Friday, December 15, 2017

Open Space: Camosun instructors need to stop relying on the internet

November 29, 2017 by Cindy Peckham, ontributing writer

Why are Camosun teachers telling students to go look on Google or lynda.com for answers to questions raised in the classroom? I decided to forego places like lynda.com in favour of a formal education. I took the plunge and, like many students, I’m going into debt to the tune of almost $5,000 per semester to come to this school and be taught. It’s going to take me 10 years to pay it back. I made many sacrifices to get here, and I continue to do so in order to stay. In the end, I’m hoping to walk away with enough new skills to sell me to potential employers in my chosen field.

This story originally appeared in our November 29, 2017 issue.

But lately, I’m left wondering what I’m paying for—and whether this was a big mistake. After all, anyone can look things up on the internet at home, for much cheaper.

Maybe I’m just disillusioned. Or perhaps I don’t understand the concept of “applied learning,” but I thought it meant that I would be taught material and given the chance to apply what I’ve learned. I’m definitely feeling short-changed.

For starters, most of my classes don’t have textbooks. The instructors told us this was partly because they are trying to save us money, but I have to wonder about that. I’m burning through my third set of printer cartridges, at just under $60 a pop, in order to print off all the material they recommend I bring to class. It’s also because they said they just couldn’t find that one book that had everything we needed, so they opted for none at all, reminding us that you can find just about everything you need on Google now. Interesting, because in the same breath we students are told to be mindful of the sources we use from the internet, because they’re not always accurate or scholarly.

I’ve spent multiple classes watching YouTube videos and then being asked to watch more YouTube videos at home in order to be tested on the material. I’ve received assignments with terms on them that we’re expected to know, yet the teacher fully acknowledges that we’ve never discussed these in class and flippantly tells us to do our research, referring to the mighty Google again. I’ve asked if there is a recommended glossary of terms and been told to make my own. And the kicker: an instructor assigned a project that will take up half of our semester; when asked if we would be learning how to do this in class, the response was, “Not really,” followed by a referral to lynda.com.

Here’s the problem: students aren’t experts. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s very hard to discern what I am supposed to be looking for on Google or whether the information is even relevant. I need some guidance and direction. I need something to refer to and a starting point.

It seems that the instructors feel that we’re able to figure all this stuff out on our own. And although I appreciate the vote of confidence, I have to admit that I’m struggling. Some days I don’t feel like I’m learning anything at all.

If only there were a place I could go. A place where I could learn this material, read books, and access experts in the field to have them share their knowledge and answer my questions.

Oh, wait, there is. I’m there already. But I just keep getting sent back to the internet.

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