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Boomers Vs. Gen Yers--What I'm Learning From Students At Parsons.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 9, 2009

I’m learning a lot from my students and my TAs at Parsons. We’ve just started the University Lecture series and already it is clear that the entire learning/teaching experience in most schools, from k-12 through university, needs to be radically changed. Check out this YouTube presentation created by the digital ethnography group at Kansas State University. It highlights student life as it is—and lecture hall teaching as it is.

One of the questions that came up in a session is whether or not Baby Boomer university administrators trying to students for a world that no longer exists. What do you think about that proposition?

Indeed, corporations and ngos and all institutions should be asking that question. Are the baby boomer managers and leaders using old processes and paradigms that no longer work with Gen Yers?

What do you think?

Reader Comments


February 9, 2009 4:59 PM

Kaplan addressed this insight in a recent TV spot...

Chris Loughnane

February 9, 2009 5:50 PM

As a recent Mechanical Engineering graduate from Northeastern University...

I don't know if I would go as far as to say that admins are trying to prep students for a world that doesn't exist. However, I do think that the method in which they go about educating the students is in a manner that is more conducive to a more rigid, pre open-source era, and less so to the world of today...

The collegiate experience (at least academically) consists of a list of books you should read to become a professional "____", professor's to guide you along the way, and a surrounding of like-minded people.

Of those three, I believe the sense of community one gets from working with people that are passionate about the same subject is the most irreplacable. The curricula for almost any course can be downloaded from an increasing number of universities (MIT Open Courseware and Stanford iTunes are the first that come to mind). The professors (for the most part) can be replaced by online forums and industry professionals who (again, for the most part) are more than willing to discuss a topic here and there with a passionate student.

I think it best if companies ends their love affair with degrees. Why not put the onus of proving competence on the licensing institutions? Engineers have the Professional Engineer Exam, Lawyers have the bar exam, etc. If I did not have an engineering degree, but passed the Professional Engineer Exam (which only ~65% of degreed Mechanical Engineer's have done), who is to say that i cannot practice as an engineer?

I envision a future where Universities offer student's varying packages. On one end you have the all-inclusive, lifelong-debt-incurring programs of today, and on the other end of the spectrum, you have a package that consists of lab usage, library access, career counseling, and an ability to cherry pick which classes you attend (so that you don't have to take say, algebra I, but you have the option to take quantum physics). These students will achieve their learning through MIT OCW, netowrking, etc. At the end of every semester or so, each student has the opportunity to take the same test. These tests will just provide feedback to the students so that they know how well they are doing. As mentioned before, this process is culminated in licensing exams provided by the appropriate licensing bureau.

You want to talk about stifling innovation? The crippling debt so many of us are graduating with prevents the fiscally responsible of us from taking the kind of chances that are required to achieve great things.

Kathleen Mazzocco

February 10, 2009 12:06 AM

The 20th century was so different from what has already characterized the 21st; how can its 19th century educational model still be viable?

A couple of ideas of how to open up education: 1) look at the open, collaborative curriculum the Pacific Northwest College of Art is developing along what it calls the "creative grid" of a distributed urban campus 2) look at the innovation taking place in schools focused on students who have had trouble learning in aa traditional setting. Some of their experiences are relevant to today's diverse, distracted, and tech aware student body as a whole. Portland's Open Meadow school is an example. If they can take at risk kids and make them successful, imagine what their techniques can do for mainstream kids who are merely bored.

Char Alfonzo

February 16, 2009 7:26 AM

MC: IS that Uncle Phill from Fresh Prince in that Kaplan University video? Kaplan is also know for being great at using Obama-like messages to try to get people into signing up for their programs and getting ripped off.

My question is... what is to address? I mean, are we going to classes on our iPods? Are we going to text message our homework? I think the true interaction between professor and student isn't a technological one. I think most professors are accustomed to be condescending and patronizing and we gen-yers don't like that. I think that's where the difference is. Professors underestimate the abilities of outstanding students and focus more on average students.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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