Teaching Changes

Crossposted between ideatrash and polishing the gem city with a dirty t-shirt. Because, y’know, this is important.

Have I mentioned that I like Mr. Fingerhut?

I supported him back in 2004, and was glad to hear that he was appointed to office in 2008. Since then, he’s made (and continues to make) quite a ruckus in the postsecondary (read: college & university) system in Ohio. His plan has a couple of key points that get extra kudos from me.

1) Portability – Earn credits at any university or college, and they’ll transfer to any other. As someone with over 480 credit hours (through military training and prior university experience), but no degree… well, I like this idea. It also acknowledges the class-leveling effect that colleges *should* have, allowing folks to go to community colleges for some basic requirements before moving to a four-year university. This kind of transition has had a stigma in the past – even spurring the development of
Resources for Educational and Employment Opportunities ,
an organization to specifically counteract it. This kind of plan will help put us all on a level playing field.

2) Access – It doesn’t matter how affordable and transferable your credit hours are if you can’t make it there. Transportation is a huge issue for many people. Not just people in rural areas, but even for people who can’t afford cars in urban areas. Again, postsecondary education is supposed to be a class-leveler. It is supposed to work more like a meritocracy than any other section of our society. Whether it does or not is a different story; ensuring access is one step closer to that goal.

Mr. Fingerhut is, ultimately, right. Education is historically one of the best ways that a society (through its government) can invest in its people. But we must remember that this is not simply a matter of adding more professors or building more buildings.

This is where the research my wife and I have been doing comes in. My wife has been studying the structural factors that make it more difficult for first generation college students to succeed in college. She presented some results back in 2006. I’m quite impressed with her work – but it’s also hers to talk about.

My research, which is expanding this fall, is looking into the scheduling needs of active undergraduate college students. The results of a preliminary study are online, after being presented at two regional conferences and worked into a national newsletter. The short, abbreviated result? I found a group of students that need daytime classes only, and a group of students who need anything *but* daytime classes.

This is especially poignant, because I hadn’t intended on continuing this research right now. But two evening classes that I had signed up for were canceled out from underneath me. My wife – in her role as a professor – had an evening class she was to teach canceled due to “low enrollment” as well.

But here’s the thing – administrators treat these classes as substitutes for daytime classes, and they’re not. My research suggests that those students who signed up for evening classes aren’t merely daytime students wanting another class. These are people, like myself, who *cannot* sign up for daytime classes due to other obligations.

You know, like jobs. To pay for the college education.

If we’re serious about access and portability, we cannot – MUST NOT – ignore the structural effects that impact first generation students and those who cannot take classes during “normal working hours”.

That is my challenge to Mr. Fingerhut and Ohio’s postsecondary education system. Now, with the restructuring going on, is the time to make the change.

Will they take this opportunity or squander it?