“Facebook and Twitter may topple autocratic regimes, but it will be blended learning that empowers hundreds of millions of youth to lead healthy and more productive lives.” — Tom Vander Ark
Online courseware by itself does not offer a supportive learning experience or the engagement and motivation needed to keep students in schools and colleges. Studies show 60% of students find video lectures “boring” (Mann, 2009), and 60% of students read less when using e-textbooks (Rickman et al, 2009). In the Silent Epidemic studyfunded by the Gates Foundation, 47% of dropouts said a major reason for dropping out was that “classes were not interesting” and they were “bored”. Remarkably, 88% of dropouts had passing grades (Bridgeland et al, 2006). These students are not failing out of school; they are simply disengaging.
Therein lies the core problem: How to engage a generation of learners, who live on the Internet yet tune out of school, who seek interaction on Facebook yet find none on iTunes U, who need community yet are only offered content. Clearly the answer has to have a digital element – because we know that is where our cyberteens live 24/7. But online learning alone can’t keep them engaged, and we have plenty of studies that prove that. Here is where the recent studies on “Blended learning” provide encouraging results.
Blended learning adds a human element, through faculty or teaching assistants to keep learners engaged. But how do you scale this solution to the millions of self directed learners online, or reach out globally? The answer has to be peer-to-peer: empower, enable, facilitate conversations around learning, so learners can help each other. It is social, you can chat about stuff, it is timely, someone around the world is sure to be online to answer, and often the help may often be more useful than what teacher or instructor may provide.
You may say, “I can understand the panicky teen asking for help before a test, but will there be someone to help? And why would they bother? ” If you have a minute, take a look at the Mathematics group on OpenStudy. (http://openstudy.com/groups/mathematics).
Yes, questions are posted in rapid succession, but you will find people taking time to use the equation editor to craft a solution to a problem. There is always someone wanting to help. Altruism is certainly alive and doing well amongst these cyberteens. And it is through these conversations facilitated by blended learning, that we will engage and empower millions of learners, everywhere.
Twice in a row, Money magazine has listed the PA profession as #2 Best Job. And the #3 “hottest” growing profession. Well, it is no wonder that it is very competitive to matriculate into Emory’s PA program, ranked #3 nationally. Last week, several Emory students were fortunate to hear from Dana Sayre-Stanhope, Director of the program and Terry Mize, Director of Admissions about what it would take to be accepted by this program. For one, you need at least 2000 hours of contact time, directly dealing with patients to be accepted into the program. “Sick people,” said Terry, “you have to have dealt with sick people.”
It is clear that service plays an important role in evaluating the applicant. On average, successful applicants demonstrate 5800 hours of direct health experience. During their 28 months at Emory, PA students spend almost as much time in community and humanitarian service. There are more women than men in the program, with high GPAs (average 3.4), 10% have Master’s degrees and GRE scores of 1100. Oh, did I mention, the 1100 compete for 50 seats! Phew. The hopefuls in the room were glad to have an opportunity to meet and mingle with current PA students. One of them, Kathryn Aiken, a second year PA student, originally from University of Florida said to me, “Tell your students to shadow a PA. It is not enough to shadow a doctor. Their interviewer will want to know why they are interested in a PA, not MD or nursing. And they need a convincing answer.”
I was so impressed by Dr. William McDade’s compelling presentation to Emory college students yesterday. Dr. McDade is an MD, PhD, and serves as Deputy Provost for Research and Minority Issues and Associate Professor of Anesthesia & Critical Care at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. I hope the students in the audience heard him clear and loud. “We look for a story,” he said. Pritzker looks beyond grades to find the human in the numbers. “We want to hear, what makes you remarkable?” Like every other school, when they are trying to “make the class”, they have a strong focus on diversity. “Diversity breeds excellence.” he went on to say. If I was a premed, I would listen.
Very specifically and very clearly, Dr. McDade told the students in the room that he sees students taking the most rigorous science courses they can find in an effort to impress admissions committees. While that is good, he adds, “Don’t go crazy. Take the premed core and do something else. Learn about compassion, ethics, literature. Learn how to relate to people.” One significant competency needed by successful physicians is collaboration skills and Dr. McDade emphasized the need for college students to develop this skill. “Learn how to be in a team.”
Don’t you see this as another definitive vote of support for significant role of a liberal arts education in preparing future physicians? Is this not another argument for why we want our premeds, our future physicians to be, not only able to handle the science, but also have learned about being human through intellectual engagement with subjects like ethics, philosophy, history and experiential encounters that build the skills of compassion, collaboration and caring? Premeds, are you listening?