Response to “The Campus Tsunami”

In his May 3 post to the New York Times opinion pages, David Brooks reflects on the changes that will come from Harvard, MIT, and Stanford all plunging forward with online education.

He cites the positives (increased accessed is at the top of the list), and the negatives (how much do we lose when we lose face-to-face experiences?). He also points out that instructors may have the opportunity to select from recorded lectures instead of (or in addition to) reading assignments, and this will give students a broader perspective. He goes on to site Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School, who thinks online education will allow us to “break academic silos” and combine multiple subject matters into one course.

Giving students the opportunity to hear different worldviews and make connections across disciplines seems like it will expand their understandings of the world and increase habits of mind like critical thinking. But I wonder if there are any potential pitfalls with this kind of breadth? Would cross-disciplinary instruction only happen at the general education level? At what point should college serve to help a student specialize?

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