About First Year

I look forward to my copy of Stephen Downes’ OLDaily which arrives like clockwork every afternoon Monday-Friday.  He manages to scrape some of the more interesting reads from the web and delivers them, along with his own commentary on the topics.  It’s always a good read and a launchpad to further discovery and you can’t ask for much more from being connected.

Recently, he’s been sharing thoughts on the prospect that Arizona State University might offer MOOCs to first year students.  Of course, the logistics of such a major change are huge, but it’s a concept that I think would be well embraced by students and parents, particularly those who don’t live in university/college towns.

I was one of them.

Going to first year, I had to:

  • outfit an apartment;
  • attend classes in huge theatres (I read once that universities make so much money from first year students);
  • learn how to study, cook, socialize in a completely different environment;
  • get a loan to cover the costs;
  • buy a set of headphones to keep out the noise of living in a university apartment building;
  • wonder how to entertain myself on the weekends without a budget;
  • sadly, say goodbye to high school friends;
  • sadly, say goodbye to friends who partied instead of studied their way through that first year.
  • There’s probably so much more but the first year was probably the most traumatic year of my life with huge changes above and beyond the rigour of the academics.

I was struck with how many people really failed, at least academically, during that year.

Imagine a world where that year could have taken place in the same house that I had studied for secondary school.

  • I could have saved all that money on travel and second hand (at least) furniture;
  • I could have continued to have my part time job;
  • I could have studied in the same environment that I was successful at for secondary school;
  • I could still hang with my lifelong friends;
  • I could have learned in a completely different modality;
  • I could still have home cooking….(hopefully)

I don’t see it as inconceivable.  After all, today’s system has shorted the secondary school term by a year.  I still had a Grade 13 so was a year older starting university.

There would be some downsides, of course.  Yellow Submarine would definitely go out of business and I’d probably not have attended the Bee Gees concert and missed out on the relationships in the Math Lounge.

Above all this cuteness, there’s a great deal of logic in such an approach.  Financially, it has so many benefits but I wonder if the huge turnover rate after first year could be avoided by providing an environment that would give a better chance for success.  Of course, the prerequisite for this is that students would have to have skills going into this.  I’ve always been a proponent of the stance that every secondary school student needs to take at least one course online.

I think it could definitely work.  It would have to be fully fleshed out but doesn’t it make sense to make the big life changing move going into second year knowing that you’re well on the way to success instead of heading to a big black unknown hole?

Stephen shares so much good thinking.  If you want to enjoy it as well, just subscribe.

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4 thoughts on “About First Year

  1. I really needed to get away from home for university. There were far to many distractions where I lived. Not just at home but in nearby areas. I grew up in the city and went to university in the country (farms all around). I also needed to get some independence and create my own identity away from family and friends. Spending my freshmen year at home would not, I firmly believe, have been good for me. Different things work for different people though.

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  2. I suspect that you and I would have been successful no matter which route we took, Alfred. Interestingly, I went from a rural community to the big city. What really struck me when I thought about Stephen’s post was how my classes dropped in size from 800 to 30-40 from first year to second. Most of it was from people who weren’t there any long.

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  3. I didn’t feel ready to leave home for post-secondary education after Gr. 12 (considered college). I was really ready after Gr. 13! Where I was, we didn’t have any local options. I wonder how many didn’t go on to post-secondary because they would have to leave home/their home town. I would advocate the “going away” experience if one can, but it would be great to have more options. But I also advocate for the “gap year” which could incorporate a variety of things.. from online courses, to working part-time and learning how to cook 🙂

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