Saturday, November 9, 2013

Disruption in Higher Education

The New York Times recently had a neat feature about disruptive forces in higher education. It should be here. The essays there hit me on two different levels.

First, as a teacher, am I doing what I should be doing to get kids ready for that world? I think I am. In fact, I'm grateful that I made the jump over to teaching Macroeconomics as well as civics and economics, not because I think that will be my permanent teaching assignment, but because I'm learning how to reach kids better. There are so many times in Macro where I know I can't move on to the next thing because some or most of my kids don't get it yet. Ironically, a course like history allows a teacher to move on to the next thing if the kids don't get the current thing yet. You can, for instance, master World War I if you're clueless on the Civil War. But one can't move on to Fiscal Policy without understanding competing theories on macroequilibrium. My experience with non-AP juniors has been eye-opening, as I've had many instances in which I've noticed students learning something within a class period or week but not internalize it for the long haul. When I return to teaching my specialty, history, I'll be better attuned to listening for the signs that tell me my students truly get it.

Second, as a father concerned about my own kids' future in college, I'm heartened to see some trends that might take down the price of a college tuition. The model by which the four-year experience has operated is under attack, in part because it's apparent the customer base is losing the means to pay for the experience. Cost (money and time) weighs larger than suitability of the college degree. Perhaps the way people my age will be able to afford their kids' college experience is to embrace a reality in which the four-year away-from-home experience is replaced by a model that has less frills, education paced at the rate by which one masters material, and opportunities that mix campus and online experiences.

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