Work, careers, hobbies, sports, and life, in general, are becoming more complicated every day. Achievement and success in most endeavors take aptitude, motivation, and quite often highly developed skillsets. Therefore, it was not much of a surprise when I recently received an inquiry from a member of my state’s legislature about “what skills are students in your major developing?” I do not think this legislator was wondering about critical thinking, historical perspective, and other “meta-skills.”
While I generally do ascribe to the belief that college is more than just a sum of skills in a particular discipline, I occasionally wonder if we could not achieve both but a different way. For instance, my marketing students often do not start on their major coursework until their third year. With each year costing the student anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000 in direct costs, not to mention opportunity costs of lost income, it is a fair question to ask if there is a better way.
However, in today’s rapidly changing society, one key meta-skill regularly refutes the accelerated program approach. That meta-skill is the ability to learn to self-educate. Upon even a short reflection, most people will recognize that the skills they acquired three, two, or even one decade ago are outdated in today’s world. In this evolving workplace and society, skill sets can rapidly become obsolete. The cause can be as mundane as the ability to program and use a VCR (videocassette recorder for those too young to know) to learning a computer program language such as FORTRAN (now I am dating me). Yet, knowledge of how to perform these tasks was seen as an essential skill during their day.
There is little doubt that anyone can learn to learn. However, as mentioned in previous posts, over the centuries, the liberal arts program of study as a basis of a college education has had phenomenal success. In addition, it is not just the college courses that help students learn to learn. Learning to learn comes from the college experience with its inherent introduction to divergent views and lifestyles. Learning to learn comes from the college experience that challenges and changes or reinforces students’ preconceived worldviews. Learning to learn comes from the college experience with all its periods of being out of one’s comfort zone combined with periods of sublime connectedness.
Of course, these same activities in college build other solid traits and characteristics such as flexibility and tolerance of others. However, for today’s students, these must be combined with current skills. There is little or no argument against engineers learning how to fully understand material stress loads or chemists grasping the implications of molecular structure. Both historians and experts in literature need to understand the search devices available today. And all students need skills in tools such as WORD, EXCEL, and others. With that said, there is a caveat. The need for some of those skills can and will decay.
So for the legislator or any person wondering about the skills being developed by the current group of students, it is vital to remember the bigger goals of college that are relevant. Those skills are extensive and momentarily relevant. They provide a great launch point. But they cannot replace the continuing need for the development of new skills. Moreover, those emerging skills are very likely self-taught. Therefore, the final skill or trait that we most want of college students is that they have learned to learn.
Many of you know that I am teaching B2B marketing #b2b #b2bmarketing using LinkedIn as the platform for the students to learn how to manage both a LeadGen and ABM campaign. Some may also know of my firm conviction that a university education is a transformative event. Combining these two important aspects of my life has led to this latest endeavor. I will be posting links to my blogs on the value ofHere are my essays.