college course work

college course work

The Evolution of College Coursework: A Comprehensive Analysis

1. Introduction

The goal of postsecondary education is to deliver education efficiently while maintaining high quality. However, as nations expand the fraction of the population to be educated, there is always pressure to limit the cost of production. Because a large portion of the costs are faculty compensation, many education reform discussions focus on solving capital or harm problems that are the result of restructured education. Schools that solve the complex set of organizational, incentive, and information production problems while increasing educational return are likely to have the upper hand. Institutional changes to affect outcomes of higher education are found in the factors that assert influence on faculty teaching efforts and in adjusting the content and delivery of post-secondary education to increase student learning.

There are ongoing discussions about reform efforts within segments of higher education. The goal of increased efficiency in education, such as access and preservation of research universities, is at the forefront of policy discussions. How efforts to increase educational efficiency will affect different segments of postsecondary education is unclear. A recent examination of trends in college coursework discovered that not only is students’ coursework patterns staying essentially the same, but we are beginning to reach the technological limits to the production and delivery of undergraduate education. Members of the academic community need to consider new takes on improvement of student learning and an efficient use of intellectual and physical resources.

2. Historical Overview of College Coursework

In contrast, today’s colleges and universities offer a broad range of coursework. Students are able to pursue degrees in engineering, computer science, nursing, and other subjects that were not offered during the 19th century. College curriculum has expanded from the original generic offering of classic literature, study of Greek and Latin, to a wide offering of professional and vocational training. These opportunities are not based on wealth, religious principles, race, or social status, but are freedom of choice opportunities. You and I and our peers have often come to adulthood during peace and prosperity. Our age of plenty and our ideals of maximum freedom have decided the variety of specialized curriculums, rather than the financial elite of the late 19th century or the religious elite of the mid-1600s.

In the early years of the United States, college curriculum mirrored that of European colleges such as those at Oxford and Cambridge, where a classical humanist education based on a set of seven liberal arts was considered essential. The schools were small, exclusive settings, and the curriculum was suitable only for the intellectual elite. As a result, few citizens received a college education. Entry into college in the early years of the United States was generally based on disparity of wealth and stringent religious principles. The curriculum at all of the American institutions was virtually the same: a classical discipline consisting of Greek, Latin, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, largely consisting of Natural Law and moral philosophy, with the primary emphasis on theology. In addition, a student would only complete three years of coursework, with the fourth year serving almost as a summit of study, the informal Ph.D. of the day.

3. Current Trends and Innovations in College Coursework

The software technology, free access to data, and handheld calculators available have combined to cause significant changes in how college teaching is actually done. Technology is setting a fast pace and is fundamentally altering the external setting of academic teaching. The broad question is, what are today’s academic leaders doing with these demands and opportunities? Below, we describe some of the most important trends and innovations. We take note of significant differences among fields of study in the adoption of technology-enhanced education.

The technological developments of the last few decades directly impact all aspects of the traditional classroom. This is especially visible in technological fields, such as mathematics and statistics, but has real implications for all college-level coursework. Directly, computation technology is available at very low costs to students; software tools in these areas greatly enhance opportunities for learning and doing, and the availability of relevant data and statistics is much improved by the internet. In addition to these fundamental technical aspects, the explosion of distance learning, in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, also impacts the setting in which all college courses are delivered.

4. Impact of Technology on College Coursework

Technology has always influenced the way college students learn and how instructors teach. But more recently, the proliferation of technology tools – from interactive digital textbooks to adaptive learning systems, video lectures, mobile apps, MOOCs (massive open online courses), and commercial publishers’ courseware – has resulted in a rapidly changing landscape of college instruction, especially in the large freshman- and sophomore-level lecture courses. Instead of dealing just with humans, students and instructors now often interact through a digital interface. Moreover, by collecting, mining, and analyzing data on student performance in individual course sections and from year to year, colleges can explore new ways to improve the quality of instruction and learning. These tools can also help college administrators identify at-risk students and spend limited resources to prevent these students from unnecessarily dropping out of school.

5. Future Directions and Recommendations

The next four sections of this paper provide detailed reviews of the relevant studies and theories described in this previous section. The end of the Results provides a brief summary. The Introduction and Conclusions preview and synthesize the findings and their implications. The use of these feedback loops, then, would begin to offer guidance on the effectiveness of different kinds of intervention strategies for enhancing the ease with which students are able to learn their course materials. These findings from our longitudinal pilot study suggest strongly that additional investigation is needed to confirm and amplify the hypotheses that can be generated from analyses of the data on student learning needs and provide empirical support to alternative models that more powerfully predict academic difficulty.

The purpose of this paper was to conduct a comprehensive, longitudinal analysis of the difficulties that undergraduates reported having in their coursework in college. The results of the analyses presented in this paper offer empirical support to several conclusions. The key findings from this work are that students’ perceptions of difficulties in college coursework course difficulty is a more powerful predictor of overall academic difficulty—all other things being equal—than demographic, pre-college characteristics, or college major, course level, or course grade. All else being equal, seniors reported taking the most difficult courses while freshmen reported taking the least difficult courses; however, it was the sophomores that took introductory courses as a block that most frequently reported high levels of difficulty in their coursework. Students who reported the most frequent contacts with their instructors (open-ended group and office hours access) also were much less likely to report high levels of difficulty. The taxonomy for the open-ended response data to identify the sources of difficulty that they appeared to be having was developed inductively. Students were then given the opportunity, either in an interview or a small group discussion, to describe the perceived sources of difficulty. In our data, less than two-thirds of the reasons for difficulty perceived by students are even related to the work that students are asked to do. These sources are well-distributed across subject matter content, work requirements, instruction, and evaluation.

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