Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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The future of learning

As an academic and a parent of young school-age children, I surprise friends and acquaintances sometimes when I tell them that by the time my kids are of age to attend university, I’m not sure that the academic institution as we know it today will be all that relevant. I’ve just spent a bit of time checking out some of the rapidly growing content on iTunes University and have to ask why, with such great learning opportunities available at the click of a mouse, anyone today would want their learning to be confined to the set of teachers at only one institution? Why not pick and choose from hundreds of institutions and create the type of education that best suits (and better serves) one’s interests?

Today I am wrapping up teaching my online course on Margaret Atwood to a great group of UVM students who have taken the course from home over Christmas. Even now, after teaching this course online for about five years, I’m still impressed and surprised by how students in my online courses routinely outperform my students in face-to-face classes. Why is that? One reason may be that they are more responsible for their own learning in that environment. Instead of being required to go to class at a particular place and time, they get to choose where and when they want to learn. I also ask them to write and read a great deal every day. It’s impossible to sit in the back of the class to see what the professor or their fellow students have to say; they need to be active learners each and every day of my course.

This ad from Kaplan University inspired me to take a few minutes today to talk about this. The ad sums up my point very well, except for that here it’s still an ad for a single, profit generating university that shapes students learning opportunities within parameters generated by that institution. I think that someday maybe (if I live long enough) I’ll be paid by the students from all over the world who want to take my class rather than by an individual university. My office might well be an actual office, a beach chair, or Cappuccino U.