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David Hamilton


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Should degrees have "patches"?

Simple enough starting point. In the modern world our knowledge base is expanding so quickly that 5 years after you get a degree, quite a bit of what you learned is obselete, and quite a few important discoveries have been made. If you go into business, or government research, you may actually surpass the knowledge on any degree program, in your specific discipline... But, you'll still miss out on advances in your field of study, that do not apply to your business, or research.

Should modern universities offer degree patches, the way software companies offer patches. Every 5 years or so, each school is meant to design a one or two week online course, specifically designed to keep people who have already been granted degrees, in touch with the most up to date information in the field.

Having these patches on your degree, would then be quite valuable in the eyes of an employer I imagine. Some companies may even offer to pay for you to go get your patch...

Kinda seems like a no brainer to me.


Closing Statement from David Hamilton

Very fun and engaging discussion. Personally, I think MIT should get busy on this. Unlike many people here, however, I believe that proving knowledge and skills is the purpose of education. I believe every child is naturally curious, we don't teach them to be creative, we do the opposite. Teaching facts we know about the universe, or even ones we believe to be true because of a preponderance of evidence, has a place, and it's an incredibly important institution, one in desperate need of modern reform. As a bonus, first institution to do it well, gets an incredible revenue stream. Peace and love.

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  • Aug 7 2012: This is an excellent idea. Imagine the patch for a psychology degree that's 20 years old, with the leaps in technology in brain imaging. I'd love to know what has been found since the split -brain studies I read about! And what we must be finding out about Learning with Coursera, Khan Academy, Ted Talks, learning games like Luminosity and all the MASSIVE amounts of data these are accumulating about the human mind. And then think of what we now must be uncovering in Behavioual psych just by monitoring what people search in the googlebox. Maybe a patch would not be possible, since one psych degree would be so different from another, depending what a person had chosen to focus on: Biological, Developmental, Cognitive, Forensic, Behavioral, and who was teaching then. Who is to say there is much similarity between schools as you get into upper level courses? I remember taking a class about sexual selection, one on circadian rhythms and one that debunked religion. You'd almost need to take your patch at your alma mater and hope your profs aren't retired. As you see, I think as I type- sorry about that- and I've come full circle: does a patch function to correct problems/mistakes or to add new content? Wouldn't offering a patch be tantamount to admitting that the degree issued is less than perfect? What prof will offer to come forward and say "my life's work has been shown to be incorrect in the following way(s) by so-and such university over there". And, how much of your degree was relevant to your life in the first place? Imagine having to refresh on something like circadian rhythms each year, or tricyclics vs. SSRIs (see, 20 year old degree talkin'). I still love the idea though- how do you see it being applied? Revisit first year through Coursera? That should show any change in the fundamentals of each field, no?
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      Aug 8 2012: I think the best way to do it, would be to use the "patch", that the institution already applies each year.

      Each year, the head of each department, can look at changes in the course work, for the degrees offered by his or her department, and make notes on the changes. "Oh, if you got this degree last year, you would learn this, but not this..." Every few years, that information is combined into a single lecture, and you can sell it online, to anyone who graduated.

      It would be hard to apply retroactively, but honestly, most major universities, keep their tenured staff around forever. Harvard, probably has a guy who was teaching there 25 years ago, and has old notes in a box with curriculum changes he's had to make over the years. Have the university, start looking for people who just horde their data, and buy it off of them.

      It's definately something that would take some effort, but I think the first university to do it well, will sell a boat load of them. If it's MIT, or Harvard, no one will even question if the patch is legit, and you'll be able to get an MIT Forensic Psychology patch for you University of Michigan Forensic Psychology degree : P

      This is such an MIT idea...
      • Aug 8 2012: So, to pursue your idea, would you now go to your profs, request the information on changes since you graduated, compile the information into a lecture and then offer it back to the university? Or make a contact list from your yearbook and email them a course offering....
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          Aug 8 2012: If I wanted to start a business that performed this, that would probably be the way to go.

          Honestly, this was just something in the back of my mind for awhile, had no intent to do anything with it. If I were to try, the easiest venue would probably be to make a short presentation to people associated with the open university program at MIT. Just keep emailing professors until the right ones respond.

          I'm not a big fan of money. It would be nice, but the only degree I could patch right now would be an AS in Computer Networking, one of the more complex, and expensive programs to work on. This really isn't my kind of business, I'm still considering returning to school. It's going to make someone a lot of money though.

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