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Old 03-17-2017, 11:23 AM   #1
CliffFletcher
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Default The value and cost of post-secondary education

Spun off from Alberta Politics thread:

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When I have children, I am more and more thinking that the idea of saving for university might be an antiquated task. I grew up in a household where university was the expectation, nothing less. I attended and graduated, but now in my career I see the plight of debt-riddden students and job prospects, you can basically make a career for yourself learning things with online classes and come out at about the same level of skill if not higher. Coding/programming to be specific, which you most certainly don't need to pay thousands of dollars to learn.
Post-secondary education is more ripe for disruption than any institution we have. It's basically operating under the same model it has for centuries: a lecturer stands in front of a classroom and reads from notes and books. The students take notes, leave class, and prepare for exams.

A perfectly sensible system back when books were rare and expensive, and attending a face-to-face lecture was an efficient way to spread the information contained in them. It's beyond baffling why it's the still the foundation of our system today, and why people willingly pay through the nose to sit in an auditorium with 300 other students taking notes from a lecture that could easily be captured on video and watched anywhere by a student.

I learned about the education flip just before I had my kids 10 years ago. That's where lectures are watched away from school, and students gather at school to collaborate on projects. I figured by the time my kids were grown we'd be there. Seeing as there has been almost no progress or innovation in post-secondary education delivery in the last decade, I'm no longer hopeful. Vested interests are proving remarkably resistant to change.

So we're saving $40k for each of our kids for education - they'll have to pay the rest on their own. It's frustrating to know that money will go towards an incredibly antiquated system that is far, far more expensive than it needs to be, and will serve our kids poorly.
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Old 03-17-2017, 11:31 AM   #2
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I agree with what you're saying, post-secondary institutions as an umbrella approach are becoming outdated, especially as learning is now becoming rapidly decentralized, compartmentalized, and on a "as-you-need-it" basis instead of a rigid schedule.

That being said, one thing the physical location of them do well is bring people together in a social setting - this is where project collaboration is critical; basically any reason to haul your ass to the physical university location should be to do project work with humans, not sit and hear a non-video video lecture. People of all creeds NEED to learn how to work together; building human-to-human social skills is something no amount of robotic AI will ever replicate in its truest form.

People talk about reducing teacher's salaries and such, but really, a good teach is more than worth their coin - it is the distribution method that needs a dramatic overhaul.

I would wager to say that a University could convert a downtown Calgary office tower into a collaborative workshare space, and do away with sprawling campuses, sporting venues aside.
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Old 03-17-2017, 11:34 AM   #3
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but now there are online course. no teacher, no interaction with other humans.

Are there too many cookie-cutter degrees? Are the trades short of people?

Get into trades, make $100,000
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Old 03-17-2017, 11:38 AM   #4
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I'll echo Ozy here.

The real value is not as simple and direct as "the degree." That's part of it. The education, the certification, and the networking with other students and professors is all part of the package and I feel like the last one often gets dismissed. More than ever (I think) Millennials and Generation Z develop business opportunities on a "who you know" basis, so networking and having a presence among your peers is crucial; Universities still do this in a way that other methods do not.

Is the cost greater than the value? Yes, but I don't see it as a wide gap. Can the system be updated? Of course, but it's evolved from with in, so calling the University system as a whole "antiquated" is not accurate, not even close. The learning method could be improved, but it has evolved a lot outside of that.
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Old 03-17-2017, 11:47 AM   #5
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Nothing in the 200 level needs a lecture theatre. You end up with, what, 10 profs all lecturing the same Calculus course, and probably only 2 of them that can do it well. Record them, and either get rid of the rest of the profs, or use them as smaller lab type times for questions and practical work. Repeat for all 200 level courses, and probably a bunch of 300 as well. Above that I found great value in having a prof in a smaller setting.

We could save huge money by not needing the massive lecture theatres that are only used for 200 level courses, and not needing all the profs to teach them. It's not like they like that part of the job, anyway.
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Old 03-17-2017, 11:49 AM   #6
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I will also give credit to physical lectures allowing for debate on issues, which I think is healthy if done in a structured and moderated environment.

One of the best classes I took was a Model EU Council meeting, where every class was a round table council meeting, where we represented a country with their different viewpoints.

I can honestly say, while I will never use EU council information in my career, the simulated debate environment was absolutely helpful to improving public speaking, debate, and critical thinking skills. When I did UN and NATO simulations, these helped tremendously as well, more than any Statistics, Finance, or Supply Chain course ever did for me personally.

So to expand on my earlier point, there is benefit for social congregation of classmates, but the nature of a "class" should be less lecture based and more collaborative and social engaged in nature. Doesn't always have to be project work, but issue debating as well.

