The impossibility of teaching in the digital age

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By Brian Harris, Staff Writer

When was the last time you studied for a test?

No, I’m serious, when was the last time you honestly thought about whatever class it is that you’re taking?

I know many a student who don’t even know the names of their classes, let alone the contents within. And while some professors may be mortified at that statement, I think many have accepted this unfortunate truth. That in the digital age, there really isn’t a place for college. Well, at least in the traditional sense.

Let me explain. Let’s say, a professor assigns a homework due in two days’ time. In a perfect world, the student would take a look at that homework, test their critical thinking skills regardless of their personal interest, and complete the assignment to the best of their ability.

Of course, that’s in a perfect world, because here’s what’s likely to happen. Google searches for any and all key words or questions they can find.

Numerous YouTube tutorials just sitting there waiting to be watched for any topic in the world. Answer keys from all across the academic field just waiting to be accessed through the world wide web. And if the answers aren’t on any of those, we go to the e-textbook, which allows users to search through potentially hundreds of pages to find exactly what they want through keywords and some careful searching.

Students don’t need to take what they’ve learned to do the homework at home, they just need to pay the internet bill.

And the same goes for any kind of at home assignment. Tests and quizzes? Google search. Case studies? Google search. Projects? Google search. Now don’t get me wrong, many students forgo these methods willingly, but there’s no denying there’s a market and a demand for these kinds of easy to access cheats.

Websites like Course Hero and Chegg have turned cheating into a business model, with subscription fees necessary to access their massive stash of answer keys online.

Even something as innocent as study aid website Quizlet has become overrun with answer keys from every concept and test bank out there. If you know where to look, entire fifty question tests will be online. And believe me, students know where to look.

And what about in class assignments? Well, let’s not forget that most college students have what basically amounts to a supercomputer in their pockets.

The iPhone has changed our lives in so many incredible ways, but the convenience they create is unfortunate in this case.

And before any professor says they keep their eyes out for cheaters in their classrooms, believe me, you’ve missed a few, guaranteed.

So, the question becomes, how do you effectively teach in an era where student can effortless and more importantly thoughtlessly glide through classes through the internet.

And while there isn’t necessarily a quick fix, I do think there are some obvious suggestions. First of all, online assignments are universally a joke, so I would highly recommend if you’re a professor, don’t even bother with them.

No matter how hard you try, the answers will be somewhere online. Even if you handwrite every question, there will be similar ones that show up online, and that always leads to students barely reading the questions in their race to finish with perfect hundreds.

Secondly, projects and actual critical thinking activities in class are probably the only way for students to actually learn.

Involving the students in the class and a more active environment I think will be key to the future of College level learning.

Cheating is too easy in today’s world. It’s the truth, and the sooner the school system realizes that and adapts, the better.

Because, as it stands, there will be many students not just at UMass Dartmouth but across the country that will look back on their college experience, and not have learned a thing.

Photo Courtesy: Course Hero

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