Written by Rafi Khan, iXperience , Director of Education
Less than 6 months ago, I went through the same college grind that more than 20 million American college students (source) go through every day. I was at Yale, but I suspect my experience will be recognized by many students, current and former.
Wake up. Go to lecture. Listen half-heartedly. Wonder if I was wasting my time in college. Check Facebook. Get stressed about deadlines, finding a job, discovering my passions, money, etc. Check Facebook. Start homework, and realize that I have to scour the internet to learn the material anyway.
Repeat. And repeat. For 4 years.
I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture: there were of course moments of inspiration, sustained connections both intellectual and social, and unimaginable personal growth. I loved college.
But I did wonder, constantly, if the nation that was shooting rovers to Mars could do better with postsecondary education. Money isn’t the problem. Professors and college deans aren’t idiots. And we know how to teach well. Then what gives?
Many people smarter than me have spent decades researching this. It boils down to some combination of grade inflation, the pressure on professors to make classes easy, student engagement and expectations from college, campus culture, that research tends to make more money than teaching, among others. Lots of alternatives are quickly popping up: independent training academies like General Assembly, floating universities like Minerva, and of course, iXperience, where you travel, study, and gain work experience.
But even at traditional universities, I’ve found teachers (and I’m sure you have too), who swim against the current, and deliver wildly effective and engaging classes. And they’re popular. I’ve noticed a pattern:
- They love teaching, and they love their students.
- They set expectations that are clear, high, and non-negotiable.
- They inspire with their own expertise and passion.
The rare teachers that embody and practice all three have an almost celebrity status on campus. Their doors are always open, and their office hours crowded. Students show up, pay attention, and push themselves. They become mentors, friends, and heroes.
I dream of creating a cohort of teachers that have a relentless commitment to these ideals, who continually deepen their love for both their expertise and sharing it.
At iXperience, there won’t be any grades because every student will be pushed to perform at an A level, and nothing short of that will be expected. We’ll measure and assess their skills, of course, but perhaps our deeper value will come from not the knowledge we impart, but the inspiration.
I’m sure that the founding principles of Yale—and many other great, ancient institutions of education—struck similar chords. Let’s see if this new world can nurture learning communities that can stay true to their beliefs, and practice what they teach.