Professor Michael Wesch has published yet another excellent video, looking at some of the most important characteristics of students today. In particular, how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. The video is a follow up to the amazing The machine is using us.
As a recent MBA student this video struck a deep chord within me. I strongly feel that Universities and Colleges need to work harder and smarter in their efforts at “blended learning” in a Web 2.0 world. It is true that we all learn and absorb information in different ways. However, the evolution of multimedia is allowing us all to learn things quicker and faster.
The growing number of foreign students (where English, may not be their first language) and distance learners are likely to derive many benefits from course content that is made available through podcasts or vodcasts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing off the written word. But, in a rapidly developing digital world the appetite of younger students who have been brought up with iPods and YouTube videos will need something “stronger” than course text books to assimilate information. Web 2.0 technologies can help here.
I’m not alone in thinking Universities will need to change. I recently attended the Future of Web Apps conference in London. Paul Graham from Y Combinator delivered a presentation on The future of Web Startups. Among many areas, Paul discusses how he perceives the roles of University colleges will change in the future in relation to Web startups
8. College Will Change
“I grew up in a time where college degrees seemed really important, so I’m alarmed to be saying things like this, but there’s nothing magical about a degree. There’s nothing that magically changes after you take that last exam. The importance of degrees is due solely to the administrative needs of large organisations. These can certainly affect your life—it’s hard to get into grad school, or to get a work visa in the US, without an undergraduate degree—but tests like this will matter less and less.
As well as mattering less whether students get degrees, it will also start to matter less where they go to college. In a startup you’re judged by users, and they don’t care where you went to college. So in a world of startups, elite universities will play less of a role as gatekeepers. In the US it’s a national scandal how easily children of rich parents game college admissions. But the way this problem ultimately gets solved may not be by reforming the universities but by going around them. We in the technology world are used to that sort of solution: you don’t beat the incumbents; you redefine the problem to make them irrelevant.
The greatest value of universities is not the brand name or perhaps even the classes so much as the people you meet. If it becomes common to start a startup after college, students may start trying to maximize this. Instead of focusing on getting internships at companies they want to work for, they may start to focus on working with other students they want as cofounders.What students do in their classes will change too. Instead of trying to get good grades to impress future employers, students will try to learn things. We’re talking about some pretty dramatic changes here”.
Meredith Farkas has also published a very interesting presentation on the role of Social Software in Higher Education – a librarian that “get’s it”
I do hope that Universities focus less on their obsessions in raising student numbers (especially with foreign students). Rather, I hope they concentrate on producing and delivering digital course content that students can easily engage in. Though, for some teaching staff this could be a huge culture shock.
“Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach”.
Mark Prensky, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants
The machine is really teaching us…