As a university student working on a co-op term right now, I can say that taking a break from the stresses of “learning” is a welcome opportunity. For the next four months, there won’t be any cramming, all-nighters or exam stress because in the ‘real working world’, these things don’t exist. Going back and forth from school terms to work terms has given me perspective on not only my education, but on training in general. And it’s got me thinking: much of corporate training mirrors what I’m doing in university now: professors stand at the front of the room for three hours, and at the end of it all, their job is done and I’m stuck trying to remember everything they’ve just said. As a third year student, only a short time away from entering the workforce, I have a request: Please don’t give me the training I’m used to. Let me explain.
Chasing a Grade
There just isn’t enough time to really learn in university. Between classes, assignments, extra-curriculars, work, and a plethora of other commitments, students just don’t have ample time to review concepts daily. This creates an endless cycle of playing catch-up, which in turn makes university about grades, not about learning.
What’s the difference? The difference is in copying answers off a friend to guarantee you get the marks, instead of sitting down and mulling over the concepts yourself. The difference is in skipping class to catch up on all the work you have to do, instead of learning it first-hand. But most of all, the difference is what you take away from university when it’s all over.
Learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge. But is it really learning if the knowledge is acquired overnight, only to be forgotten as soon as students walk out of the exam room the next day? You may have gotten an A, but is that really valid if you would receive a C on the same test a week later? What value is there in a degree if none of the classes, concepts or ideas are remembered in the long run?
There’s no doubt that there’s value in policies such as progression requirements and cut-off averages: however, I’m finding that this is what students do (and ultimately must) focus on. Too often I’ve seen education approached with a ‘staying afloat’ type of mentality. The question is, how do we turn the university experience into an actual learning environment, instead of four years of chasing a grade?
It’s Time to Innovate
Brain science research says that lecture-type learning isn’t effective, material should be reviewed everyday to increase retention, and that learning should be delivered in bite-size pieces. So the way university is structured now—taking hours of class everyday, each in a different subject—isn’t exactly brain friendly. And it’s impacting students in the worst way. We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, which can be attributed to many factors, but with a big one being anxiety related to grades.
Students have studied in this lecture-style format for hundreds of years, and the concept of university has managed to evade innovation in this regard. It’s been proven that there are many different learning styles, so why is university only catering to one? When will it be time to take the leap from an outdated method of instruction, to one that’s proven to be brain friendly? Nothing changes overnight of course, but I think it’s about time university institutions explore other methods of instruction, methods that will beat the forgetting curve and ultimately do what’s most important: truly instill the knowledge of relevant subjects in each student.
The World of Corporate Training
There have been a variety of articles written about how to approach the peculiar Millennial Generation (hey I even wrote one myself) but here’s my number one piece of advice: don’t give us the training we’re used to. Don’t give us hours of training once, and then expect us to remember everything. We’ll pass the test at the end of the day, but without proper reinforcement, all that training knowledge is going to follow the same path as our first year Economics class: in one ear and out the other.
The training and development world is at an exciting point right now, because we’ve figured out what really works when it comes to learning. Thanks to brain science research, we know people learn best in shorter sessions, and will actually remember that information if it’s reinforced. That being said, I would implore whoever’s reading this—whether you’re a Vice-President, a Training Specialist, a Manager—think about your training. If it reminds you of sitting in a lecture hall, you’re likely not engaging people, and this time, it’s not people’s grades on the line, it’s your bottom line.
Written by Emily Kroboth