Are Our Colleges Really “Doomed?” Is Minerva the Answer?

Graeme Wood writes an interesting article in the current (September 2014) issue of The Atlantic Monthly that discusses a start-up online university called Minerva that aims to reinvent colleges by stripping them down to their essence: no lectures, no football games, no ivy, no research libraries, etc.

The impetus for this article is simply a look at reality. Colleges are expensive, inefficient, and ripe for change. Wood points out that colleges “represent one of the most sclerotic sectors of the US economy, one so shielded from the need for improvement that its biggest innovation in the past 30 years has been to double its costs and hire more administration at higher salaries.”

Is he right?

It’s too early to tell because it is just getting off the ground, but what sets Minerva apart from traditional universities is a “proprietary online platform developed to apply pedagogical practices that have been studied and vetted by one of the world’s foremost psychologists, a former Harvard dean named Stephen M. Kosslyn.”

Wood points out that “during the past half millennium, the technology of learning has hardly budged. The easiest way to picture what a university looked like 500 years ago is to go to any large university today, walk into a lecture hall, and imagine the professor speaking Latin and wearing a monk’s cowl.   The professor is lecturing, the students are listening and perhaps taking notes, and there is little evidence that any learning is taking place. Kosslyn says that lectures “are cost effective, but pedagogically unsound. It’s a great way to teach – but a terrible way to learn.”

Read the article yourself and think about it.

Seems to me that they are teaching the “Critical Skills.”

You may just be looking into the future.

And you may not. We’ll see.

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