Symposium Explored Student Attitudes Toward Higher EdKick-off Event for Year-Long Planning Process at Pacific
Author Anya Kamenetz answers a question while President Pamela A. Eibeck, Provost Maria Pallavicini and Donald Norris listen to her answer. Kamenetz was the keynote speaker to the Strategic Planning Symposium held on campus on Sept. 24.
For today's student, college is not just about learning facts and figures, since most information is freely available on the Internet. It's about gaining the ability to "connect the dots" and predict what might happen next, said author Anya Kamenetz, the keynote speaker at the Symposium on the Future of Learning, Work and Professional Practice held at Pacific on Sept. 24. If colleges and universities wish to continue to stay relevant and attract the best students, this "new" reality has to be addressed in the classroom, she said.
The symposium was the kick-off event for the year-long strategic planning process where members of the Pacific community will consider new goals for the University.
Kamenetz, author of "Generation Debt" and "DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education," said today's students are "do it yourself" people, or DIY for short, in that they be highly involved in finding knowledge and expect to find it both in and outside of the classroom, but require guidance and advice on what to do with the information once it is gained.
"The DIY model is a lifelong model of learning for this generation, and the University is the scaffolding needed to help build and support that model," Kamenetz said to about 200 faculty and staff members who attended the symposium. "Knowledge is freely available, but if you are going to pay for anything, you expect to get a customized learning experience."
This concept is often met with skepticism in higher education, Kamenetz admitted, where traditional pedagogy has worked well. But today, the system is starting to break down because of how easily it has become to find and share information, and because of the high cost of a quality education as well as the shrinking access to institutions of higher learning due to government budget cutbacks and crowed classrooms. Therefore, higher education must prove that it is still relevant by showing that students learn more than facts and figures in the classroom. They learn skills that can be applied in the real world.
Author Anya Kamenetz was the keynote speaker at the 2011 Strategic Planning Symposium, held on Sept. 24 on the Stockton Campus. Videos of the event are online and can be viewed on the following page more
She gave an example of how a professor at another university seemed to grasp this concept and changed how he taught a history class to meet these new expectations. Instead of having the students read books about a historical figure and then take a test, the professor assigned the students to edit the Wikipedia pages of the subjects being studied, and the students were told that they had to make sure the pages were historically accurate, well cited and proofed by the Wikipedia editors.
"The Wikipedia editors responded to the students as to whether a statement was neutral or if a source was valid," Kamenetz said "The students even heard from relatives of some of the people they were writing about, and those relatives gave insight as well as some new information that they weren't aware of."
One doesn't have to look far to see this new attitude among students, she said. The day before the symposium, she talked to Pacific students and found that they too are looking for skills and guidance, and not just information from books and notes.
"One piece of feedback I received from students is that they hope to be able to access their professors and bounce ideas off them after they graduate and get a job, and they don't want to just leave with a list of recommended books that should be on their bookshelves," Kamenetz said. "One of the Powell scholars told me 'Information is free. I pay my tuition for the community and the teachers.'"
Donald Norris, a management consultant who is advising Pacific on its new strategic plan, agreed with Kamenetz, but he said there are other reasons to revamp the current strategic approach of the University.
"A great deal has happened in the world of technology in the past 10 years, from the opening up of the World Wide Web to the introduction of Social Networking," Norris said. "We've also seen the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, which has led to a significant realignment of the entire workforce and caused many to question the affordability and value of higher education."
Provost Maria Pallavicini said that the new strategic plan must ensure that students leave Pacific with an education that brings them lasting value in the workforce, which is different from "values."
Values, she said, are defined by the institution, such as providing a superior education, having a close relationship between student and faculty, and having a commitment to attract serious and committed students. Value, on the other hand, is based on personal satisfaction and what the student expects to be the outcome of attending Pacific.
"Value is defined by the students, their families, and their employers," Pallavicini said. "We have to be able to project in the future how value will be defined. We also need to ensure that while we understand that value, that we still hold true to our values and our mission."
After the morning symposium, faculty members met in working groups to discuss issues that could be included in the strategic plan, including topics such as "international and global focus," "next generation students," and "emerging careers and academic programs."
President Pamela A. Eibeck said the strategic planning process will continue through the fall with discussions by faculty members and administrators. In January of 2012, a second symposium will be held to look at "futuring" at Pacific. In spring of 2012, the strategic planning process will focus on identifying strategic opportunities. The following summer, all the information and ideas gathered will be refined and focused and a first draft of the strategic plan will be written.
More information about the strategic plan can be found by downloading http://iris.pacific.edu/planning/strategic/docs/symposium.white.paper.pdf