The idea of a research university became obvious when Prussian college professor, Wilhelm von Humboldt, proposed a new system, which had to deal with student’s personal experience rather than boring lectures. In the meantime, empirical learning grew to be popular among his younger colleagues, causing Humboldt to expand his strategy and place all his hopes and dreams on the role of research in an institution.
Instead of usual academic writing, students were given the task to develop their own approach to educational methods and choose what’s best for them, based on the system of simple observation. Individual projects were presented weekly, and Humboldt could witness an increasing progress in the student’s thinking. Apart from that, he revolutionized the understanding of a university as a public institution. Before that, teachers were mainly focused on the works of ancient authors and considered tradition to be the best learning method and source. Copying the canon was a usual practice, and students summarized what was previously said with the help of their professors. Nothing was left to the learners and their experimental values.
Later, in the 1950s, universities in the UK and North America were largely influenced by the teaching models, borrowed from Humboldt. Research centers opened across the country, and students flooded colleges to establish their own projects and become educated academically. With the enhancement of the typical teaching-only model of learning, though, these tendencies vanished into thin air, and lecture theatres became popular once again. There are institutions where face-to-face delivery still remains the norm, while other forms of interaction between a teacher and a student are considered to be ineffective, but generally, online communication wins the hearts of students as the time goes.
So, what do all these tendencies mean at the end of the day? Will classic universities close and give way to a more modernized system of education, involving online delivery and campus-less teaching?
We cannot say for sure, but there have been numerous expressions of gratitude from students, who had an experience in online learning. They were allowed to equal educational facilities and high class diplomas, whereas in other cases the tuition fees would be too unaffordable to handle.
Some teachers claim, however, that you should pay your price for using online resources and neglecting the traditional, overcrowded lecture room. With the development of digital learning, we start to forget the empirical experience seminars provides on a daily basis, and regular news updates keep us away from vital information, necessary for successful learning.
In the meantime, blog writers and students, who are too focused on using apps for their classes instead of actual listening, are in great danger. They may lose their connection with reality and an ability to evaluate material, based on the source and structure.
This is a tendency that is not uncommon among younger learners with their dedication to tweeting and scrolling through the news on Facebook. One may wonder whether the same students will comprehend given information and analyze it according to the teacher’s learning scheme.
Unfortunately, most of them have a short attention span, which does not help in case one needs to use a clear and focused approach. Tweeting a sentence differs greatly from making notes on your own, and teacher-student communication cannot be replaced by online resources, no matter how good or mind-blowing the strategy is.
The truth about colleges and universities remains the same these days: you have to combine online communication with the real one, and develop a strong sense of academic-led dialogue, where digital sources act as background information. The main values of the traditional institutions have not changed, and we cherish research and analytical thinking as core principles of learning in college.