This Simply Won’t Do.

I believe the best education comes when you get a chance to sit down on a log and have a conversation with someone who has interesting stuff to say. It is in those moments of exchange that ideas come to life, assumptions are challenged, experiences shared and people transformed. Without this sort of dialogue learning is ephemeral, only superficial memorization of facts and theories: Let’s call that a PowerPoint education.

So, it is with great concern that I reviewed our most recent results from the National Survey on Student Engagement. Relative to seniors at our benchmark institutions, UCF College of Business Administration seniors reported high levels of academic challenge and a supportive campus environment. But far too few students have meaningful interactions with faculty or engage in co-curricular experiences: Less than half of our students discussed a grade or assignment with an instructor; less than a quarter talked about ideas from the readings or class with a faculty member outside the classroom; less than fifteen percent say they experienced a culminating project, exam or thesis; less than five percent say they worked with a faculty member on a research project. I could go on, but you get the point.

If you are a student, I will not let you hide in the back of the classroom. If you are a faculty member, I will not let you hide behind lecture capture. If you are a department chair, I won’t let you hide behind budget cuts. If our value proposition rests on the high returns to face-to-face learning, we need to make sure it happens…all the time and everywhere. If we don’t figure it out, on-line formats are going to eat our lunch.

So, I’m looking for ways to create more opportunities for students to sit on logs and talk to faculty without breaking the bank: Digital, Styrofoam or wood logs; during breakfast, lunch, dinner and after-hours. If you are like me and want education to be transformative, not transactional, I want your ideas. How can we get more faculty and students talking to each other, working more together, and creating a culture of engagement? I know incentives are important here too…so suggestions for carrots and sticks are also welcome.

Warning: If you don’t help me generate good ideas, I will just have to implement the ones I come up with on my own. Accepting the status quo simply won’t do.

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19 thoughts on “This Simply Won’t Do.

  1. Hello from Auckland, NZ! Looking forward to meeting you soon after our CBA classes resume for the fall term later this month. This critical “log” topic and others associated with it call out for a series of problem-solution-action retreats. Also, VADM Al Harms (UCF’s Vice President-Strategic Planning) whose last shore command prior to Naval retirement was supervising world-wide USN training & education would be very valuable personal resource for you. Admiral Al’s last sea command was skipper of the USN Nimitz. My own background is a former brand and VP marketing manger in the Fortune 50. Have been full-time faculty in the UCF Marketing Department for 10+ years with a focus on our sales program. Our CBA needs a cogent value proposition and solid positioning! I’ll help!

  2. Paul,

    We are scheduled to meet soon as part of our semesterly meetings between the colleges and Distributed Learning. Being responsible for UCF’s online operation, I would welcome the opportunity to chat about ideas for how we can create that “digital log” you mention in your blog. There certainly is more we can do and technology is one of the tools we can leverage to deliver the value proposition you envision. If you would like to chat about it before our upcoming meeting, just say the word.

    Looking forward to our own conversation on a log…

    Tom Cavanagh

    • As a non-traditional student, working a full-time job and going to school, I welcome the idea of a digital log. Technology is an excellent tool for overcoming the issue of restricted time availability. Thank you for offering technology as an option.

  3. Dear Dean Jarley,
    I must admit that my student involvement and engagement with PAGAA [Public Administration Graduate and Alumni Association] and ASPA [American Society for Public Administration] gave me plenty of productive, quality face time with faculty. The PAGAA projects gave many students access to professors that they would never have had in situations that could not have been preconceived. Association memberships help students prepare for post graduate life as well as engaging faculty in creative ways. So, while your question was about co-curricular engagement, I believe my answer points to extra curricular engagement. This engagement also resulted in four great letters of recommendation for a PhD. program, ergo tangible deliverables:)

    • Hi Chandler: Great points. There is no substitution for students seeking engagement, but I think part of the problem is that we don’t highlight the importance of engagement enough. Big public universities can be very intimidating places for newcomers. It is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Engagement is hard work and if students don’t see immediate benefit of engagement they stop. We need an environment that insures this doesn’t happen and leads people to those logs……

  4. I am not sure if you are aware of this story or not, but I do not think that suspending students that spent time and money on a innovative co-curricular project really adheres to this mission.

    The link below has become pretty popular in IT circles in the last few days and does not reflect well on the university or the culture that the business college is trying to foster. As a proud alumnus, I would hope that UCF would encourage these types of projects rather than punish them.

    http://ucouldfinish.com/

    • Hi Corey:

      Sorry for the delay on this….I am aware of this and know that higher ups are working on a resolution. Frankly, his idea may very well have won our Joust Competition……..

  5. Dean Jarley, as we discussed at graduation on Saturday, talking takes time and some of our current activities erode the time we could spend talking to students. The 20+ hours I spent last week grading video role plays are a case in point. I promise to give this some thought in the next few days. I applaud your candor, vision and invitation for feedback. Welcome.

  6. When I was at the community college I had one teacher who set aside a few hours every other week to sit in the food court at the student union and help people with their homework and questions in a fun and relaxed environment. More people would show up to those round-table sessions than to any of his office hours simply because it was more open, relaxed, and less intimidating than staring across the desk looking at someone tell you why you’re wrong. He would also hold optional mega-sessions before every test where all of his class sessions could come together as one, exchange notes, ideas, and have an open dialogue with each-other while also having him there for guidance…and he would bring cookies!

