What If….

So I’ve been complaining to anyone who’ll listen about the plight of higher education, I guess I should offer a vision of what I want things to look like in the higher ed of my world. And yes, the trains run on time in my reality too.

1. Courses should be inquiry based, with curriculum flexible enough to accommodate such a move.  As long as the core concepts are met, then everything else should be based on the curiosity of the student. If there’s a lot of core concepts to cover, then split the course into two. What if that extends indefinitely? Well it can’t – it’s my reality. Oh all right, be critical. Is there a way that a core concept gets wrapped into other tasks? Creativity comes in handy here… the point is get the students interested in doing something and you’ve won. They’ll learn, you’ll learn and be amazed with whatever they do. I can guarantee it. But the teacher in the equation has to be able to motivate, and pique that curiosity.

2. Mandatory courses like maths and communications should be folded into each course – so there’s no more “irrelevant” courses. Sure, we all know that a good communication course is worth it’s weight in gold. Of course, we recognize that after working with someone who couldn’t communicate their way out of a wet paper bag. Some of these basic, soft skills can be taught online with profs acting as tutors. Or better still, make sure the students have those skill before setting foot in a classroom.

3. Speaking of classrooms, keep them. Don’t for one minute think that you can do away with them. Students, faculty, hell, people love places to congregate and talk with others about whatever excites them. And sometimes that’s not the subject you’re teaching in class. Oh well. Those social connections are crucial.

4. Be kind to faculty who do a good job, work hard and devote a lot of effort and work to make things good for the student. It’s not always about pay, sometimes it’s as simple as recognition. This is so easy to do, and rarely is it done. Why? Why have I seen several people who were great teachers leave the profession? Because they can’t make ends meet or they have a sense that it will never get better for them as there’s so many people in front of them in the seniority list. Or, even worse, they see the politics in the way and have no real hold out for hope.

5. Tie tuition costs to cost of living and subsidize the rest through governments of all levels. It’s a shame that we’re running higher education into the ground with the idea that we’re churning out a commodity rather than empowering people. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d say of course they don’t want you to think, just to make better widgets on the line… but that’s too cynical for even me. At least I hope….

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