The ability to come to decisions in an environment that is mutually gainful for all is an invaluable skill that more people really should learn.
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Old 03-17-2017, 12:01 PM   #7
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So if we go by your model of online-only schooling, as a student I would never:

-Learn the value of a schedule; I can start my class at 7:55am or 8:30am and there is no difference to me as I would learn the same stuff. So when it comes to meeting people, sure, we can agree to meet at 8, but me showing up at 8:30 is not an issue.
-Understand the value of discipline and courtesy; I can sit at home and watch my lecture while texting away and playing cat videos loudly.
-Have the opportunity to meet their college sweetheart
-Be bothered to walk down the hall to the undergrad office and ask for advice; I would just post my question online and accept random answers and criticism from people, whether the answers are right or wrong.
-See a random poster for volunteering at the mustard seed and decide that I should join and meet people
-Walk by a crowd and peak in to see what is going on
-Meet people in my classroom setting and go out for beers together
-Understand the value of whispering to the guy next to you asking what the foreign heavy-accent prof just said.
-Be forced to take notes; hearing something vs writing something down in repetition are completely different learning styles

The list goes on and on...

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Old 03-17-2017, 12:17 PM   #8
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The modern, industrialized classroom is dead, but the need for personal educational experience seems more urgent than ever.

I'd recommend the book, "Excellent Sheep," by William Deresiewicz.

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Old 03-17-2017, 12:28 PM   #9
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I've done two degrees now, a graduate and a bachelors, I see the merit in class room approaches for both.. but more so at the higher levels.

First year classes could be done away from the class room, no argument there. Second year classes are where things usually get interesting and you can start pin pointing specific topics you care about (and then have to take ones you don't to fill requirements ) and meet others who share your interests then collaborate on projects. But third and fourth year classes, and absolutely graduate level classes, require a healthy amount of interaction between prof to students, student to prof and students to students. That is a lot more difficult to capture through a skype session or recorded lecture.

University has never been about specific technical training, it's been about developing the necessary skills to learn those technical duties on the job. One of the greatest skills you can learn and develop for damn near any job is communication. Interacting daily with others and having to share work loads for projects is very crucial to your professional development.
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Old 03-17-2017, 12:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GirlySports View Post
but now there are online course. no teacher, no interaction with other humans.

Are there too many cookie-cutter degrees? Are the trades short of people?

Get into trades, make $100,000
Certainly in my area of the country trades are the way to go. It's a booming industry here and they are crying for people.
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Old 03-17-2017, 12:44 PM   #11
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You know what is still hugely important?

The reputation of the institution you graduate from and I don't see that going away any time soon.

Really depends on the field you want to work in but I wouldn't assume that a business degree from U of C or MRU or Technical degree from SAIT will be treated similarly to an equivalent degree from an online program by the HR person going over your resume.

The one perk of online programs is that you can complete them while working full time (if you're really motivated). So if you can get an entry level job in your field and gain experience while finishing your degree then you might have a leg up.

You cant discount that university prepares you for the social aspects of the workforce. Group projects are key and that is something you'd never experience in online programs. Things like how to work in a set schedule, sharing and responding to ideas with and from others, Networking, dividing workload... etc.

Now you can argue that the value of the degree has been diminished due to it becoming a necessity instead of something that makes you stand out. I'd totally agree with that and I'd probably tell my kids to explore all of their options before they choose their career path as some trades or technical certifications are more valuable than a business or engineering degree these days and simply going to University is definitely not the best way to maximize earning potential. But in terms of Online Schooling vs. University I think the gap there is still massive if you're comparing two candidates with no experience, even if they both learn the same thing.
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Old 03-17-2017, 12:53 PM   #12
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The reform needs to come in the non professional college settings especially.

The time value money proposition on a history or philosophy degree just isn't there. However the critical thinking skills learned are valuable.

I think all of first year should be replaced with a world class lecturer model and grad students running TA sessions. Have the best science educator teaching first year physics. You could have Neil Degrasse Tyson teaching your physics class along with 100,000 other students and just have the local universities mark assignments and do the labs.

You probably save about 10% on university delivery and eliminate the need for massive lecture halls on Campus.
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Old 03-17-2017, 01:02 PM   #13
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A university education is more than just sitting through lectures. A university is great for exposing undergraduates to research. And if you're lucky, you will be taught by professors who will use their own research data within the lectures to explain particular concepts. As a young engineering student, I started assisting professors with their research beginning in the second year, which ultimately led me to my post-graduate work. That element would definitely be missed if one was sitting at home watching lectures on the computer.

In the end, it depends on what one is seeking. If someone is seeking training for a particular job, recorded lectures would be sufficient. But if one has no preconceptions about his/her career path, going physically to a university has strong merits.
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Old 03-17-2017, 01:11 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by jwslam View Post
So if we go by your model of online-only schooling, as a student I would never:
Where did I suggest online-only learning? In the flip model, the lectures are delivered digitally wherever is convenient for the student, and then the students gather on campus for group work moderated by instructors.

