April 6, 2009

Universities diss Wikipedia & Lazy Students

TECHNOLOGY - University professors feel their first-year students are less mature, rely too much on Wikipedia and "expect success without the requisite effort," says a province-wide survey released today.

Students are also cheating a lot more, using cell phones, headphones (with mp3s listing the answers) and seem to spend so much time cheating... they could have just learned the answers by cramming. Then there is the matter of websites that sell pre-written or custom written essays.

What is more, many students agree with their professors.

"I think it's a fair assessment," says first-year Ryerson journalism student Annie Webber. "I'm addicted to Wikipedia," she says.

Lina Kim, a fourth-year University of Toronto sociology student, agrees. "Many students can't even ask for help. Partly, it's generational, the attitude and sense of entitlement they have," says Kim.

More than 55% of Ontario's faculty and librarians surveyed believe students are less prepared for university than three years ago. To deal with this problem some universities have had to create catch-up courses to help students who are struggling.

"It wasn't a shock for me – I'm aware of what's happening out there," said Brian Brown, a University of Windsor professor who heads the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, which oversaw the online survey of university professors and librarians.

"What the questionnaire reveals is a serious challenge that we are facing in the system. We are teaching students from what is basically an under resourced secondary school system."

James Côté, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario, says the survey confirms a lot of recent research, and that the decline in student preparedness began years ago but has more recently accelerated due to the popularity of 'online study habits' and a marked increase in students openly ripping off Wikipedia.

"It's a wider societal issue, where leisure is very much valued and work habits are not necessarily reinforced in the way that they were in the past. The work ethic is not what it used to be ... no pain, no gain doesn't seem to be prevalent any more."

Côté co-authored a book, 'Ivory Tower Blues: A University System in Crisis', that in part chronicled the issues professors have with today's students and he writes a blog where he hears from professors all the time.

With the current focus on stemming high-school dropouts, discipline and punctuality are no longer reinforced, and students come to university expecting to continue that, he added.

Even though students are one year younger heading to university, a change brought in by the previous Ontario Conservative government, "We've just caught up with the rest of the world," although in other countries they expect students to be more mature.

More than 60% of professors said they were teaching larger classes than three years ago, and that not only has hiring slowed down, but so has the creation of full-time tenured positions – which led to the recent strike at York University.

Many professors don't think students have the needed critical thinking or math skills, and they lack the ability to learn/think independently.

To combat this problem the current Liberal Ontario government has announced $780 million for infrastructure and an immediate $150 million for universities and colleges.

Colleges are also reporting troubles with unprepared students, so its not universities and colleges that are to blame. Its high schools for not teaching students to skip Wikipedia and focus on actually learning things instead of just copy/pasting them.

See Also:
Googlepedia - The Knol
MBA: The devil's degree?
The Plight of Universities: Gold-Digger VS. The Feminine Scholar
Paying for University in Canada

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