The end of Higher Education

Christopher B. Hays commented on Facebook on a post “The End of College? Not So Fast” by Donald E. Heller. These posts and the comments prompted this reflection on my own experience. The Chronicle of Higher Education post also suggested my title, which deliberately mimics, but perhaps by removing the question mark subverts theirs.

Indeed almost all of my learning through two undergraduate degrees was obtained outside the classrooms. Though admittedly some came with the help of friends who were capable of taking notes, much much more came from voracious reading and frequent arguments on buses and over coffee or beer. Please do not underestimate my comparatives here, I will rephrase it to make the point. Almost all my undergraduate learning came from materials and experiences outside the class room. Almost NONE came from classroom learning.

  1. Indeed ADHD seems to have a strong inherited component. []

3 comments on “The end of Higher Education

  1. Pingback: The injustice of traditional higher education and online classes — Sansblogue

  2. jonathan robinson

    I love lectures, and especially interacting with lecturers. And that has always been my saving grace in that I had very poor study skills but i would usually have picked up enough in the lectures to scrape through exams and essays. once I learnt (at the tender age of 26) how to study in other ways I became a much better and more successful student.

    i’m now having my first experience of being on the receiving end of distance education. (having spent two years on the giving end previously) for me the weekly online tutorials are an absolute must, although quite frustrating between technology malfunctions and students who don’t seem to have covered the material and then derail the tutorial with repetitive explanations. i get the impression though that most other students on the course with me don’t find them so beneficial.

    the simple reason i’m doing it by distance when I know i would be getting more out of it in lectures is scheduling, full time job and a long commute to the college means distance works for me. to my mind the software – moodle – could be a lot more user friendly. It could even operate on an already available platform like facebook or blogger rather than reinventing the wheel and inevitably making it harder to use for technophobes.

    equally although the online format should enable institutions to cater to different learning styles, the default still seems to be to reproduce “the lecture” and to demand all students go through the same motions, rather than allowing the student to go through different motions based on what will help them learn more efficiently and effectively.

    1. tim

      Crumbs, there’s a lot here to think about.

      Your pointy that lectures work for you is one I really do understand they work(ed) for most of my friends and at least one of my closest family. BUT they (and even the more interactive classrooms that have replaced them) do not suit at least as many people as they suit – to make them an almost exclusive format for higher education is to make higher education an unjust system that gives privilege based on birth.

      Online tutorials are difficult to run well, one must ensure most students are decently prepared and have little tolerance for those who are not if they act as more than passengers. But they are only one form of online teaching (the one that happens to work for the very people conventional higher education worked for (ironically?).

      Moodle was around before Facebook, and the social media format would only work for some aspects of online teaching and learning, though integration with social media would be helpful.

      I think that your last paragraph highlights the problem with conventional higher education. it is because most teachers are so indoctrinated to think of “lectures” as the primary mode of stuffing ideas into the heads of others (and of such stuffing as desirable) that much online teaching attempts to reproduce this format!