This Is What You Want, This Is What You Get

via Metrojolt.comA poster with some of the lyrics for the Rolling Stones song "You can't always get what you want"

Midnight Mojo

One of the discussions that we seem to be having a lot is how the University will change in response to what students want, as we gain more flexibility in delivery and move away from face-to-face (bricks and mortar) to more blended approaches, possibly over distance learning. I’ve blogged a lot about this recently as I think about it but it’s always a lot more interesting to see what my colleagues think about it.

Some of my colleagues are, much like me, expecting things to be relatively similar after everything settles down. Books didn’t destroy academia, libraries didn’t remove the need for the lecturer, the tape recorder only goes so far. Yes, things may change, but we expect something familiar to remain. We’ll be able to reach more people because our learning offerings will accommodate more people.

Then there are people who seem to think that meeting student desire immediately means throwing all standards out the window. Somehow, there’s no halfway point between ‘no choice’ and ‘please take a degree as you leave’.

Of course, I’m presenting a straw man to discuss a straw man, but it’s a straw man that looks a lot like some that I’ve seen on campus. People who are designing their courses and systems to deal with the 0.1% of trouble makers rather than the vast majority of willing and able students.

There’s a point at which student desire can’t override our requirement for academic rigour and integrity. Frankly, there are many institutions out there that will sell you a degree but, of course, few people buy them expecting anything from them because everyone knows what kind of institutions they are. It boggles the mind that the few bad apples who show up at an accredited and ethical academy think that, somehow, only they will get the special treatment that they want and institutional quality will persist.

I have to work out what my students need from me and my University – based on what we told them we could do, what we can actually do (which is usually more than that) and what the student has the potential to do (which is usually more than they think they can do, once we’ve made them think about things a bit). There are many things that a student might want us to do, and we’ll have more flexibility for doing that in the future, but what they want isn’t always what they get. Sometimes, you get what you need.

(If you don’t have the Stones in your head right now, it’s time to go and buy some records.)

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