In the 21st century, technologies are changing the landscape of industry and society at a rate never before documented. Do our classes keep pace?
I remember teaching communications technology in 1972 on the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois. We felt the world was changing pretty quickly. Students lined up to punch computer cards to run FORTRAN 66 programs. However, the Arpanet, the Internet’s predecessor, was in its early stages of development, and the World Wide Web was in two decades. The rich essential communication and collaboration tools through which so many advances have since been exploited had yet to be deployed. Artificial intelligence was science fiction. In these lazy days of change, maybe one could get away with using a course syllabus or textbook two years in a row!
In most areas, this kind of slow deployment is not the case today. Progress cannot be measured decade by decade. “The state of the art” evolves from month to month in many areas. Not only do technologies evolve, but applications proliferate, industries emerge, new consumer markets emerge and the roadmap for the future is only clear for the short term.
Our learners may be one, two or three years away from entering or re-entering the workforce. We must do everything in our power to ensure that our teaching is still relevant for the next few years. Yet I fear that too many of our colleagues are using the same texts, the same curricula and sharing the same – now obsolete – facts in their lessons without paying enough attention to the changes that technology and social changes bring in. their domain. Certainly the rate of change in Greek history and the foreign language may not be as rapid as in other fields, but their social context, their relevance to society today and in the future loved ones are surely evolving as rapidly as society as a whole.
As faculty members, we are called to understand not only our discipline, but also the larger context in which the content of our courses is applied not only today, but more importantly in the years to come. If we are teaching a course based on the current use of information, it will probably take years for the learner to be able to meaningfully apply the course content. Outdated knowledge is a disservice to our learners, to our colleagues, and to the reputation of our program and our university.
The speed at which textbooks are published has not improved much over the years. Writer’s collection suggests:
With our rules set out above, the typical time it takes for a writer to go from book contract to publication is typically between nine months and two years. Many factors come into play for this range of results, including the size of the press and the extent of planning its production schedule.
Depending on the alignment of the calendar with the start dates and the distribution of the academic terms, it may take longer to reach the students. And the next edition could be in even more years.
So how do we make sure that our students receive information and ideas that will be timely and relevant when they start their careers? How do we teach our lessons through the windshield, looking forward, rather than through the rearview mirror?
The key is to look to current materials to keep your courses up to date. Open educational resources proliferate, not only in official OER texts, but also in open research journals, government databases and publicly shared reports. The turnaround time for OER publications is almost instantaneous, depending on the format desired and the level of peer review used.
The myths surrounding the effectiveness of OER are numerous. In a TAA Abstract blog post, “Top 9 Myths About OER Publishing,” Several Leading Researchers in the Field Clarify Poorly Perceived Barriers to Publishing and Using OER to Deliver Timely Material for the class. The quality of the materials is equal or superior in many cases to that acquired from traditional publishers. The flexibility, relevance and timeliness of OER documents go far beyond their low cost.
As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will see technologies change the workforce, create new fields, obsolete some career paths while creating new ones and changing society in ways that we do not. have not yet imagined. The increasing rate of change shows no sign of slowing down. More and more, we are under pressure as educators to make sure that what we are teaching is not obsolete. We must not teach for jobs and careers that are dwindling in the dustbin of history. It behooves us to do our due diligence to ensure that what we teach will be more relevant tomorrow than yesterday.
Do you and your colleagues teach through the windshield or the rearview mirror? What steps do you take to bring new materials and experiences to your lessons? Will your teaching last five years? Who is leading the charge to make your agenda relevant for tomorrow?