Tag Archives | education

Why Learning Goes Far Beyond the Classroom

Photo courtesy of Brian Hathcock

When I was in my final year of high school, I was far more laid-back about studying for exams than most of the other kids. One day I was pulled aside by one of my teachers who told me: “these are the most important lessons you’ll ever learn in life.” I understood that what they were trying to say was how important it was to study, since the outcome of my exams would hold a lot of weight in terms of what I’d be able to achieve in my future career. Nevertheless, this statement always struck me as slightly misguided.

I was constantly reminded throughout high school and college of how important the educational years were in preparing me for the big bad world beyond, but when the time actually came to leave college, I was not so surprised to learn that I hadn’t been given all the answers, and the real world was still a great unknown.

Personally, I don’t think all lessons are limited to the classroom. On the contrary, I believe learning should never stop, not when we’re 21 or when we’re 81. It shouldn’t matter if you’re an apprentice electrician or a Nobel prizewinning physics professor – there is still more that you can learn about your craft and life in general.

If you have a particular job, hobby, or skill you want to get better at, look at ways of doing this that will reinforce the knowledge you already have. Just because you’re not in the classroom anymore doesn’t mean you can’t set yourself new lessons that will help you to make improvements. The world is ripe with free sources of information, and as long as you know where to look (I usually start with a Google search) there’s no reason you can’t follow your own personal plan to get better at anything.

Do you have a skill you’d like to improve upon? Why not set yourself a list of short-term and long-term goals, and then seek out information from your local library or an online source to help you get started.

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How Cheating Has Opened the Door for Real Learning

Classroom Cheater
Image courtesy of Jared Stein

Traditional classroom learning is losing a significant amount of its practical value. How do I know this? I already had a hunch it was true based on my observation that friends with work experience were getting decent jobs more readily than friends with advanced degrees. However, something that happened recently drove the point home from another perspective.

I was offered a freelance writing gig through a friend of a friend, and after some inquiry, discovered it was a position with an “academic writing” service. Translation: students who have to work multiple jobs to pay for their university education do not have time to do things like actually acquiring the education, so they pay academic writing services to do some or even most of the work for them. Shocking.

Also eye-opening: it’s not very difficult to find people who, for a fee, will disguise themselves to look enough like you and take an exam on your behalf. If the exam time conflicts with your schedule or you just don’t feel confident enough to take it, simply hire a stand-in. Many university classes are large enough that no one would notice.

Against university policies? Almost certainly. Unethical? Without a doubt. And employers aren’t stupid – what exactly is the value of a degree if there’s no way to determine whether or not the person holding the degree actually earned it?

As technology and the internet provide increasingly refined ways to cheat, I think we’ll definitely be seeing even more of a shift toward companies placing less emphasis on degrees, and more on the demonstration of skills and experience. Luckily, the internet also provides resources for those interested in learning these skills on their own. As a bonus, with self-learning, you also develop valuable meta knowledge (i.e. learning how to be your own teacher in the most effective way), which in itself is extremely useful.

While I still think there’s plenty of intrinsic value in a traditional education (after all, I’m currently looking into graduate programs myself), I think from a practical standpoint we need to start reassessing that value in a more modern way. Teachers and guides are useful, of course, and even necessary in many areas, but the focus now needs to be on education for its own sake, not on the degree certificate as the end-all-be-all.

After all, in a world where you can basically purchase a degree, the person who can actually demonstrate knowledge, regardless of how they acquired it, will be king.

What could you start learning today, on your own, that would enrich your life or job prospects down the road?

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