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Friday, 26 February 2016

Is the internet making university obsolete?

I have been reading about this topic a lot lately and seeing it popping up various places. Not only that but many of my university friends are speaking and posting about this as well. So the question is, will universities become obsolete soon?

I somehow doubt this. Yes it is true that vast amounts of so called free on-line universities have been appearing lately, as well as on-line paid universities, but I believe that many people are too set in their old ways and traditions (and those of their parents) for the traditional land based/ physical campus based university to die out any time soon. 

Also, many can argue that the overall free knowledge acquirable over the internet has made all forms of university studies old fashioned and out dated but I think that most people prefer having some physical proof of "their knowledge" in the form of a university degree/diploma they can frame.

I must say though that I find the ideas of self education and free education (such as that being offered at free on-line universities) very appealing. Just do an internet search and you will see what I am talking about. But I doubt that these trends will be picking up any time soon. 

The general discussions flying around concerning so called "self'-education"(educating yourself via internet searches, and free on-line educational resources) and free on-line education (such as that offered by free on-line "universities"), is that these will become the preferred method/methods of "studying" due to factors such as poor service delivery, horrid study conditions and the overall high cost of university studies that do not guarantee a higher salary or even a job these days. But, as I said above, I really think it is highly unlikely that "self-education" and on-line universities both free and paid for, will be taking over the traditional university any time soon. What do you think?

Edit: I recently found and tried www.udemy.com, which is a website on which anyone can enrol for fairly cheap courses about virtually anything they can think of. The courses are created by people who have expertise in the said fields. You will even find some free courses in the prospective fields you choose to explore. This website is a good example of a "self educating" resource that many people make use of. Why not try Udemy out for yourself and let us know what you think about internet education as opposed to your university studies? I took a short paid course on philosophy which can be found at this link, however you can try any course you want (in any field you want to search, whether paid or free).

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The increase in poor study conditions and service delivery at many universities

In the last two weeks since my last posting, I have been doing research regarding study conditions and service delivery at various institutions of higher learning. The reason for this being I got to thinking about all the extra hurdles students have to face outside of their academic challenges.

Let me just start by stating that I in no way wish to name and shame any academic institution in South Africa, or Internationally by writing this post and I am in no way referring to any specific institution. I am just merely stating information I have gathered during my research into the topic.

I took the time to speak face to face and on-line with various students both locally and internationally and found an amazing trend of similar issues regarding study conditions and service delivery. Some of these issues include:

1. Class sizes that are too large for the lecturers to give any individual student much needed one on one personal guidance, support and attention. Why this still happens is beyond me. In education studies we learn that classroom sizes are to be kept small enough so that each student/learner can receive individual attention, yet in practice this never happens.

2. Lack of modernisation in traditional universities as well as on-line universities. Many universities are still found to be stuck on old, outdated "traditional" methods of tuition as opposed to new methods that are proven to work. A good example of this is the fact that most universities still make use of traditional written examinations which don't really test the students abilities or knowledge. A more modern approach (that is proven to work) would be practical experience and testing methods. Many students get left behind with traditional instruction and testing methods since these methods do not cater for various learning styles. I will never forget one particular student when I was studying. He was absolutely brilliant and understood all our subject matter so well that he landed up explaining most of it to us. Yet come exam time he almost failed. Why? He could not write very fast and could only do about half the written exams in the time given (two hours). This was something I found to be challenging as well, since I too cannot write very fast (unless I want my written work to come out as one big illegible mess). Why on earth universities do not let their students type out their examinations is beyond me, or better yet, why aren't all written examinations replaced by portfolio type assignments?

3. Lack of contact, support and service from on-line learning institutions. Many students complained about how they receive almost no feedback of any sort regarding any questions or issues they may have, how lecturers are mostly unreachable via telephone or e-mail, how on-line systems are "down" most of the time and how study materials were poorly structured.

