From the perspective of education, universities are the epitome of old-fashioned. We still do lectures, the same way they were done 50 years ago. Yes there is technology involved, and some in-class activities, but the general notion of how we teach students has not changed. The only thing that has vastly changed is the size of classes. The problem is that this form of learning may work in small classes, say less than 20, but large classes don’t work so well, and they never have. Why? because for hundreds of years before, instruction was very much hands-on, and individualized. One did an apprenticeship in some trade and learned all there was to learn, over a period of time (anywhere from 5-12 years). What we have created in society are mills, similar to what happened in the industrial revolution when the work performed in craft industries based in the home transitioned into huge mills. Things were made more efficient, and cheaper, but the end result was maybe not as good a product?
Universities have gone the same way during what we could term the “educational revolution”, from the late 1970s to now, where the emphasis in western society has been placed on higher education above all else. We have also moved from a simple 3-year degree to one where students can spend upwards of five years in an institution of higher learning. What are they learning? To be honest I don’t know. Can one learn anything in a class of 300, 500, 1000? Can one learn anything much from reading textbooks? I doubt it. Much of what I learned I taught myself, programming included. I mean it’s no wonder people find programming boring, because the programs often used to illustrate concepts in computer science are boring – but to be completely fair, it’s impossible to develop an app in a semester, even two.
But, I digress. The real problem is that there is very little experiential learning, and certainly nothing of the sort when it comes to most university experiences. I guess that’s what coop is for, or maybe a semester abroad. One could learn many things from books, because some books are good (some textbooks are rubbish of course, not *all* books are meaningful). But you can’t learn things like design completely from books, and solving problems is often more associated with experience, and “thinking outside the box”, than anything else (higher education is often thinking more “inside the box”). There are of course university educators willing to take the leap of faith, and invest in experiential learning. The problem is cost, and likely an unwillingness of institutions of higher learning to actually change to any great extent. There are *some* institutions that seem to understand the message. One of those is Quest University Canada, with out of the box thinking like the “block plan”, where you only do one class for a set period, integrate experiential learning, small class sizes, and only offering one degree. Yes, some will argue that these things are not achievable in a public institution – but why not? Maybe if we shed this mantra of the lecture-based instruction, we could produce a better learning environment.