The Practical University

Description: The best part of the rise of online education is that it forces us to ask: What is a university for?


Date: April 4, 2013


Are universities mostly sorting devices to separate smart and hard-working high school students from their less-able fellows so that employers can more easily identify them? Are universities factories for the dissemination of job skills? Are universities mostly boot camps for adulthood, where young people learn how to drink moderately, fornicate meaningfully and hand things in on time?  READ REST OF STORY

 Questions for discussion:

1. Answer the question posed by columnist “ What is a university for?”

2. How does technology affect or enhance the answer you gave as to what a university is for?  Why? & How?


19 thoughts on “The Practical University

  1. mark schmitz

    A university is a model for guidance and assurance. It’s used by the student to structurally become well rounded in their area of study. It’s used by prospective employers as assurance that the potential job candidate has gained some ground in the position they need filled. While higher learning is individual, it cannot be instilled. Those who want more out of their education obtain it by their own volition. We can’t forget that knowledge is power. This is why governments fuel post-secondary-the smarter the population, the stronger the economy.
    Technology makes education more accessible to the population. To give knowledge to its citizens at a cheaper rate means having a more powerful population. It brings the level down to attainment levels and creates more competition in the job pool which gives more choice to companies. Doing this may also, dilute the credibility of post-secondary achievements, but only in the short run. Again, people move toward the path of least resistance. I would take University online if I could be guaranteed it would have equal weighting and be cheaper.

  2. Alex King

    University is largely just a Business today. Sure it offers a post secondary experience where students (both smart and thick) can learn technical and practical skills. Sadly, the commitment to large quantities of university classes requires very little actual intelligence. The standard High School model is used to get students through classes and on towards completion of a degree. Those who are good at memorization and regurgitation mixed with a little step by step math skill will excel. Students who find the classes tedious are under-stimulated and often end up disillusioned with the concept of University completely. Universities should be there to really find the smart people and get them into programs that can be individualized and customized. Classes are largely taught straight out of a textbook with materials being conveniently offered by publishers for easy instruction. I would ask the question, What is the point of lectures? A 10 minute youtube video would more effectively and efficiently communicate information covered in a hour long lecture when joined with these inclusive texts.

    When we add technology we obtain the ability to streamline learning. Eliminating the need for proximity to a university and transportation and wasted time between classes, we obtain more work time and more reflection time. If students can be motivated to work daily, then the need for a physical lecture disappears completely.

  3. senura suduweli

    1. Answer the question posed by columnist “ What is a university for?”
    Answer to this question has been changed over the last decade. A university is a place for high school graduates to go and get a secondary education to gain technical and practical knowledge. Universities are their to help ready the student for the real world by implementing them with information and real work situation. Teaching the student the skills that they will need to use in the respectable fields. also universities are places were student learn important skills such as communicating. At university their are many different group assignment and lot more people in classes which will force the students to communicate. in university students will also face the different types of technology and adapt to them.

    2. How does technology affect or enhance the answer you gave as to what a university is for? Why? & How?
    Technology helps the student to learn these skill quicker and more efficient. They are more efficient that teachers and definitely much cheaper. By reduced tuition involving technology this will attract more students towards universities. It will also be a much enjoyable place to go and visit because of the different technologies available.

  4. Chane van Nierop

    A university is a place where mostly young people go to increase their knowledge on specific subjects that could possibly help them in the future. Although a lot of information is taught, very little of it will be useful in the workplace. University does not prepare you for the real world, it prepares you to potentially get a good job. Technology enhances the university environment. For example, if you have a question for your prof, they are easily accessible through email. Technology can also be very useful when trying to look up information.

  5. Nicole Freeman

    Answer to question 1: Making money. Sorry…I believe that was my internal monologue…but honestly, I am of a certain age and I know EXACTLY where I am going. I would like an “AGE CREDIT” to be applied against these GLER’s….I will spend over $2500 on GLER’s plus books over the course of my university career and this is insane. I pick GLER’s based on what former students have recommended. It is not that I don’t think having a well-rounded education is useless…it’s just that I have been pursuing an array of interests for 15 years, I don’t need to be charged for the privilege. Maintaining objectively about the information that comes in from many sources at incredible speed can be a healthy attitude once one has completed a variety of University courses. Students can get together and discuss situations, events and problems in real time instead of reading an article online and the following blather that one could equate to some portions of Facebook. If a subject is in your interest you can find that information online, the pace can be set by you. Doesn’t necessarily work all the time, if the phone rings, cats need feeding, neighbours and friends show up unannounced, oh right, time to make lunch.
    University provides the opportunity to expand your horizons by offering a diverse set of courses other than the just the ones that are of interest.This works if one does not have a rudder on one’s boat. If one is completely focused one should be able to fast track to graduation instead of accumulating student loans.I believe the future does hold both the University and online learning as a complimentary unit.

