COLUMN: Exploring new ways to educate

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The field of education exists in an era where rapid technological changes and reforms are happening or are on the brink of taking place.

In order to remain relevant and adapt to the changing methods of teaching, post-secondary institutions must constantly find ways in which they can innovate in order to help students learn as much as they can.

The abundance of knowledge on the Internet has already opened up the doors to unlimited learning on almost any topic. At the click of a button, one is able to access millions of documents, books, educational videos, and other information.  Hence, educational institutions must find ways to augment the information that is already available.

As I have mentioned in a previous column, debate and discussion can play a vital role in transforming the university classroom from a place where knowledge is simply distributed to a place where knowledge is actually created and debated.

A very interesting educational model has been developed at Quest University, where courses last for 3.5 weeks. While students don’t complete four courses simultaneously, they still complete four courses in a semester.

This seems like an excellent concept, as it allows students to fully focus on one area, before moving to the next subject matter. Such programs could have the potential to transform college and university education across Canada.

Quest University states on its website that such a program allows for “focus, flexibility” and an ability to “explore.”

In the final two years of study at Quest, students examine a broad question and produce a final project or thesis. Experiential learning opportunities are also emphasized.

The idea of separating classes into individual “blocks” might seem like a simple change, but I feel that it can have transformative results. Furthermore, allowing students the ability to examine and analyze a large question gives them freedom and ability to truly delve into their studies.

We live in a world where major challenges do not operate in silos and we need educational models that adapt to these new realities. Besides, experimentation should always be a part of the educational world.

Other educational institutions would benefit from pilot programs that provide students the ability to hone in on a specific area of interest, while still exploring the ways in which their educational field intersects with other areas of knowledge.

While any major shift in education can come with initial hesitation, the only way to actually move forward is by considering the possibilities that are out there. Reforming the course system, as Quest University has done, is one way in which this can happen.

Academic research and education itself is rooted in the concept of experimenting with different ideas. The very institutions that help create and spread this knowledge should also take proactive steps to offer different methods of teaching and learning.

Students learn in different ways, and the only way to offer them the ability to fully explore the opportunities in university education is by giving them alternative options for learning. The one-size-fits-all approach to education is not allowing students to fully utilize their potential.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.


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