On Learning

The tools we provide are designed to aid students, teachers, and researchers. What connects these three groups is something that’s easy to forget when you’re focused on details: a passion for learning and knowledge.

Education News recently ran an illuminating interview with Professor Sir David Watson, a leading academic light who teaches at the University of Oxford, on a wide range of subjects, including his ideas on what the ideal academic system looks like, standard tests, emotional and intellectual development, and critical thinking.

One important theme he keeps returning to is instilling in students a global perspective and appreciation for critical learning:

“The public discourse is heavily dominated at present by a perception…of student instrumentalism. What counts is “employability” (even more than “employment”) and whether or not students are prepared for it.  Meanwhile, students themselves confound expectation further: by returning to the liberal arts, by returning to volunteering (even while they simultaneously have to work much more frequently for money than their predecessors), and by reviving student-led political activism (all around the world).”

What makes this comment stand out is that online learning and online courses do tend to focus on what’s “efficient” and “practical”, especially in emphasizing convenience over physical classrooms. It will be interesting to see in the coming years whether this changes—or simply continues as produces students who are less civically minded.