Half of the courses I took in university had no interaction. No question and answer. No discussion. Just a lecturer barely able to muster any enthusiasm speaking at a bunch of students taking notes. At the time I didn't complain much because university only cost $3k or $4k a year. The prospect of paying $15k to $20k a year for the same experience is infuriating.

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-Learn the value of a schedule; I can start my class at 7:55am or 8:30am and there is no difference to me as I would learn the same stuff. So when it comes to meeting people, sure, we can agree to meet at 8, but me showing up at 8:30 is not an issue.
-Understand the value of discipline and courtesy; I can sit at home and watch my lecture while texting away and playing cat videos loudly.
Learning to manage your time is a part of being a student - being an adult, actually. No doubt a lot of people would fail at that. But then, a lot of people aren't ready for university at 18. Spending enormous sums of money trying to shield young adults from their lack of discipline seems like a waste of money. And we aren't even doing that great a job of it now, as a third of Canadian students drop out in their first two years.

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-Have the opportunity to meet their college sweetheart
-Be bothered to walk down the hall to the undergrad office and ask for advice; I would just post my question online and accept random answers and criticism from people, whether the answers are right or wrong.
-See a random poster for volunteering at the mustard seed and decide that I should join and meet people
-Walk by a crowd and peak in to see what is going on
-Meet people in my classroom setting and go out for beers together
You would still do all that stuff in a flipped school model.

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-Understand the value of whispering to the guy next to you asking what the foreign heavy-accent prof just said.
Lecturers would be hired strictly on the basis of their skill at lecturing. There wouldn't be any need for them to be on that particular campus, or even in the same province. The notion that the one-way communication of a university lecture has to delivered in 2017 by a person who is in a particular building seems absurd. Most profs don't even like lecturing anyway.

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-Be forced to take notes; hearing something vs writing something down in repetition are completely different learning styles
You can take notes from a video lecture as easily as you can a live lecture.
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Old 03-17-2017, 01:28 PM   #15
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The other thing I think about would be an accreditation body model. For things like engineering if I could pass the Fundamentals in Engineering exam or the 10 exam set from APEGGA plus meet a few other requirements why do I need a university degree. I have proven myself to meet the requirements of the profession. I could see accounting the CA designation being similar.

I think that being able to challenge the accreditation standards without a degree would be another step forward.
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Old 03-17-2017, 01:28 PM   #16
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Besides your formal education, there is great value in leaving home as a young person for university - learning to cook, do laundry, budgeting, friendships, romances, experimentation. Growing up. I suppose you can get those experiences outside of a college experience, but these intangible things were very important in my growth.
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:06 PM   #17
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I wouldn't trade my "College experience" for a million dollars.

And not because your spending time working on projects and collaborating with other like and unlike minded teaches.

There's something to be said for the character building of mass drinking, boning and dealing with deadlines.
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:07 PM   #18
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Quote:
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You can take notes from a video lecture as easily as you can a live lecture.
But the difference is you don't have to...you can just watch the video again. Learning in real-time is one of the few universally transferable skills you can hone in live lectures.

Edited to add: where you learn something makes a difference in another way too. I'm no psychologist, but I'd argue the location itself gets "built into" what you learn as a part of the memory, and can aid in recall. If you think back to an experience in school, you may find yourself envisioning the room you had your class in, and that vision making it easier to recall some of the things you learned there. The same could be said for associating memories with the people you were with while learning it. "Oh yeah, I always sat next to Sam in that lecture! Remember when...?"

If you do all your learning (and web surfing, and youtube watching, and...) in front of the same computer, at the same desk, you'll have fewer of these associations available to help you recall later in life.

Repeat: IANAP

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Old 03-17-2017, 02:10 PM   #19
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I feel like it is actually too easy to get a university degree. What constitutes a passing grade in a class is a joke, when I did my undergraduate degree, it didn't matter what class it was the class average seemed to always hover around 65% - 70% depending on the class and these were easy Psychology and Sociology classes that I was in. This means that a lot of people are graduating with degrees only knowing that percentage of the material which is unacceptable. There needs to be a higher threshold required to give meaning to university degrees.
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Old 03-17-2017, 02:39 PM   #20
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I feel like it is actually too easy to get a university degree. What constitutes a passing grade in a class is a joke, when I did my undergraduate degree, it didn't matter what class it was the class average seemed to always hover around 65% - 70% depending on the class and these were easy Psychology and Sociology classes that I was in. This means that a lot of people are graduating with degrees only knowing that percentage of the material which is unacceptable. There needs to be a higher threshold required to give meaning to university degrees.
I know engineers building bridges that got mostly Cs. Oops.

Grades don't always accurately reflect knowledge, work ethic, and ability. They simply measure how well you can perform on the assignments and tests. Not real life.
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