I love higher education wonkery

I tweeted about this earlier, but I want to quote more from the Edge Magazine essay on “The Impending Demise of the University,” specifically this bit, which as a college student, I can tell you is a very real phenomenon:

Consider one of the smash hits on YouTube last year, a short video called “A Vision of Students Today”.

Created by Michael Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, it is a stinging indictment of the education delivered by standard large-scale American university. Wesch recruited 200 student collaborators to describe their view of the education they’re receiving. Their verdict: Nothing much has changed since the early nineteenth century, when the blackboard was introduced as a brilliant new way to help students visualize information. They painted a grim picture of university life — huge classes, teachers who didn’t know the students’ names, students who didn’t complete the assigned readings, multiple-choice exams that were a waste of intellectual capital.

I know many bright students who feel the same way. The big thing these days is to get an “A” without ever having gone to a lecture. When the crème de la crème of an entire generation is boycotting the formal model of pedagogy in our educational institutions, the writing is on the wall. (Emphasis mine)

While I would never attempt the bolded task, I know many kids who have and several who have suceeded. One class at UMD in particular is infamous for basically not requiring students to attend. Why? They are 600 kids in the class and the professors always post slides online. Another interesting point:

Growing up digital has changed the way their minds work in a manner that will help them handle the challenges of the digital age. They’re used to multi-tasking, and have learned to handle the information overload. They expect a two-way conversation. What’s more, growing up digital has encouraged this generation to be active and demanding enquirers. Rather than waiting for a trusted professor to tell them what’s going on, they find out on their own on everything from Google to Wikipedia.

If universities want to adapt the teaching techniques to their current audience, they should, as I’ve been saying for years, make significant changes to the pedagogy. And the new model of learning is not only appropriate for youth — but increasingly for all of us. In this generation’s culture is the new culture of learning.

The professors who remain relevant will have to abandon the traditional lecture, and start listening and conversing with the students — shifting from a broadcast style and adopting an interactive one. Second, they should encourage students to discover for themselves, and learn a process of discovery and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the professor’s store of information. Third, they need to encourage students to collaborate among themselves and with others outside the university. Finally, they need to tailor the style of education to their students’ individual learning styles.

Because of technology this is now possible. But this is not fundamentally about technology per se. Rather it represents a change in the relationship between students and teachers in the learning process.

Anyway, as the kids say, read the whole thing. After the jump, the aforementioned YouTube video.


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