A college degree matters, and there’s no good substitute for the broad education that a student receives on the way toward earning one. College creates an environment where one can explore and consider possibilities — an environment that is not replicated in free, self-paced online courses or narrow curricula.
I’m troubled by comments that cite the Internet and open-source educational models as evidence that general education has become superfluous. Higher education is not a hobby that one visits during free time; it is an intentional process that allows us to make connections within ourselves and to each other through liberal studies.
When a student completes a course in writing, sociology, geology, philosophy or art, they learn more than “right answers.” Students are learning how to think, engage, create, communicate and apply. Graduates are equipped to transfer these skills at home, work, school and in the world.
How do we know students are developing these skills?
Qualified, experienced and committed faculty assesses learning. That means that when we require students to write a paper, give a presentation, perform a theater or musical piece, design a Web page, repair a diesel engine or prepare a healthy entrée, we are connecting the assignment to a specific learning outcome.