Date: November 27th, 2013
Cate: Education

Get the most out of your money for your university education

Class lectures.  I like giving them, but every year I know students don’t learn the material very well.  All professors know this, hundreds of years of history have shown this, and “[a] huge body of evidence2 suggests that [other] approaches are much more effective than lecture-and-drill-based techniques” (Waldrop, 2013, Nature).

I do not think I have a monopoly on hidden, specific knowledge that only by going to my class will you be able to learn it.  I do not think I am the best lecturer in the world and I absolutely believe there are other people out there that can lecture better than I can.  Knowledge is getting more and more accessible and cheaper and cheaper.  With all of the world’s information at our fingertips in the form of online articles, books, audio, video, and forums, students now have the option of learning anything they want, very easily.  So what are they paying money for, for their college education?  Let’s look 20 years into the future where all lectures on all topics are freely available, delivered by the best orators, in high definition video and audio, along with the rest of the online resources available to look up any information; what’s the point of going to class?  Of paying thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education?  Here’s what I think students should be paying for:

1. The college experience (i.e., extending their education and broadening their horizons).

2. To lead a more examined life (i.e., learning how to think critically).

3. Access to their like-minded peers.

4. Access to professors.

5. Access to research.

6. The diploma.

The individual student knows best what type of learner they are.  Visual?  Auditory?  Books?  Doesn’t matter, we now can accommodate all types of learners, so that they aren’t “dropp[ing] 150 grand on a … education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

Again, I believe they should be paying for access to their peers and the professors.  Certainly, upper level journal club style discussion classes are awesome, but for broad lectures for more than 20 students?  The progression of novel technology to enhance education seems to be: books -> audio -> video -> artificial intelligence.  Thus, from now on, I’m going to upload videos of all of my lectures with the lecture slides freely available beforehand for my students.  (Along with an FAQ for the pseudo-artificial intelligence part of it.)  Class time then, will only be used for small group discussions of the material the students will (hopefully) have already prepared for.  Book learner?  Read the recommended readings in the handouts.  Visual or audio learner?  Watch or listen to the videos.  Discussion style learner?  Come to class and discover the material with peers, or interact with me.  Now students can really ask themselves “What am I paying for?”, and they can take more charge of their own education.  In 20 years from now, all classes and lectures will be available, guaranteed.  So why would they ever take my class?  Why would they ever take any class?  Why would they ever pay any money for an education?

There should never be a monopoly on knowledge (shout out to GeneDig!!); what you should pay money for are things pure knowledge can’t provide.

1 Comment

  1. November 28th, 2013

  2. Here’s the Wired article last month that inspired me to revamp all of my classes I was teaching earlier this November. Then again, I’m a sucker for any article that includes Carl Friedrich Gauss, in my opinion the greatest mathematician of all time.

    The point is, the future of education is not MOOCs, it’s flipped classrooms.


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