The increasing price tag of a university education has provoked a debate about the university experience. Some people favor a change towards online education, believing that separating the content (the teacher's teachings) from delivery (the physical classroom) will reduce expenses and increase flexibility, all without damaging the quality of education. Then there are those who believe that the most powerful learning has had and will always take place within the classroom, where the teacher and the students can participate in a face-to-face dialogue.
I propose that there is a largely untapped third source of learning that does not receive enough attention in this debate: learning outside the classroom that occurs during content and co-curricular activities.
The underlying problem is the paradox of cost versus value. On the one hand, we are right to worry about the high cost of a university education, but on the other hand, we can not lose sight of the quality of the academic experience. It is essential to prepare graduates ready to work that can have a positive impact on your organization and society.
For millennials and Generation Z, that dynamic is changing. The average American will now have up to 12 jobs in his working life. That means shorter tenures, multiple careers and the need for a broader set of skills. Clearly, universities face a complex challenge in terms of developing a flow of graduates prepared for the global workforce.
Most employers find it critical that college graduates demonstrate the ability to apply learning in real-world settings, but a minority of them believe that college graduates are able to apply what they have learned in the classroom to Work Outside the Classroom. I take this division to mean several things. First, it shows that universities are not doing enough to provide their students with real-world-focused experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. Second, he affirms that there is a need to involve more students. Both can be achieved through a regimen of learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
Although the reasons for the results of the students in the university are multifaceted and can not easily be summarized in a single factor, research shows that university students who actively participate in educational activities with specific purposes both inside and outside the classroom are more are likely to persist and eventually reach the ranking that their disconnected peers.
Consider that the average full-time college student spends 12-15 hours per week in class and between 20 hours (average) and 40 hours (recommended) per week in academic preparation. This leaves approximately 60 hours (less sleep time) per week that is not structured, is separate from academic content and, therefore, is underutilized for professional and professional development purposes.
Recent research shows that the participation of students in significant co-curricular activities has a strong impact on the development of intellectual skills, the general adjustment of the university, the growth of practical skills and positive self-image. In fact, some research finds that the time spent on academic preparation, when combined with intentional activities outside the classroom, increases persistence in college, as well as the overall grade point average. Therefore, in addition to asking how to reduce incremental costs, we must ask what can be done to make the activities in which students spend their time outside the classroom more impressive.
At the University of Pittsburgh, we have developed the Out-of-Class (OCC) competency-based program to organize students' activities into a meaningful educational experience that complements their academic plan. We are learning that time spent outside the classroom is not without value; it is an untapped resource that can be used to prepare students to fill the talent gap faced by companies.
As educators, we must broaden our perspective on how and where meaningful learning takes place, especially for today's students. We must direct our attention to how we can add value to the university experience and challenge our assumptions about where learning takes place. This will require the development of innovative tools that extend the university learning experience beyond the limited physical limits of our traditional classrooms. As challenges and discussions on the cost of higher education continue, we have a unique opportunity to participate in this dialogue by moving from a cost to a valuable one.