University vs Internet

The internet’s advantages and disadvantages and social networking in particular are always fodder for debate.  What is seldom digested is its long term imprint on formal education such as attending class and being taught by human beings.

The word internet did not exist for the general public before 1990.  Back then, teachers from lower grades up to university professors were regarded as the fountain of knowledge, where students took a sip and came out wiser. The internet punctured that equation.  It is the new campus.
In June 2012, the CBC News Technology & Science online reported, “Canadians are spending more time online than users in 10 other countries.”  This conclusion came from the 2012 Canada Digital Future in Focus, a report prepared by comScore, an online research company.

Blackberry phones and data bundles increase the number of young people that surf the internet in complete bliss, away from their parents’ prying eyes.  They spend more time online than adults so it is possible that they are better informed than their educators.  Television, their old babysitter sits there dejected wondering what went wrong.

The new campus is attractive for a myriad of reasons.   For example, it doesn’t have a syllabus or course modules.  Mobile phones give young people online access to any subject or non-subject.  Indeed, why should they study Geography when Google Maps takes them to a particular house in Montreal just by caressing a mobile phone?

Music is the biggest casualty.  The internet has changed the way it is created and distributed leaving recording companies with warehouses full of unsold CD’s.  Entertainment lawyers themselves go to the internet when preparing copyright infringement lawsuits.

Are music professors aware of all this? Do they know the difference between re-mixing, sampling or mash-ups?  Musicians such as Ice Cube and Jay-Z have flipped the script on how to market their product.

English or French students used to sit under trees on campus and turn pages of prescribed books about Canada under Pierre Trudeau or the Underground Railroad.  Most of this information is a click away, thus greatly diminishing professors’ imprint on students’ outlook. 

Yes, universities are supposed to nurture independent thinking but the truth of the matter is students want to pass.  Consequently some feel that a pass is guaranteed if they mimick the person who will mark their papers.

The new campus can also be financially rewarding.  Why stay in college when a publisher can pick up your blog and turn it into a book or record deal?  Oprah Winfrey and other talk show hosts also regularly invite bloggers to give expert opinion on this and that.  Such exposure can lead to bigger and better things.

I cannot keep up with new jobs descriptions created by the internet, webmaster, online editor etc. Sales people in your computer store in Halifax or Manhattan probably got the job because of product knowledge gleaned from the internet.

Go on-line.  Check job sites.  How many require some form of internet know-how?  What ticket do young people need then for the future? Is it online savvy or a thesis on how the vicious justice system in England failed the working class by sending them to Australia for petty crimes?

No.  The internet will not demolish red brick institutions where students spend three or four years of their lives, but it is chipping away at the bricks.  Brain surgeons and other medical doctors will always need a university education otherwise we won’t be caught dead on the operating table.

Some parents are not amused by the 24/7 campus.  They used to have unified blocks based on class, race, religion and dollars of all hues in the bank. They had reasons for taking their children to a particular pre-school, high school and university.  

The new campus has allowed water to seep in the brickwork.  They see their values on the precipice ready to plunge into unknown murky bytes, where their beloved daughters and sons have new allegiances and career options, mostly determined by punching the cellphone or computer keypad for hours.  


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