Teaching

Teaching Strategies to Prepare College Students for a Self-Serve Education

Forget the term Millennials, Generation X or even “the kids these days.” The term “Generation Self-Serve” might be more appropriate. Children growing up now are the first generation to experience “self-service” to the extent that their parents have demanded–or grudgingly accepted–these new experiences. From filling up the car with gas and scanning and bagging your own groceries, all the way to checking in for an airplane flight, self-service has either become the norm or at least an option. The growing sophistication of computers combined with consumers’ willingness to use their debit or credit cards for payment has only spurred on adoption of such uses. One can now weigh, ship and label packages or letters at the post office. At one large chain of fast-food restaurants, hungry customers are led through a touch screen series of choices, the result of which is custom-prepared for them. Many states’ Division of Motor Vehicles offices now require that residents conduct most business online or through the mail. Using the physical office and speaking with an employee adds an additional surcharge to the transaction.

Online Education: Self-Serve Class Subjects?

Online education is no longer an experiment, nor has it escaped the self-serve revolution. On a daily basis millions of students, from preschool to graduate, absorb a lesson, take a quiz or study a subject online. The recent adoption of online classes by many elite U.S. universities has further legitimized online learning and the degree of competence afforded a student upon satisfactory completion of an online class. Educating a student online means more than watching a video lecture and completing a quiz at the conclusion of the lesson.

Rather, just as a student must make adjustments in seeking a learning experience online–whether the competency sought is the memorization of state capitals or the completion of a business administration degree–teachers and universities must develop an online curriculum designed to accommodate student experiences, abilities and particular characteristics and learning styles. Many classes are unchanged in their content, exposure, expectations and evaluations. And that’s okay for some adult learners as it mimics the learning style they’ve come to expect. But many students have the potential to benefit from a more strategic approach.

Teaching Strategies to Prepare Students for an Online College Education

What are the characteristics of this demographic and how do they influence ways in which classes are designed? A recent study conducted by Jean Twenge and two colleagues indicates Millennials place “more focus on the self and less focus on the group, society, and community.” As Joanna Chau writes in her summary of Twenge’s research in the online version of “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” “most of the study’s data point toward more individualism and less cohesion.”

A higher degree of individualism may help lone students take classes online, but will require greater attention and emphasis to study groups to promote cohesion. A review of Next Generation: Learning Challenges grant winners in the Wave II middle school class designs shows a strong emphasis on learning in game-like environments, immediate feedback or near-in-time results, increased group cohesion through competition with another group and needed instruction on how to evaluate the reliability of research results, such as Google search returns. Written reports are less favorably received than daily progress blogs with one larger summary blog at a project’s completion.

Conclusions on a Cyber Curriculum

Going forward, students will require curricula specifically designed to take advantage of their learning styles and to supplement the skills they lack. This preparation will help in their full participation in physical classroom environments and online learning environments as this phenomenon develops.

About the author: Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food. Follow him on Twitter! @Zach_buckley

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