Some Thoughts on the Current Education System

 

Let me begin by saying that during my undergrad I was the type of student that found most lectures boring, could not pay attention for more than a couple of minutes at a time, cared a lot about my grades and much less about learning, and skipped most of the classes when I could get away with it. That being said, I still think I got a really good education, a solid grasp of my domain, and even enjoyed some of the classes I took; else I would not have chosen to pursue a Ph.D. in the same discipline. The reason for that is that I interpreted courses as a path that leads me to my goal, and not my actual goal.

The first issue I would like to point out which makes the college (I am strictly talking about college here) education system seem broken is the lack of proper guidance that students receive before picking their majors. I know from personal experience and from observing the people around me that the majority of students rarely pick a major based on passion or interest, and when asked why they have chosen to pursue their major, the most prevalent answers were “Why not” and “The market demands it”. With people making such choices why does it come as a surprise that most students want to survive through their education? If a student is passionate about his major, sitting through 3 to 4 years of college is a very small sacrifice that will yield dividends in the coming 30 to 40 years of work. My point is, in many cases in many cases, guiding people towards a major that suits them is a better solution as compared to making courses more “barrable”.

The second point I would like to touch on is that yes, the education system is not perfect, but with the current economy of scale it’s very hard to come up with a system that is both better for students and scalable. How is it possible for a professor to interact with students at a personal level when the class has a 100+ students? You might say that a class should not contain that many students and I agree, but again I come back to the issue of scale, when 10000 students apply for one specific major, the university hast to either reject most of them  (you can’t do that) or hire more professors (not a very financially sound decision for the university).

To wrap up, is the college education system perfect? Definitely not, I can point out so many things that are current being done wrong, but overall is it broken? I don’t think that either. I think that the way our current society works has forced the education system along its current trajectory and instead of trying to fix the education system, I would suggest looking at why the education system got to this point in the first place, fix those core problems, then try to fix the current problem which is a consequence rather than the cause.

Open Access Robotics Journal

Since i work in the field of robotics, I have chosen the Robotics Open Access Journal published by MDPI (Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute). This institute has been established in 1996 and is currently based in Basel, Switzerland with the main goal of fostering open scientific exchange across all disciplines.

The main values that this journal abides by are first and foremost being open access in order to share the latest scientific research with the biggest audience possible. They work on reviewing and publishing submitted work in a very fast and efficient manner. The first decision regarding a submitted paper is made in under a month and once accepted, the paper is published within a week,  all in an effort to keep the published work relevant for the longest period of time possible. MDPI also believes in simplicity and flexibility where they try to keep the entire process of submissions and review under one easily accessible umbrella, in addition to always being on the look for feedback from authors, editors and readers on how to enhance their experience and better meet their needs.

MDPI defines open access as peer reviewed literature that is freely available without subscription or the barrier of price, is immediately released upon acceptance and the published materials can be used without obtaining permission as long as the work is properly cited. They believe that their open access initiative can largely help research spread worldwide, including developing countries and the interested general public. Finally, MDPI believes that open access enriches scholarly communication and should coexist with the other society based publishing initiatives.

All published articles are in full open access under the creative commons license. The cost of publishing a journal is 350 Swiss frank or equivalently 351.42 USD.

https://www.mdpi.com/journal/robotics

 

Why I hate Online Courses, but like MOOCs

Well if I’m completely honest I have always hated online classes. The main reason in my opinion is because I am in the heavily theoretical field of electrical engineering where most of the lecture consist of explaining hard, and sometimes non-intuitive, concepts through a myriad of equations. Its hard enough to concentrate while siting in class, and it becomes much harder online when you can barely hear or see the professor, you have the absolute freedom to do anything you want, and having an actual conversation is harder than using Morse code to communicate. All joking aside, my experience with online learning has not been great. However, a big part of my disappointment comes due to having high expectations, especially when you pay thousands of dollars to attend the class.

MOOCs on the other hand, assuming they stick with open access and free, could be a really good way to obtain a quality education. I’m willing to put in the extra effort needed to succeed in an online class for the convenience of obtaining a free education from home. Life is a compromise, I can settle with a less interactive and personal experience if this is balanced with having a free and open to all course. However, once I pay a significant amount of money to obtain a quality education, I will not settle for anything less than the optimal. On a different note, MOOCs can help bridge the gap between people of different economic standing by providing advanced education to whomever wants it. Removing money from the equation opens the door to many people you are skilled, talented, and determined to obtain a quality education, but could not afford it.