The in­ter­net and higher ed­u­ca­tion

Times of Oman - - ROUND-UP -

MUS­CAT: With the ex­ist­ing in­ter­net tech­nolo­gies, univer­sity pro­fes­sors have a new dilemma on their hands. Now, stu­dents have the an­swers to all the prob­lems dis­cussed in the class­room at their fin­ger­tips, any­time, any­where.

This is true at least with un­der­grad­u­ate cour­ses where al­most ev­ery­thing that we teach there is about the­o­ries and prob­lems that have been fully de­vel­oped and an­swered, re­spec­tively. It is no sur­prise then if stu­dents, es­pe­cially good ones, choose not to at­tend a class whose main pur­pose is to ex­plain a topic that is read­ily avail­able on the web.

In ed­u­ca­tion, the process mat­ters most, not the con­tent.

The web has un­cov­ered a fail­ing as­pect of the higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems of many coun­tries, where the em­pha­sis is put on the ma­te­rial to be cov­ered in a de­gree, and not so much on mak­ing sure that, stu­dents are be­ing pro­vided with a valu­able learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ask any un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent and they would tell you that they of­ten for­get al­most ev­ery­thing about a course within a few months from tak­ing that course. So, what does that mean? If stu­dents for­get most of their course con­tents, then what lessons do they leave with af­ter grad­u­a­tion that will have a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence on their lives in the fu­ture? More se­ri­ously, is the stu­dent’s GPA a real in­di­ca­tor of their abil­ity to pur­sue a grad­u­ate de­gree, where in­de­pen­dent think­ing is cru­cial. Where in our un­der­grad­u­ate cur­ricu­lum do we teach our stu­dents to think in­de­pen­dently?

We think that the web pro­vides ed­u­ca­tors with a much-needed op­por­tu­nity to de­velop an­swers to these and other ques­tions that have been hin­der­ing our abil­ity to at­tain the real pur­pose of a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, which is about equip­ping stu­dents with the kinds of skills needed for them to deal with open prob­lems.

Now that all the in­for­ma­tion is out there on the web, a univer­sity pro­fes­sor can use their class time to fo­cus on what mat­ters most in the ed­u­ca­tional process. Nur­tur­ing as­pects of the stu­dent’s char­ac­ter like in­de­pen­dent read­ing, in­de­pen­dent think­ing, the joy of learn­ing on our own, the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop our own ques­tions, the op­por­tu­nity to make our own con­clu­sions (whether right or wrong, it doesn’t mat­ter), and the op­por­tu­nity to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our own learn­ing are the kinds of ac­tiv­i­ties that, I be­lieve, make a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion worth­while. Here are a few tips and ideas for univer­sity pro­fes­sors to help their in­sti­tu­tions achieve that goal.

1. Make in­de­pen­dent think­ing a top learn­ing out­come of your course.

2. Pro­vide your stu­dents with an au­then­tic ed­u­ca­tion. By this, we mean that ev­ery­thing you do in class, as an in­struc­tor, must be re­lated to real-world sit­u­a­tions, prefer­ably of in­ter­est to your stu­dents, which, in turn, as­sumes that you are aware of your stu­dents’ in­ter­ests and back­grounds. Here, one thing to keep in mind is that there are no stupid stu­dents, only non-in­ter­ested stu­dents, and it is your job as an in­struc­tor to make your sub­ject in­ter­est­ing to your stu­dents.

3. En­cour­age your stu­dents to co­op­er­ate rather than com­pete with each other. One way to do so is to di­vide your stu­dents into groups and as­sign a por­tion of the course grade to group work. This ac­tiv­ity turns your class­room into a tu­tor­ing cen­tre of its own, based on peer teach­ing.

4. In­vite guest speak­ers from re­lated in­dus­tries to your class­room to give your stu­dents first­hand ac­count of the chal­lenges fac­ing those in­dus­tries and the skills ex­pected of fu­ture em­ploy­ees.

5. Adopt the no­tion of flipped class­rooms from blended learn­ing and use your class time for class dis­cus­sions and prob­lem-solv­ing.

6. Turn the LMS pages of your course into a fo­cused web for your stu­dents. This is im­por­tant be­cause ask­ing the stu­dents to search the en­tire web for in­for­ma­tion cre­ates an­other prob­lem of its own. Stu­dents can be eas­ily in­ti­mated by the wealth of in­for­ma­tion on the web and be­come re­ac­tive to the ideas they find there, while in prin­ci­ple we want to en­cour­age our stu­dents to be crit­i­cal of what they read and de­velop thoughts of their own.

7. Think about ways on how to re­spond to pla­gia­rism. It is not true that pla­gia­rism caused by the web tech­nolo­gies can be dealt with us­ing an­other tech­nol­ogy like Tur­nitIn, for ex­am­ple. In­stead, try to en­gage your stu­dents in con­tin­u­ous dis­cus­sions about why pla­gia­rism is un­eth­i­cal and why it is nat­u­ral and ex­pected that their think­ing gets in­flu­enced by the thoughts of oth­ers.

Fouad Che­did, the writer, is the Deputy Vice Chan­cel­lor for Aca­demic Af­fairs at Al Shar­qiyah Univer­sity in Ibra. He has taught at sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties in the USA, Ja­pan, Le­banon, and Oman.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Oman

© PressReader. All rights reserved.