Why We Should Disrupt Traditional Learning Models


Every e-learning platform and edtech service says they want to disrupt traditional learning models. Many teachers and administrators have also called for disruption. At this point, it’s almost a cliche. Yet changes have been slow and inconsistent. 

When the pandemic hit, education was forcibly disrupted. Everyone from pre-k to graduate students was sent home to continue their studies online. This is not the kind of disruption most of us were seeking. In higher education, disruption should include designed and targeted solutions that meet the needs of both students and the workforce. 

One major step in that process will be letting go of our insistence that a formal, four-year degree is the only real way to learn. 

The problem of higher education

Even as new technology should be making education more accessible for all, many institutions, students, and faculty insist that in-person, synchronous learning is the best solution. This stubborn reliance on traditional, four-year degrees presents the following problems: 

  1. It takes too long – Four years is a long time to spend out of the workforce. A full-time student is spending 30-40 hours per week in school to graduate in four years. That doesn’t leave much left over for a career. Not everyone can afford to take four years off, which brings us to our next point.
  2. It costs too much – The cost of a traditional college education has ballooned in recent years. Few students can afford to pay for college out of pocket. The idea that one can work their way through college is largely a myth these days. As a result, many students go into debt which they spend a lifetime repaying. That leaves little or no money left over for continuing education.
  3. It changes slowly – Continuing education is required in some fields (law, medicine, and teaching to name a few). Even in those industries where continuing education is not required to maintain licensure, continuous learning is essential. Technology has accelerated the rate of change in many industries. Without continuous learning, professionals are quickly left behind. Unfortunately, the speed of change within institutions of higher education has not caught up. Regulations, review boards, and accreditation criteria mean that it can take months or even years for curriculum changes to be approved. Students can’t wait that long.
  4. It’s not immediately applicable – Most students learn better when they can apply learned concepts immediately. You can teach them theory, but until they put that theory into practice, they won’t fully integrate that knowledge. Education that is sharply divided from the workplace loses much of its effectiveness.
  5. We’re measuring the wrong results – Higher education tracks the wrong metrics. Students advance and are awarded a degree based on hours spent in classrooms rather than the level of knowledge attained. Yet time spent learning does not necessarily equal knowledge or expertise attained. What matters is how well the student understood and integrated that new information. The idea that a student needs 3 credit hours to advance is meaningless in the real world. 

A new model for higher education

Imagine what a new model of higher education could look like. Education would be continuous and constantly evolving. Students would not need to pause their lives to attain it. It would be an integral and ongoing part of their lives and their careers that is both relevant and immediately applicable. Accessible and affordable, it would measure progress based on competency, not time in class.

Technology has offered us the opportunity to turn our dreams of disruption into a reality for higher education. Online learning allows us to reach more students in more places at a lower price point than ever before. It enables students of all ages and backgrounds to learn when and where they want. 

Students can seek out the information they most need to advance their careers right now. They can share their achievements with employers who will higher and promote them, secure in the knowledge that the student has learned valuable skills. 

The tools to disrupt traditional learning

If that new model for higher education is so wonderful, why hasn’t it been universally adopted already? Some stumbling blocks still need to be addressed. Fortunately, we have the tools to do so. 

  • Colleges will need to rethink budgets – Universities and colleges charge tuition, room and board, and other fees to provide a full college experience to students. In the new model, some of the experiential elements will disappear or become less relevant. Colleges will need to adjust budgets accordingly. Serving more students with less infrastructure could be more cost-effective than serving fewer students on campus. 
  • Employers will have to adjust expectations – Employers will need to buy-in to the new method, recognizing that skills and experience may equal or outweigh a college degree. Many will need to stop using a diploma as a screening tool when choosing job candidates. 
  • Students must embrace new ways of learning- Students must shift their mindset around education. Instead of viewing learning as an achievement to complete, they should see it as a continuous process that evolves throughout their lifetime. 

Micro courses will certainly be a part of the new model of education. They give students the information they need right now in an easily accessible, cost-effective package. If you’re ready to disrupt traditional learning models, contact the experts at eDevLearn today. 

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