notes without going through the head of either. The days of several hundred students crowding into a cramped and over-heated lecture theatre to hear the same thing from the same lecturer at the same time are, I hope, over. Not just for now, but forever.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Festival review: BBC SSO/Alsop & RSNO/Chan, Edinburgh Academy Junior School, four stars

Far better for the lecturer to pre-record their thoughts, either direct to camera or interspersed with video aids, and for students to be able to download and watch the lecture at a time that suits them. They can pause where they like; repeat whatever they want to hear again; follow links; compare what the lecturer is saying with what is written in the course textbook. They can watch on the bus, or in the bath, or on the treadmill in the gym – whatever works.

We know from the analytics that delivering lecturers remotely in this way turns the experience from the utterly passive one of sitting there, half-listening, with at least one eye on the clock, into a much more active one in which students really use the resource of the lecture as means of adding value to their learning. Because the hyperlinks are followed; the lecture is paused and repeated while the student grapples with a particularly complex point, or a contentious argument.

A move to blended learning should have happened in higher education a long time ago, but universities (rather like the NHS) are innovative hubs full of brilliance and creativity that are, at the same time, afflicted by maddening bureaucratic sclerosis. Video calls were not conceived in lockdown – the technology had been lying there for some time – but on campus we did not pick it up and start using it until we had to. (Necessity, mother, invention, and all that.)

I know that I’ll miss giving lectures. I’m a performer – and I love an audience. But I also know that redesigning them and digitising them, so that the students can use them more as podcasts, with links that take them directly to the materials I want them to read and think about, will transform what I can offer them.

After 18 months of teaching entirely on screen, I can’t wait to get into the classroom again. But lectures? As a teaching device they should be binned. They are a relic.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.