The information age and development of the internet have changed every aspect of human life from dating to journalism. Education did not escape this revolution. From 100 percent online courses to interactive lecture styles, the college experience has changed dramatically in the last couple decades, but some believe that the structure of higher education needs more drastic changes in the near future.
Faculty and staff at Southern New Hampshire University embrace this idea with their Sandbox Collaborative. This program works on pitching and developing ideas to revolutionize education. Some areas in the system that need change are outlined below.
1. Changing General Education Class Delivery
For most students, the first two years of their college education consists of completing general education requirements and prerequisite classes aimed at providing a broad overview of different areas. In past years, the most effective way to deliver this information consisted of lectures in enormous auditoriums with class sizes in the hundreds.
Today, the lecture carries less importance because of the resources found online. Not only are prominent lecturers available for free in various fields, many websites also offer other tutorials for students. MOOCs provide an alternative to packing an auditorium 3 times a week.
These classes allow unlimited enrollment and cover a variety of topics. The learning materials are online, and students take assessments and complete assignments. Professors at many universities have designed these courses based off the actual in-person classes they teach. Schools offer these courses for free with a no-credit option. Some universities now give credit for MOOCs with a small fee.
This new trend has garnered various responses with some professors worried that this new fad is providing a less consistent education for students. Others emphasize the benefits like:
- Faster completion time.
- Affordable method for completing prerequisites.
- Diverse course offerings.
2. Changing the Classroom Experience
As the lecture holds less importance, some colleges have concluded that the best way to utilize class time is to focus on hands-on learning. These programs require students to independently learn basic material and then use those fundamentals to solve problems and experience how they can actually use that knowledge. Studies indicate that active learning styles increase information retention rates and result in faster learning.
One Alaska university in Fairbanks emphasizes this learning style in many programs including marine biology and fisheries. In these programs, students experience what it is like to actually work in the field, spending time in laboratories and on the water.
Evergreen State University in Washington has a similar perspective, and they design their curriculum around specific experiences. Each term, all of a student’s classes and experiences complement each other.