Last week the annual National Survey of Student Engagement released its latest findings. The primary finding was the the average senior only spending about 15 hours a week studying.
As a professor in a business school, I found it particularly interesting that business students only spent on average 14 hours a week studying while working on average 19 hours per week. In the past few years, I have heard more students placing increasing emphasis on part-time work experiences over their education. While the economy has something to do with this imbalance, I believe there is a greater player involved as well.
The economy has obviously been a factor in this finding. States have cut funding to Universities. For instance, the State of South Carolina now only provides my College with eight percent (8%) of its total operating budget. in turn, universities have had to raise tuition to keep up with costs. Students now require classrooms to have the latest technology, buildings capable to house that technology with faculty and support staff with the ability to facilitate its use. This was a cost not borne by schools in the same way prior to the turn of the millennium and has added large capital expenditures and operating costs to the universities which in turn has been passed on to the students. This has created a need for students to have to work more hours in order to afford schooling and live the lifestyle they so desire. This has created a situation where the tail has started to wag the dog.
Due to technology, students feel that they can get any information they need as quickly as Google will let them. This means that there is a feeling that I don't need to know this stuff because I can look it up when I need it. The immediacy issue is what I call it. This is why many students also work too much. I need that cell phone data plan, to have money to go out Friday night and/or to pay for rent next month. They are only living in the present day. They are only examining their present needs and wants (the heart of immediacy).
At present, they can get away at work with learning ideas and concepts last minute (or as they arise) because they are mostly in front line positions and most issues that they are relatively simple and have straightforward solutions. What happens however, when this group gets into management positions where the issues are nuanced and require delicate and deliberate strategies? What the students do not realize their missing is the ability to manage information, judge its quality and use it to integrate it into a comprehensive strategy. They use technology as a crutch to replace real thinking and that is dangerous in relation to their long term growth.
The biggest complaint from students I get today is how they hate to read long boring pieces of literature. This is also due to the age of immediacy. They are so used to getting information in quick, concise sound bites that to take the time to read and ponder is almost perceived as being painful. They do not want to take the time to read and thus study time goes down. They can gain the major points from a reading from a summary found online.
Now, this sounds like it is complaining about the students of today and perhaps some of it is. The reality is that it is much harder to get the students to engage material today then it was even when I first started teaching seven years ago. It is our jobs as educators to create opportunities for students to see the value in taking the time to 'learn how to learn.' It is imperative that we demonstrate to them the importance of not just examining issues from a micro perspective but from a macro one as well. This is going to take further innovation in our approach to teaching to get students to engage and develop the desire to spend the time in order to be truly successful in mastering concepts and ideas.
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