    Here at UCF that type of drive from teachers is very rare. I just finished my MBA last month and honestly, out of the entire program only four teachers showed genuine caring about the students, their learning, and getting them engaged (Dr.s Klintworth, Allen, Frye, and O’neal. Best teachers I’ve ever had) – in my undergraduate Economics degree here it was even worse with only one teacher actually engaging the students as opposed to teaching “at them”.

    While part of the engagement and interaction does come from students, as a student it is pretty easy to tell what teachers care and what teachers just want the paycheck. I had one teacher who did things to get students more engaged but since he was such a rude person and didn’t show genuine concern for the students no one benefited from his efforts. When teachers truly care about learning the students will engage themselves. With Dr. Klintworth, there were students (myself included) who would keep talking with her and asking questions all the way to her car. That there is genuine engagement, when the teacher makes the subject come alive for the students we want to learn as much as we can from them – after all, that’s what we are paying for.

  7. Normally what I do to encourage those types of conversations with my students is what I call the FILO Approach which stands for First In, Last Out (that’s a creative combo of FIFO and LIFO). If you’re in the classroom first (about an hour to thirty minutes before class starts) and you’re the last to leave, you always get the chance to further engage a few curious students. I’ve noticed that most students want that kind of engagement but will sit there quietly until you approach them with a friendly smile and a joke. Towards the end of the semester, those same timid students will start approaching YOU with questions and comments about career development or advice. I’ve had conversations with students that have lasted anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour before or after class (those are the conversations where you can really impact students on a personal level). Maybe one way we can achieve that goal is to try to get to class early and stay a little late. Having an “open door” office policy may not be enough to really encourage our students to come by and visit or chat. We must approach our students first and break the ice to let them know that we are here for them (not the other way around).

    • Hi Christopher:

      This is a really great example of a pro-active strategy to engage students. Thanks for sharing… I’m a little concerned that the way we schedule classes in rooms will make this hard to implement more widely, so maybe we need to set some logs outside the classroom for those who want to come early and stay late. In some ways this is similar to what Graham suggested in his comment when he talked about the faculty member holding office hours in the student union…..hmmm

  8. Hi Dean Jarley,
    My experience has been that Professors’ availability/office hours are usually during the day from mid-morning to early afternoons. My frustration with these hours is that not every student at UCF is a traditional full-time student. There are many non-traditional and commuter students at UCF. I hope that changes will be made to address the need for these students to interact with their Professors. I have taken vacation hours from work to meet with Professors during their office hours.

    I would like to see technology options, as suggested by another responder. At my job, we multiple offices both nationally and internationally. We use webinars and video conferences to stay in contact with and collaborate on projects with our team members. I think something similar would be very benifical for interacting with professors. Additionally, would love to see weekend or online co-curricular experiences with an interactive component.

    Thank you for address this issue!

  9. Dr. Jarley,

    I am a current business student studying marketing at UCF. As one of my classes came to an end today, the professor ended with a quote: “Students are not the customer of the university. Students are the product of the university.” I understand the intention of this quote – but I take high offensive to it – especially after reading your blog about how students and teachers should interact more. When professors believe that they are the one turning students into professionals, then why on earth would we feel like equals. This quote says to me that the University programs me to be who I am and will take recognition for my successes. The university/professor is not doing my work/test. I am. I am not a product – I am an individual who pays for a service from the professor. How I choose to input, process, and repeat the information is up to me, not them. The professor cannot control how the information is received or processes. Hence why there are varying grades in every class. All the professor can do is convey the information and hope that the student processes it. I was very disappointed to see that this is how this professor viewed their students – not as individuals, but as programmable robots. Maybe this thought process should be changed

    • Hello Sharon:

      It is difficult for me to respond to the professor’s comment without knowing more about the context in which it was given. I can imagine situations where these words would inspire or offend. I am sorry it had the latter impact on you.
      In my blog, I encourage students to interact with faculty because I believe they will learn more through such engagement. You are correct in noting that it is up to you to determine how these encounters with faculty impact you, but if faculty are not changing the way students perceive the world and helping to shape their professional demeanor, they are not of much value to you. Professors are experts in their field who should imprint their knowledge and experience on you—that’s what makes education transformative.

      • Dr. Jarley,

        I believe that this quote was given to students with the best of intentions. I also agree with you that professors are experts in their field and are imparting their knowledge to us. However, it should on a more equal footing. Just because they are an expert in their field, does not make them better or worse than me/ any other student. We are all experienced on our own way and can bring something to the table. I understand that it can be difficult to interact with thousands of students, but I have found that the most successful professors are the ones who treat students as equals. Professors such as Dr. Cameron Ford and Mrs. Cynthia Gundy. They set high expectations for their students and prepare them for the future. These two professors have had the greatest impact on my career and I carry their lessons with me everyday. I respect both of them and they respect me as a person, and not as someone beneath them.

  10. Pingback: Issues and Trends in Edtech in 2015 #wcettrends | @kkeairns eLearning Blog

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