How Much Do You Actually Learn in College?

June 5, 2015 in Academics, Alive Campus, Campus Life

This week I was asked to write an opinion piece about some aspect of college, which was surprisingly hard to come up with. As I tried to reflect back on my time in college I thought of a million things to write about, but the hard part was narrowing it down to one thing. Finally it came to me – what is the whole point of college? For me personally I went to college to learn, not just to get a job. My whole life I have enjoyed being in school, so it made sense to go to college to learn even more and to eventually get a degree so that I could get a higher paying job. So, I ask myself…what did I actually learn in college? Does the price tag accurately reflect how much knowledge and experience that students come out of college with?



Of course, I am reflecting on my own experience, so other kids in college could have a completely different view or opinion. For me personally, college disappointed me in some ways. I thought that because I was going to a private, small, liberal arts college that every single one of my classes would be challenging, interesting and amazing all at once. This was certainly not the case. I remember taking classes like The Bible, Elementary functions, Ethics, History of Music etc. and thinking that they were a complete waste of time. It wasn’t even that the classes were boring or hard or anything, it was that they had the potential to be good classes and they just weren’t. Whether it was the professor’s teaching style, the people in the class, or the chosen material, these classes straight up sucked.

I realized that the one thing that these classes had in common was that they lost me in the beginning and then it was all downhill from there. Once you get a bad taste of something are you going to continue to want more? On the other hand, I took classes that completely intrigued me and kept my attention even after the lecture was over. All of these classes are the ones that I learned from and still remember things from. To be honest, they weren’t even classes that I thought I would be interested in at all. To name a few – corporate finance, creative writing, anthropology, sociology, media analysis, ethics etc. were all classes that I distinctly remember learning a ton in.

I think the amount and extent by which you learn obviously has a lot to do with your specific interests, but I don’t think that it ends there. I think that your surroundings and particular environment really lends a hand to the classes you remember and those that you don’t. If your professor is always using real examples and seems to really care, you’re probably going to learn a lot. If you have a washed up, ready to retire professor that rambles on about nothing it’s not doing you any good. If you’re in a class of slackers who are constantly bargaining on due dates with the professor I think that it affects your attitude about the class.

My overall point of this is that college may disappoint you, but it’s important to not become discouraged. You will sign up for classes that you think you’ll learn a lot in and you will come to find that you haven’t learned as much as you thought you would. But, for every class that you take that disappoints you, there will be one that pleasantly surprises you. Also, you can’t really measure how much you learn just by your classes. I think that if you graduate college as a better person than when you entered, it’s a good sign that you learned a good amount. So there you have it, my opinion of learning in college.

Why Schools Should Get Rid of Grades

February 26, 2015 in Academics, Alive Campus

GradesIn one of my previous articles, I wrote about why there should not be finals at the end of the semester and instead there should be a final project. This article is somewhat a continuation of that piece because I think that grades should be gotten rid of altogether and there are many reasons for why I think it would be beneficial to students if this ever were to happen.

I read an article in the Washington Post which said that, “Grades encourage students to focus on the external assessment of a single person — or a small group of people — rather than on true exploration and learning (Harris-Perry).” Now keeping this in mind isn’t that what school is supposed to be about? Learning? The Post also said, “What would happen if students were free to experience classes, retain information and build connections without fear that their futures hung in the balance of a single imperfect product? (Harris-Perry)” Now I don’t know about you, but I think that is an excellent question. What would classes be like if students were actually able to enjoy their classes without the fear of failing them? Wouldn’t they be more likely to engage in class? And I think that is something teachers and students everywhere need to consider. By considering this, they would come to realize that performance, motivation, interest, and even self-esteem would improve. For instance, the Post said that “students often feel deflated when their best efforts lead to only mediocre grades (Harris-Perry).” And I actually agree with this statement because there have been plenty of times when I have felt I deserved a higher grade on something I worked extremely hard on and did not get the grade I felt I deserved (and isn’t a grade based on opinion anyway—especially in the liberal arts?). Just think about it.

Because of this, grades restrict students from actually trying something challenging. If a student is focused on their future and knows that the only way to have a good future is through the act of getting good grades, then they will be less likely to try something out of their comfort zone and do something that challenges them, which isn’t that the whole point of learning—to try something new and challenge yourself? And, unfortunately, grades hinder that.

Going along with this idea since grades don’t allow much room for experimentation, what are grades good predictors of? What do they predict? Is there really anything that they tell us, because in all actuality they “are not good predictors of accomplishment, curiosity, or success (Harris-Perry).” Take for example, George Bernard Shaw, a successful playwright, critic, and political activist who did not do well in school. Did that make him any less successful? He even said, “Schools and schoolmasters—are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys. (Wikipedia)” He also, “considered the standardized curricula useless, deadening to the spirit and stifling to the intellect. (Wikipedia)” Which is similar to what I had mentioned earlier with regards to not being able to try something out of your comfort zone due to fear of getting a bad grade.