  6. Mervin Kwok

    A university is for setting up young people all the experiences and knowledge they need to be successful later in their careers. This ranges from technical knowledge, to developing good work habits, methods of thinking, and skills.

    As for how technology affects or enhances the purpose of universities, there are many answers. Technology allows many universities to allow students to collaborate, or quickly look up information. It creates a channel for students and teachers to interact outside of the lecture hall. However, I don’t believe an exclusively online university will give the same level of experience as would physically attending a lecture would. Students need to be able to learn scheduling, how to work outside of computers, and gain hands-on experience with proper mentoring. You wouldn’t want an operation from a surgeon who got his medical degree online, would you? Likewise, you wouldn’t want an intern who didn’t know how to manage a regular work schedule. There are skills that can’t be passed on through technology alone, and universities need some form of traditional teaching to be able to pass on those skills.

  7. Helen Reina

    1. Answer the question posed by columnist “ What is a university for?”
    In my opinion, the main goal of a university is to transfer knowledge. It should transfer it objectively and it should teach the students, young adults, to be open-minded and to develop a critical mind. The university is more practically meant to form students for their future job in a particular field. Unfortunately nowadays, the university involves several drawbacks: it is too much theoretical; it is very often influenced by ideologies, philosophies, religions, political or economic power; and it is definitely overrated in a way that probably too much importance is given to university diploma.
    2. How does technology affect or enhance the answer you gave as to what a university is for? Why? & How?
    We can point out three main ways to analyze how technology can affect the university purposes given above. Firstly, technology offers an unbelievable tool to facilitate the teaching activities. It helps both the teachers’ side by providing powerful ways of teaching, and the students’ side by offering them the opportunity to learn and make researches easily and fast.
    Secondly, technology is a field of study in itself and is attracting more and more students each year by the job opportunities that it represents.
    Thirdly, technology has a strong impact on how the students and young adults apprehend the today’s world and understand it. By offering thousands of sources of information and news from all around the world, information technology makes people certainly more open-minded than before. Though, people lack very often of critical mind when it comes to make selection in this huge quantity of information: people can get lost…

  8. Craig Schindler

    1. Answer the question posed by columnist “ What is a university for?”

    A university is for research. It’s a place where the top minds can get together with each other and work on solving problems and create solutions to enhance the lives of people. There is a side project that attempts to teach students the necessary skills to enter the workforce. I believe that universities do not put enough emphasis on teaching students. As far as being a student at a university, the main goal is to see if you really want to go into your chosen profession. It’s meant to test people to see if they can stick with something tough for four years. While some knowledge and skills can be learned while going through the university ordeal, the majority of the knowledge required for any job is learned on the job; and what formal learning that is gained can be accomplished on-line. Other than research, universities have only one thing that keeps students coming back, a parchment with an accredited seal.

    2. How does technology affect or enhance the answer you gave as to what a university is for? Why? & How?

    The technology available has the potential to greatly enhance the learning experience in universities so long as it is used properly. Currently it is not. The majority of technology used, for teaching, has only been utilized to digitize what is being taught. (A professor’s slides are now on power point rather than plastic slides or written on the chalk board.) In order to use it effectively, universities should use technology to bring the work environment as close as possible to the classroom and give students a better idea of what its going to take in the real world.

  9. Jordan Gibson

    According to the columnist universities are institutions where individuals are able to gain technical and practical knowledge to then go on into the workforce and apply them to their new careers accordingly. Also the columnist mentions that there are in fact many employers out there who are simply looking to see who has put in the time and effort, completed their degree and also separated themselves from their fellow peers. It is kind of a weeding out system if you will, where the stronger persevere and the weaker fall behind and eventually crumble. What technology will do in the future is create a more even playing field, I believe. What I mean by this is that there will be one on one learning for each student and the programs will probably also be easier to comprehend and learn from. More kids will be enrolling and more jobs will be demanded as a result. If this is done right the economy could really take off because there would be so much more people in the workforce, performing in jobs that are actually needed such as doctors and nurses. This of course would probably lead to many rollbacks and even terminations of professors at universities because they would no longer be needed. With the money that universities could be saving they would be able to lower tution and provide a more reasonable affordability to enrolled in post secondary education.

