Myself, J.M. and tb came to a wonderful enlightenment on the chat recently.

A few days ago, the chat went into a deep measure theoretic discussion and a separate room was spawned to keep the main chatroom for the general chat.

So we came up with the idea of having a separate room, in which an invited speaker could give a lecture and later on answer questions. Of course this is less likely to go wonderfully smooth without in-chat $\LaTeX$ support, but there are workarounds.

The ideal is to have a weekly session. Of course this may be too much so have a lecture once every two weeks, much like a colloqium or a seminar.

I have created a separate chatroom which is a "gallery" chatroom, it means that it is read only for everyone and the speaker will be granted a voice. After the lecture will be finished we will work out a method for asking questions (perhaps in a different room) so it will not clutter the chat log.

What I would like to ask the good folks of math.SE is to come up with ways that we can make this even better.

Suggestions about how to get $\LaTeX$ work on the chat (as Jeff remarked that they do not plan on adding such support to chat) are most welcomed.

Along side a list of "What you'd like to hear". Remember that this is not a 1-1 technical hour, and should probably be similar to what you'd hear in the seminar at your local department.


1 Answer 1


I'm a bit skeptical.

I was present for much of the measure theory event, and it was indeed wonderful to watch. But I think what made it wonderful was that it was essentially a one-on-one tutoring session rather than a lecture. It was a dialogue, with lots of "do you think you get XYZ now, or should we move on to PQR?" and "wait a moment, how does UVW follow from this". That made it very effective, because the "tutor" could match the pace of the presentation exactly to the "student".

But I don't think that experience will transfer easily to a public lecture-and-questions format with a plenary audience. You cannot match pace that way to an audience larger than at most two or tree persons. Even if some mechanism for questions from the audience during the lecture was found, it would be quite random which members of the audience would feel comfortable interrupting with questions. (This is different from an academic colloquium, where generally a good fraction of those present know for certain they are the core target audience of the talk, and so feel free to ask clarifying questions).

If, as I expect, the lecture-and-question format ends up being effectively a monologue followed by discussion, then I have to wonder what is the point of monologuing in a chatroom, rather than send out a properly typeset pdf some time in advance and having everybody read that? A "let's all read such-and-such paper and then discuss it" event would feel more promising to me.

But perhaps that's just me. I can't fathom what the point of video lectures is either (compared to, say, prose essays), but plenty of people seem to like them just fine. There might be a market for chatroom lectures too.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ +1 for expressing exactly my feelings concerning the "lectures". $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Nov 12, 2011 at 16:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Apart from people with different levels of their mathematical knowledge, we also have people from different timezones - this might be problem, too. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2011 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ The point of video lectures versus essays is the same difference between TV news and reading the newspaper. I am not a cognitive scientists, but I have heard say that passive (as in television, radio, etc) consumption of information engages the brain in a different way as does active consumption of information. That said, in the context of this question, I completely agree with you: the main advantage of the chat format is that it facilitates teaching just at the right level of details. When the audience size grows this becomes untenable. $\endgroup$ Nov 14, 2011 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ It was indeed wonderful! $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2011 at 16:09

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