Professor – would you please do my work?

As we conclude this semester, I thought it might be appropriate to continue my discussion from the beginning of the semester (see Issues > Concerns > Problems). Frankly, I do not see the situation improving. Those reading this should pause and consider what they are asking in various classes. As a general rule, I do things for very specific reasons. Towards the end of the current semester, I was asked to provide a complete overview of the course by a student. Here is a slightly modified version of my response.

Short answer is that, yes, I can, but no, I won’t. Here is why. First – you have all the information already available to you in our learning management system. If you wished to have a list of such items, you could have built it yourself throughout the semester as new topics were introduced. Next, if you produce the list yourself, it will be of greater use. You will annotate said list with information you think is important. Everyone learns differently (and it is a highly personal experience). For me to simply generate something and hand it to you, there would be no learning involved at all (and I doubt the list would be used for very much).

Now for an even more important issue – such a list would be meaningless after a year or so. You have already complained that some tools are out of date (when we covered a specific topic). I agree (and the current list will get more out of date with every year). For example, I used to recommend the Hide in Picture tool for steganography. Now, I recommend OpenPuff. In a few years, I will recommend something else. Technology marches on. When you complained about a given tool being older, I specifically pointed out that I was not aware of a newer tool in that particular category (nor have I found one since that discussion). Instead of tools, focus on concepts and strategies. Steganography is a means of hiding information in plain sight. The particular tool one uses is something which will change (and that is why we can rely on search engines).

For those patient to read this far, let me stress why I do what I do. I do this┬ábecause I am preparing you to succeed in business. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, you will be expected to rapidly learn a concept, apply the concept, then unlearn the concept or tool and learn a new approach in a year or two.

This is also why my “lectures” average 8 minutes in length. It may well have made sense to have long lectures in the age of Greece and Rome. Aristotle was able to impart some of his knowledge and wisdom in such a manner. It made sense in the times of the middle ages (because so few people could actually read). It made sense in the 1800’s and early to mid 1900s because there were limited resources (mostly books which had to be borrowed). However, we now live in the age of YouTube and search engines like Google. Why on earth should I prattle on about most topics for an hour or more, when you can simply look the information up (at the time you are ready to learn about it). If you don’t like a particular explanation, search for an alternative. Perhaps there is a completely different approach? Learn to apply a “rule of reasonableness” regarding the content you are reading and discern for yourself what is appropriate in the context of the business problem you are trying to solve.

Most teachers teach the way they were taught. In my opinion, that is doing everyone a dis-service these days. Frankly, I have moved on. Lectures are much too passive. This is why I use tools like Adobe Captivate more and more to include interactivity in my “lectures.” Yes, my way means you have to work harder. Guess what – in the business world we live in these days, you have to work incredibly hard. You are competing against the best and brightest throughout the world. This is why I try to foster the skills you need to succeed. This is why I will not spoon feed a given topic to anyone nor will I hand them a complete and ready made set of all the tools we cover in a class. In the long run I will not be helping you at all.

Those who have read this far should realize that everything they learn in a technology class will be outdated in 3 – 5 years (given the rapid pace of change). You need to develop the requisite skills to learn on your own and master the materials on your own as they change. This is why my answer to the request is no.

As always, I am interested in your comments. How do you teach technology topics in an online environment? How would you respond to such a request?

2 thoughts on “Professor – would you please do my work?”

  1. Its tough love, but getting employed is what matters.

    What I have learned after post-grad from ISU and ICC in hindsight is not about how to reapply the solutions that I have learned in class, its how I reapply the process of finding the solution and using the tools that are available for solving the problem.

    Although I run into work related problems that utilize some of the things I learned in class, its not as common as I would have thought. Lot of it is fairly unique to every organization, and there is no path to memorizing the answers because of that given fact of “uniqueness”.

    Nowadays there are such great tools to help with debugging. A coworker once showed me how to use the JavaScript debugger in developer tools the correct way after being confused with it for so long and frustrated because I thought it was too hard at the time and I could never learn it.

    Because of that, my coworker, instead of feeding me a fish, showed me how to fish. I have never been as thankful for getting help as I was that day.

  2. Hi Kevin:
    So true – it is remaining gainfully employed that matters. I appreciate your insights. You confirm that my approach is what is needed.
    Best always,

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