  10. Ida

    What university means for me? That answer has changed slightly as time has gone by and as I have learned what it is that I really want to do with my life. Going back to school started as a way to keep my partner happy because supposedly working full time was not doing something with my life. It was there that I was able to answer one of the key things that post-secondary education grants: they help you find a career that will be more than just a job. The next thing I wanted post-secondary to grant me was the formal education and the “shiny piece of paper” that is required to get the position. It is this piece of paper that you put the most work into earning, and ensuring you can keep your grades up. I never really thought about all the practical skills that I have been acquiring over the years, I have always just mentally cataloged them as “I have learned the textbook skills now I must be smarter than many of my peer and be able to apply them”. It is these practical skills that you can acquire without noticing them right away, and I know I would not have developed them to the same extent if at all in an online classroom. So to answer the question of what is university for… it is to teach the practical skills that you cannot learn out of the textbook that the companies are seeking all of their employees to possess.

  11. prashant malik

    University is a place where we go to just not get the degree but to further our knowledge in life. It is a place to meet new people, make new friends and gain practical knowledge. Practical knowledge can only come by working in real life situation not my siting at home and studying. The university broadens one’s own horizon and experience.

    Online education has some advantages for students . First, it can save students money from the cost of commuting to the school, because students can access the education in their own house. Second, students can save money for buying clothes for going to school, because some school and universities are required their students use uniform. Third, it is convenient for the students because students can access the material anywhere and anytime, during their holiday overseas or during their spare time.

    But,there are some disadvantages in online education. Students will stay at home and they would loose opportunity to socialize with friends and do not have communication with other people. Online education also not healthy because spend long time in front of computer can cause eye problems and back pain. Other limitation is online education, which based by technology, using internet and computer, not everyone have the capability to operate technologies. Additionally, in some places the internet connections are slow, consequently they have limited access to study.

  12. Yuliya

    The sole purpose of university is to enter further into debt! Just kidding. I think the point of university is to broaden one’s horizon in terms of knowledge and experiences. I think the author was spot on in terms of the types of knowledge one is supposed to gain under a university education, however, I think there is a slight gap in terms of practical knowledge that is offered(unless you’re in a science related field). In terms of management degrees, I believe many courses are theory based and should be offered online in addition to traditional lectures or seminars. The individuals who would opt out for online courses, are the ones who would feel comfortable with the differing format it is presented in. Also, I have encountered many people who have said their jobs have very little to do with what they have learned in their post-secondary education or they completely didn’t use some aspects. Many management classes are group work based, however, the way you interact with fellow students will greatly differ from the way you will act with coworkers and your bosses.

  13. Edward Agyapong

    Well in my opinion, a University is there to serve a lot of purposes. The most important is to update the lay man or a learned man on both practical and Technical knowledge as well as mould different personalities into one as in enable the shy and introvert become outspoken and be able to work in groups. Thus having the true face to face contact with a fellow student and learn about each others personal life stories.
    Technology enhances the above definition of a university by offering a pool of information for the students to tap into and or make references from. there are many uses of technology when it comes education. It offers a lot of available information at a relatively cheaper price or free

  14. James Perry

    University to me is an endurance test. It is testing your abilities to stick with something and achieve goals. It supplies you with technical knowledge that will benefit you in the workplace with the degree you have chosen to obtain. I think that university would be more beneficial if there was more hands on aproach to learning with the practical knowledge that would benefit you most in the workplace.

    Technology is a large part of the educational systems today. I strongly agrer e with the online educational part of your university degree and doing the technical learning yourself and then when entering the physical university to obtail the more practical knowledge. This would be way cheaper to the students and would make learning more interesting and less manaughtness. Some classes at university are fairly boring and you could have learned more by staying at home and teaching yourself the subject but instead we have to pay top dollar to a university and sit in a class to be lectured.