Do any of you out there face any similar issues? Or can you add anything new to the list? It will be very interesting hearing about some of the challenges you all face regarding study conditions and service delivery at the university or learning institution you study at, or even issues you faced in the past when studying. Please just bear in mind that we are not here to name or shame any institutions so please do not refer to your institution of study by name.

So start commenting and let the discussion begin.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Is it even worth it to study further?

Since my last posting regarding passions and fields of study worth pursuing, I did some more thinking. This brought up the question, "is it even worthwhile to study further?"

This bothered me quite a bit and so I decided to do some research.

I made a list of  twenty people whom I know and who have finished some or other level of University training. Some have Bachelor Degrees, some have Masters Degrees, and others have Doctorates. I decided to have a little chat with each one, and here is what I discovered:

1. All agreed that they regret the personal time they lost whilst studying. Such as missing out on family events, not being there for loved ones, not having any time for themselves, missing out on their children's lives, etcetera etcetera. The list goes on and on. When I asked them if they think it was all worthwhile in the end, they all said they were not sure because they can never get that time back, even though they have their degrees now.

2. Most agreed that the modules/subjects they studied have not been of any value in their professions. Now this is something I have experienced as well with education studies. Most of the modules I completed were of no use to me during my relief teaching or practical teaching periods and had absolutely nothing to do with how a real school or classroom functions. Even the methods we were taught to use when doing lesson plans, assessments and curriculum planning were not in use in any of the schools I had been to.

3. Fourteen agreed that the salary they are currently receiving was/is not worth the amount their studies cost them in the end. It is interesting to note that eighteen of the twenty admitted that they are still paying off their studies.

Okay, so far it would seem like studying is not worthwhile, however when I asked all twenty people what they think the benefits of their studies are/were, I got the following answers:

1. All mentioned the joy they felt when they finally completed their studies and got to graduate. They likened this feeling to having a child or getting married.

2. All mentioned the sense of accomplishment they feel.

3. All mentioned how much better people treat them since they have graduated.

4. Most agreed that they have found it easier to get employment since graduating.

This little research exercise helped me a lot and I recommend it to anyone who is in doubt, but who is already leaning towards a "yes" or "no" answer. The only problem is that in my case I have no idea if it is worthwhile for me or not (since the yes/no equation is perfectly 50/50 with me).

So, the question still remains, "is it worthwhile to study further?"

Monday, 8 February 2016

What are my passions? What should I study?

That is the very question I have been asking myself lately since my whole tragic "studying to be a teacher" phase ended with mixed emotions. Well at least I am not sitting around moping about the choice I made to rather quit. Instead I am thinking ahead, towards the future.

Great, so at least I am getting somewhere, even though I am yet to figure out what my passions are and what I should study next. Hmm, I think I should rather say, I am yet to figure out what my passions are and if I actually should study again.

Okay, first things first. What are my passions? Well, as you all can see I am definitely passionate about rambling on and on about my personal experiences. Unfortunately I doubt I can make a career out of rambling, so scrap that.

I love being creative and using my hands and my heart to create beauty, but there is one problem, I did not inherit the ability to sculpt, paint or draw as so many of my other family members and siblings have. So unfortunately this throws all prospects of studying anything in the creative or design categories out the door, since all of these fields of study require some level of drawing, sculpting or painting ability. Even though I can sponge paint walls quite creatively, I doubt this counts. So being creative is another passion I can just practice at home and not take further academically.

Hmm, okay, other passions? Well let me think......

I love animals (but cannot bear to see them get hurt so working with them is out of the question), I love nature (but unless I go into farming I don't see any other career/study prospects in this field), I love people and helping people. Now this might work for me. Whilst studying education, I did a few psychology modules that I enjoyed and did brilliantly in, but does this mean that I will automatically be suited for psychology studies and a future career in psychology? Well so far this is all I have come up with and I am planning on researching into it further. I shall be taking my time in doing this since I am honestly too old (and too financially ruined after my last academic mess up), to make a mistake again. Plus I need to be sure that I can actually be of help to people and not just someone that lands up traumatising or confusing them so much that their problems are worsened.

