Thursday, March 03, 2016

New degrees? Are they worth it?

I recently got this question:
I would agree degrees, courses and the focus of education should evolve with time... but just because a new degree program is created, doesn't mean the courses created/offered may do the goals of the degree justice. Who decides on the curriculum and what assurances do new students have that they'll get something meaningful from it? Also, if profs that taught existing courses were now told to teach new curriculum, would they do a good enough job at it? Or would new teachers with those backgrounds be required to effectively teach and go beyond the textbooks to be able to inspire and really prepare the students for this new world, new degree? Making a course on paper is one thing. Accomplishing the goal of teaching something new is another. Thoughts?
Great questions! These days, the best schools focus A LOT of energy on these types of questions. Specialized staff (like Educational Developers, Instructional Designers and Business Development staff) are brought in at the earliest stages to contribute to the program development such that it aligns with data obtained from industry advisory panels and student focus groups. Then once that's all done, a different group of people sit down to actually design and build each individual course such that they each align with the program curriculum. Again, for the best schools, that course development activity is a multi-disciplinary team effort where the professor is not a "Team of One". Often instructional designers, multimedia support analysts, graduate students and other university staff contribute to that Course Development Team. It's only with a group of talented individuals that the best programs can be developed from solidly built courses. It's a long and difficult process, but in the end, the students are the real winners! I'm an Educational Developer, and I love it.

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