  15. Jessi Chrapko

    It is difficult to have one single answer to define what a university is for but I would say it is somewhere to gain knowledge. It can be knowledge specific to a certain area (what the article referred to technical knowledge) and it can be experience or life knowledge. It is a way to help people figure out what careers they are interested in and provide skills in order to do well in their chosen field.

    I think technology can enhance the way knowledge can be gained. It dramatically lowers the costs for students and I like the idea the article mentioned in how video recorded seminars could allow students to review and pick apart what make a good augment, how to handle conflict etc. Technology also enables realistic simulations that can aid in training for doctors, nurses, and other professions where it is important to practice skills without having to worry about harming someone until those skills are perfected. However I don’t think technology can replace every aspect of gaining knowledge through the university experience. You can watch numerous videos and simulations about how to interact and collaborate in certain settings but that doesn’t mean you will be able to exhibit that behaviour yourself. It is important to interact socially with real people in actual real life settings so that you can truly gain real life experiences and knowledge; what the article refers to as practical knowledge.

  16. Justeen Kolody

    This is a grey area. What a university is for from 10 years ago to today would have VERY different meanings. I mean 10 years ago it was still focused on partying but you went to school got a degree then when out into the world and attained a career. Now people party for a year or two then and change majors or programs at least three times, maybe take a year off in-between. Rather now people are so uncertain of what they want to become and it takes people many more years to begin a career.
    I think technology aids in the tactical knowledge in University. People can learn a lot of the memorization from the now online learning aspects.

  17. shaunagregus

    University is not only a place that we go to further the knowledge we acquired in school, but also to further our life knowledge. Coming from a small town and a small school, the life of a University student was quite different than I expected. Not only is material more detailed and fast-paced, but the social side of things is abundant as well. We come to post secondary institutes to gain a more specific knowledge in a particular interest that we may have, in hopes of increasing our chances of getting a job that we might actually be able to tolerate. It tests our character and who we are by placing (sometimes) seemingly unbearable task loads on us. The skills that we gain from learning things as basic as time management and responsibility are skills that will carry us through many other areas in our lives. If universities were to ever become completely virtual, I think students would be missing out big time. You can’t teach team work, collaboration, interaction and time management when you simply sit in front of a monitor and pick and choose when you “learn”. While I do see the benefits of having online classes, I don’t think it can ever become the predominant means of delivering post secondary education. We gain so much more from actually attending school than we realize and it’s that kind of experience that technology can never replace.

  18. Tayler Orban

    Universities are places for people to gain technical and practical knowledge and experience. This practical knowledge only exists in practice and it is knowledge that cannot be taught. The technical knowledge tells you what needs to be done and is done in lecture form with memorization of main points and notes. This article states that the future of universities is in practical knowledge not technical knowledge. Practicality is taught through experience and this can be enhanced by technology depending on what area of study the student is in. If they are in nursing then life like dolls to be used as practice patients will benefit nursing students way more than just reading out of a book. If a student is in management and the university had technology that could simulate a real business situation then it would be beneficial. Technology is rapidly advancing and changing on almost a daily basis and this goes hand in hand with knowledge. There is something new that is discovered each and every day and technology can help distribute the new information. Universities that are technologically advanced offer a lot more to students than the old-school universities who are behind in technological practices and advancement.

  19. haley

    I often struggle to find a good solid answer to that question. I would like to think that on a theoretical basis a university gives you the knowledge, and know how to do your intended job. It teaches you everything you will need to know to become a nurse, or an accountant etc. However, in reality I have found that university is a place where you go to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to be taught a bunch of useless things (to your degree that is, GLERS) and then learn a bunch of things over and over again. But never have I been taught, “When you get a job this is what you will do…” or “This is how you can expect to work everyday”. I feel the university gives you alot of this technical knowledge, how to figure of Net Income, or how to calcualte NPV, but it does not give you a real-world aspect as if you were being prepared for a job. So I guess university is a very general introduction to what you will be doing for your choosen career.
    Well technology is obviously a huge part of and university, and I think what the guy was trying to get established with this online university was brilliant. Charge less, get the students to do all this basic, general, technical, procedural things through the online university, with the seminars and lectures and all these things you can watch, re-watch, and learn on your own. Then when you go to an actually university that is where you are taught on the job tasks, how to do your job, do on hands activities as if you were at your job.


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