When Facebook offers the ability to more diverse a U.S.
. How Would You Deal With A Diverse Student Population In Online Learning
Being a speaker at our favorite digital conference has given me a taste of what it’s like to be a college student in 2019. First, all the new tech news and options are making the learning process easier and faster than ever before. Second, the roles of students are changing a great deal, with now more women and underrepresented minorities than ever before in the education game. Third, the New York Times has released a new national report showing that, today, there are more students of color in college than ever before.
So where do we go from here? How do we connect our digital culture to these issues? A source of inspiration for me, no doubt, is our students. Their voices and aspirations should be informing us at every turn. Their learning journeys should inspire us in the digital classroom. But the gap between the interests of the student body and what is available online today has been a source of great debate in the education space.
Our student population needs to more accurately reflect our society. For a long time, the audience demographic of educational content was reflective of what we already knew: our priorities are overwhelmingly in STEM and engineering. But here’s the kicker: Today’s students live at the intersection of three vital trends that actually put STEM behind the curve on this one.
On one side of the space, there are the workers who are concerned more with time management and career advancement than technical prowess. With more jobs than jobs, our students are forced to choose between prioritizing education for their careers or selecting education as a means to an end—a level of education not valued by their employers. They are less likely to qualify for high-paying STEM jobs, further increasing their workloads.
Then we have today’s millennials, or those young adults, aged 18-25. They want to create what they want and create it they want, meaning that rather than be engaged in a traditional, repetitive course load, they may need more resources to accommodate their unique quirks and interests. Today’s students do not need a new STEM tank at their disposal, as schools are playing catch-up with these millennial desires.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have today’s immigrants and minorities. They, too, are not able to access the traditional academic resources their elders enjoyed. If they do receive a college degree, they tend to experience a high drop-out rate.
This is why I’m excited about the growing investment in virtual learning. Virtual learning can serve as an alternative for students with specific needs, like those who are working full-time and too busy to take a full-time online course. It can offer an alternative for students who are unprepared for the heavy workload required for an upper-division course.
Still, in order to get students to feel comfortable using virtual learning—and to complete their studies and graduate on time—we need to fully understand what students need and desire and to find ways to meet them. If you want to do more to meet the needs of today’s students, be sure to learn about the daily topics I cover at Ustream.com
Thanks to increased consumerist trends, we’re seeing more and more students turn their classes into a vacation. They want to take pre-workout class and set their alarm an hour earlier; they want to catch up on their daily reading and take a mental health class in the afternoon. Their leisure time can be used to entertain themselves, or to study. It’s no longer “just college” anymore. The Internet is allowing them the opportunity to find this balance in whatever format works best for them.
Today’s student population is not only the most diverse in its history, it is also a leader in a new generation of learners—a generation that is digitally savvy and has the resources to take charge of their own learning. And, as classrooms are becoming more diverse, students of color are becoming the leading educators at our digital learning institutions. I agree with the first two points—we all need to more accurately represent our student population, and we also need to better accommodate the needs of millennials, immigrants, and minorities in our digital coursework.