Can We Improve Higher Education By Asking Universities to Quantify Their Results?
The US higher education system is regarded as one of the best in the world with most of the top 100 educational institutions being located within the country’s borders. These colleges and universities have state of the art facilities, insane amounts of funding that goes into research and development, and a world class faculty.
But are these institutions simply churning out graduates without paying much attention to quality?
Behind all the pomp and popularity of these universities, is there may be a need to evaluate what students are learning, how the money is being used, what can be improved upon and re-visiting the curriculums students are being taught?
Yes, most definitely.
Many universities in Asia and Europe are giving, and will continue to give American colleges a run for their money because of the quality of their education. The brands and reputations that US colleges have built for them-selves are valuable and strong, but unless they are backed up by premium quality education, it will be difficult for them to maintain their current position.
What Gets Measure Gets Done: It’s Time to Revisit Student Learning Outcomes and Quality
There is definitely a need to go back to the drawing board and analyze once again what our students are learning and what we want them to be learning. There is no guarantee that a graduate knows more than a freshman or more than what he/she knew a few years ago. The issue of retention and usefulness of those skills and knowledge should also be debated.
This ties in closely with our issue of a lack of student assessment measures, whereby we can compare levels within various years of study and across universities. There have been efforts by organizations in collaboration with universities to address this issue through voluntary accountability systems in the form of standardized tests such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment. However, these remain limited and non-inclusive.
Student learning data should be part of every institution and people should know that their life savings will result in valuable and tangible educational outcomes. On the flip side, testing can undermine the overarching objectives of college, which is intellectual and life skills development and which is beyond the scope of a standardized test.
Forcing universities to quantify their learning results might also result in placing undue pressure on students and not admitting disadvantaged students who might bring the numbers down. Within the framework of these limitations, some effort has to be made in going back to the basics and evaluating what skills are relevant to students in this day and age.
Higher education needs to be encouraged and supported but the quality, relevance and vibrancy of the educational experience needs to justify the thousands of dollars that citizens spend on their degrees.