So some of you may be thinking what would take the place of grades and what would be the incentive to come to class? Well, the Post says, “Without grades, we would be forced to offer detailed, critical assessments of students’ strengths and weaknesses, both to them and to future schools and employers. We would need to pay closer attention to their process and their progress rather than just their final products (Harris-Perry).” Therefore, by being assessed on your level of strengths and weaknesses and the process you are learning in the class, it will be a better judge of what the student is good at and if that subject suits them. By taking that challenging class because there are no grades, the student may realize that during the learning process of this challenging class that it may not be what interests them or fits their learning style. Thus, “grades should be replaced by meaningful narrative feedback, which helps students understand what learning outcomes have or have not been mastered. Feedback also encourages learning, while grades only stifle it” (TED). The incentive, consequently, is learning because you want to and to find out what you want to do with your life. Learning should not be measured, but rather it should be discussed, shared, and evaluated because it is an ongoing process that should never end and some colleges agree with this notion and do not have a grading system (TED). For example, Evergreen College in Washington State doesn’t use grades, but instead uses an evaluation process that measures if they learned what was expected of them. So by the time they finish a course, they have a list of expectations that they are evaluated on in order to gauge their process, which varies according to the class. Evergreen says that, “The Expectations address skills, habits of intellect, and traits of character that are central to an active, productive life as an individual, as a citizen, and as a member of the many overlapping communities that constitute the context of an individual’s life in our society” (Marshall, etal.)

Therefore, school will still be school, but teachers would assess your strengths and weaknesses and the effort you put into their class thus creating a more stress free and learning-oriented atmosphere.

Tech Learning

November 3, 2013 in Alive Campus, Campus Life, Colleges, Tech

Tablet Windows 8

The classroom must ready students with the necessary options of information toward their personal success. If it is done in a cool way then I’m sure the information will process better.

Technology is progressing by the hour. Microsoft is ensuring the best interconnection between their cellphone, computer and gaming platforms for a more beneficial user experience. Sony is growing their media platforms across the board. Nintendo is constantly developing their handheld to console performance so that users will benefit from using both together. Competition progresses technological standards set by each company for better comparison and use.

The most noticeable and popular technological progressions tend to be cellphones. A new cellphone comes out every week. Once I’m reviewing the new Iphone then I start hearing about the new Galaxy and I’m completely lost when I realize Nokia has a great Windows phone! Yes, I own a Lumia 5200! It’s not the most recent but I am enjoying the Windows phone. I have never been to a class where a student doesn’t have their cellphone on their desk, peeking from their book bags or notebooks.

It’s always in a readily available area to peek at whenever the teacher isn’t looking in their direction. The largest craze in conversation besides a Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or Scandal conversation is the new Apple Iphone IOS in comparison with the older IOS. It’s ugly. No, I like it. It looks like it is for kids. It’s cute. I like when Apple changes their phones. Let an Android user enter the conversation! Iphones are too stiff. They aren’t functional. The Droid has a better camera. Droid family! Iphone family! It gets a bit wild. I have a Samsung Galaxy SII with a crack in the screen and the phone has given me no trouble for a year and a half until it falls off the roof of my mom’s car on my way home one summer afternoon.

Cellphones are allthe buzz on campus but I don’t think they’re the most useful. Everyone knows of the Nook? Or the Kindle? Fire! They’re more compatible than a regular laptop unless you’re talking of the tablets with the detachable keyboards. Those are pretty cool. I can definitely see a use for them as presentation tools. Imagine watching the stages of a frog’s evolution on a wall of hanging tablets or a PowerPoint presentation showing the lunar cycle. The possibilities are endless. Tablets are the projector screens and walk-in televisions of the future.

Imagine the Minority Report of education. Classrooms will be hand handled to further engage students in learning. The experience of learning will be more than a lecture by a professor swallowing the minutes of his job until his or her next paycheck. Students will be able to respect the physical action that exists in the workplace. Teaching and learning will be less strenuous and provide an avenue for way more active participation for students attempting to engage in learning as useful, fun and necessary instead of as a requirement to graduation.

The use of tablets will bring a spark of student engagement in the classroom. They can focus on working closer with their classmates while not forcefully engaging with or through the teacher. The learning curve will definitely increase for students because they can engage information at their necessary pace toward understanding.

What’s any environment without learning?

It is necessary for students to learn smarter to grow smarter. The classroom must ready students with the necessary options of information toward their personal success. If it is done in a cool way then I’m sure the information will process better.

-Kevin Dufresne