Friday, April 03, 2009

Will Universities Survive?

 
Believe it or not, there are supposedly intelligent people out there who think the internet will replace universities.1 It didn't take Sean Caroll very long to come up with some excelent reasons why this ain't gonna happen [Will the Internet Replace Universities?].

Let me add one more—research experience. You can't learn what it's like to work in a research lab if you're sitting at your desk in the suburbs.

Why do I get the feeling that most people don't understand what a university is supposed to be like? Is it true that most people think of universities just as places where you come and listen to lectures and then go home?


1. Back in 1970 their parents were convinced that television would mean the end of universities as we know them.

9 comments :

  1. Of course universities will survive. Thinking otherwise is simply moronic.

    Let me add one more—research experience. You can't learn what it's like to work in a research lab if you're sitting at your desk in the suburbs.

    You don't necessarily need university to do research. I spent two years in the lab as an undergrad and 3.5 in the lab in grad school. Both labs were at the research institutes, not a university. In fact, only a minority of my classmates gained research experience at the university.

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  2. I can't even stand distance ed so I sure as hell hope that universities don't go online. What a horrible thought.

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  3. Why do I get the feeling that most people don't understand what a university is supposed to be like?

    Because most universities aren't what a university is supposed to be like and haven't been for a long time. Thousands of nameless, faceless students in a single classes and unqualified non-prof profs doing the teaching.

    Universities are pushing the quality of teaching down to cut their costs. Students never asked for this.

    What we are saying is if you're going to offer us a shitty learning experience with zero possibility of human interaction then share the benefits of technology. For example, make the information we need to memorize easy to access instead of putting it in over-priced textbooks as an excuse to squeeze out every last penny.

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  4. "Why do I get the feeling that most people don't understand what a university is supposed to be like?"
    Maybe the curriculum of university has changed quite a bit since you were student. For example at UTSC scarborough, I recalled that there were psychology courses that you can sign up for online courses and watch pre-recorded lectures from previous classes, and then you finally sit for exams. It's a pretty good way for school to cut costs.


    "Is it true that most people think of universities just as places where you come and listen to lectures and then go home?"

    I don't know if MOST people think as such, BUT there are people who think university is a place where you just get a piece of paper and
    high scores to get into medical schools or other professional schools.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4

    "Let me add one more—research experience. You can't learn what it's like to work in a research lab if you're sitting at your desk in the suburbs."

    I agree, being in the same room and face-to-face encounter allows more interaction and better brainstorming. Speaking of which, in your own opinion how does one become a successful PhD student? Habits wise and also what sort of mentality/expectations/achievements one should have to be considered a very successful PhD student? Many thanks.

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  5. Bayman says,

    Because most universities aren't what a university is supposed to be like and haven't been for a long time. Thousands of nameless, faceless students in a single classes and unqualified non-prof profs doing the teaching.

    I agree with you.

    I guess the difference between you and me is that I still want to fight against that kind of university and you seem to be willing to make it worse.

    I'm not ready to give up but it's pretty frustrating when the students who are being affected don't want to fight to make things better.

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  6. Anonymous asks,

    Speaking of which, in your own opinion how does one become a successful PhD student? Habits wise and also what sort of mentality/expectations/achievements one should have to be considered a very successful PhD student?

    Here's a list of what it takes to get into graduate school.

    Once you're in, you still have to be motivated to investigate the natural world using science as a way of knowing. Critical thinking is important but in the real world it sometimes has to be tempered by the contradictions involved in playing the "science game."

    If you want to be successful you have to learn how to play the game. This is unfortunate but true.

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  7. Is it true that most people think of universities just as places where you come and listen to lectures and then go home?
    Minus the 'coming to class' part, that is medical school.

    *ducks and runs*

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  8. I'm not ready to give up but it's pretty frustrating when the students who are being affected don't want to fight to make things better.

    I think students crave a better learning experience as much as profs. The difference is that students are in much less of a position do anything about the current situation.

    Personally for example, I wasn't even be able to perceive the limitations of my university experience until well after I had finished undergrad. Undergrads have their hands more than full trying to survive, pay the bills and get the marks they need to have a future.

    I guess we have to hope that creative uses of new technology can allow universities to simultaneously cut costs and offer a more interactive learning experience.

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  9. For my last two years of undergrad at U of T, I've had less than 20 people in most of my classes, and the profs have been pretty good.

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