Once I come to any realisations or find any information that I deem helpful regarding my "prospective future psychology studies", I will create a posting about these. Now I know that some of you might be thinking, "oh heck here comes more boring ramblings from this confused and disturbed individual", but who knows, somebody might actually find some of it/this useful and fitting to their own situations, as I am sure I cannot possibly be the only person out there in this great big world dealing with all this. Surely others have studied the wrong things, and/or battled to discover what they are really passionate enough about to pursue studies in......

If not, well  then I guess I will just keep "rambling" on in my own little blog in order to find my own way in life, and at least I will (hopefully) be helping myself.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Life is too short to waste on studying the wrong things

I know. How? I stupidly did this. I wasted almost six years of my life studying towards an education degree that I would never use and never even finish! I finally came to the realisation that even after completing 31 modules out of the required 40 (all but six completed with distinctions mind you), it was time to pull off the band-aid and face reality. It was simple. I despised what I was studying and even though I did an amazing job of hiding this fact for five plus years, I could no longer force or will myself to continue. It was finally over......... However, the relief I feel is tinged with permanent regret (even though I know I simply cannot go on any longer or waste any more time and money on this).

Now I know what you are all thinking. Why on earth would anyone study something they hated? And, why on earth would anyone continue doing this for so long? Well let me try and explain where I was coming from.

A few years ago I decided that I would like to emigrate to another country and since I had nothing but a love for writing and limited business studies behind my name, I knew the only way this would ever happen for me is by obtaining a degree. Since I had no idea what to study, I did some research on the internet in order to find out which degrees were the most sought after worldwide. I then came to the conclusion that education studies were the way to go since they came up as an option in almost every single search I did. So education it would be then. I registered, worked extremely hard my first year, passed with flying colours each semester and felt quite good about myself. All the while realising that education studies would never be a passion of mine. I just figured back then that since I was doing so well in the beginning I would be able to easily breeze through the rest of it.

Boy was I wrong. Each new teaching practice/practical experience (which lasts up to five weeks at a time), became more torturous. Each new assignment I had to complete seemed to take me longer and longer since I kept striving to better myself (pushing for an over 90% average on every single one). Each exam I had to prepare for became such a burden that I stressed myself into an ulcer and a hernia. Yet I let the degree consume me more and more, until it took over my whole life.

So it went on until this year when time came for my last teaching practice/practical experience. That is where I caved. I just could not take all the pressure and work any more, and within 24 hours I had quit my whole degree. It took me a few days to sort through and chuck all the years' worth of work and preparations I did. Almost broke my heart to do it because it made me realise just how hard I had worked and just how much time I had wasted. I still could not understand why I couldn't force myself any longer. I started to resent myself. I stopped sleeping and eating. Then all of a sudden it dawned on me.

We as human beings cannot lie to ourselves forever. Even though we all keep pushing ourselves towards things we have no passion for, thinking we will adjust to it or even learn to like it, in the end we only land up doing ourselves in. How many people study certain things just because it is the line their parents or others have pushed them into? How many of us get stuck in careers and/or jobs we hate? Life is too short and nobody knows how long they have. Why waste it making things harder and more complicated for yourself? Now I know many of you out there have managed to do what I could not and all of you are probably thinking now what a weakling I am for not being able to force myself the whole way through. Maybe you are right. Maybe I am weak. All I know for sure is that unless you are passionate about something, you should not pursue it. Yes it still hurts me and yes I still can't sleep at night because I beat myself up and keep telling myself what an idiot I am for quitting and throwing away everything I worked so hard to achieve, but the fact remains, I had no passion for what I was pursuing and this ultimately killed it for me.

When in life you have choices to make, make sure you make the right ones in the beginning so that they don't come back to kick you in the rear later.