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How can we best engage college students in the idea of learning instead of just getting a degree?

I work at a 4 year, public university and I see a great deal of students who come to school to get their degree (which they equate to money/success) and do not care about learning. What are your thoughts on the best way to engage them in the actual process of learning. I have my thoughts, but would love to hear my fellow TEDsters thoughts.


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  • Mar 13 2013: This is a very complex question that has plagued the university system since universities began.
    My answer here is that it is up to the student to decide what he or she is going to get out of the system. It is not up to the system to provide anything on a silver platter.
    The last time I was in a bricks and mortar university was 1976 at Western.
    It has 4 professional schools (Meds, Dents, Business and Law) making up the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. If you were aiming for one of these then what ever you were learning on the path was of no consequence. You would sabotage anyone to get a better mark.
    If you were in PolySci you were here because you were going to run the world and whatever you were learning was really beneath you but part of the process.
    Then there were the girls (don't beat me up for this, it WAS 1976 after all) who were at the U to snag a husband. You could tell who they were because they dressed up for supper in residence like it was a cotillion and the big parade was going to get icecream at the end of dinner. It would take an hour for the walk up and back. (Really....you had to see it).
    The university then as they all are now, is a research and publishing machine. Teaching is an unavoidable side effect and part of the funding process that the administration has never figured out how to drop.
    There were however, exceptional professors who overcame all that to reach the students who were there to learn about a topic. They knew your name, what you did in class and what you did out of class. If you were really interested in a topic, class work would just scratch the surface. You had to use your time at university to dig in using all the resource you could scrounge.
    Those students are the ones you can reach. Most of the others are just passing through your area of expertise but hopefully they have snagged onto are area they are really interested in and they will dive in.

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