Welcome to the New School

CollegeI remember the day when my college stopped passing out a syllabus. Being the standard college slacker, I walked into my new class tired and hungover. I plopped myself down and waited for the standard new class introduction. I was hoping to snooze some, but I was out of luck. Class policies had changed and so professors were no longer allowed to give out paper versions of their syllabi, it was all online. In fact, most students already had questions about the syllabus and grading policy, and there I was waiting for it to be handed to me.

At the time it didn’t bother me or anybody else much. We were already using Blackboard, enrolling in classes online, getting grades online. After class, I quickly caught up, but, I kind of realized this was a big deal. College had changed and I had to get going to keep up. Soon after almost all professors started putting up the syllabus earlier, having pre-class assignments, posting online grades, having online discussions, asking for electronic submissions of homework, and even moving parts of class online.

That was about 10 years ago. Since then the world of education has drastically changed. Students today cannot expect to attend school without a good computer, nor do most think of buying a printer. Every class has an online section, some even are a hybrid physical/internet class. Not to mention, the growing amount of online classes.

As an educator myself, I have started to think about the long term effects of this. What are the fundamentals of school that will be challenged, changed, and erased? Well, I am finding out firsthand. I have just begun a 4 year online law program from Concord University.

The first thing I noticed is that the semester system is gone. We do not have summers or a spring break. We have a year long curriculum that allows us progress at our own pace, with many careful controls to ensure we “keep up”. I can also get ahead and then take a vacation, anytime. Another big change is that the lecture is separated from the class. It is now a homework assignment. Professors ask that you read, take notes, listen to lecture, and take quizzes all before the “live” class. It seems that we do most of the early and intermediate learning on our own, and then attend the live class to discuss advanced issues with the Professor and classmates.

At this point, my educator sense starts flailing. Well what if you need help in the early stages? Well, that is another big change. You would think that students have a distant relationship, if one at all. Well, I am finding that I know my classmates better already, than I ever did in any physical class. In our class, we have been desperate to find each other and have constantly been contacting each other, asking questions, supporting each other, and discussing the homework. So, just like classes have gone online, so have the study groups.

So, no more semesters, lectures are now homework, and students develop good relationships…sounds to good to be true right? Well many of the powerful people and institutions in education feel the same way. The government has no category for this kind of school. The only accreditation is can receive is under a grouping called “correspondence school”. Next, the American Bar Association, who accredits law schools, has decreed that only 12 units for law degrees can come from online classes. Finally, most colleges, including the most innovative ones, have resisted adopting online classes, usually keeping them a small part of any program.

I think this means that online education still has a long way to go. I can imagine many Ivy League-ers miffed over the fact that a student in his underwear in the basement of his parents house can get the same degree they have. Regardless of the resistance and concerns to this trend, it is not going away. It is only becoming more and more a part of our schools. And, they are changing. They are becoming the schools of the future. Are you ready for the new school?

P.S. Stay tuned for news of how we are using a wiki to collaboratively take notes for our classes…

. The first thing you would notice is that time would be saved in not commuting to school. Allowing for many more people, including working adults, to earn higher degrees. Next you would think about the way class is held. In addition to homework, syllabus, and grading taking place online the classes themselves would be online. Teachers could either pre-record lecture or just hold a live sesion.

Well, the first thing you could say is colleges will be paperless, for obvious reasons. Well you could also assume that class lectures could be posted online and viewing it will become a part of the homework. Meaning that class would only Next, you could find that the semester system will no longer be needed.

school will be paperless. No need for that anymore, everything can be shared, written, and graded online. Next,