Saturday, March 16, 2013

Education for other people's children

When considering interesting/novel/new forms of education - online learning, MOOCs, etc..... Steve Gilbert likes to ask if what we are proposing is only "good enough for other people's children?" Are we recommending modes of education that we'd want for our own children? Or is what we're recomming only a "good enough" option for students who can't manage to participate in that type education we have traditionally thought of as "best? I'm pretty sure that Steve is thinking of traditional college-age students who may be well-served by the traditional, residential, liberal arts undergraduate education. There's an implication that this is the standard and that there's only one "best." But I think the time to consider that environment the "best" or the only way to get a "real" education has been over for a while. There are too many other options that have been used successfully by many students. (Also, not all students attending the traditional bricks and mortar schools get great grades or go on to be high achievers.) What about the children of those running for profits or online universities like UMUC or consortia like the Western Governors University? Are those leaders encouraging their children to attend an Ivy League university or a traditional liberal arts residental college? I'm not sure that matters one way or the other. While children of the leaders of Western Governors University might select a traditional route, other students select WGU - and get what they need. Straighterline may be a cheap, quick way to get some credits and not provide the full undergraduate experience, but cheap, quick credits can be just what some people need. Those students are someone's children, but it's possible that they are already adults in their own right. At UMUC this term I have quite a few retired and soon-to-be retired military (both female and male), a man who's currently in the State Department, another man who was in the Bush administration in various capacities, some single parents, some who are mid-career and need that advanced degree to switch gears or to move ahead. There are a few traditional age students who like the flexibility of online learning, but they are outnumbered by the adults. These UMUC students are not living the unencumbered lives that some of us were lucky to have as undergraduates. I think perhaps we need to ask this question: How can we deliver education to students who are not just like our children?

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