Once upon a time, professors who stepped out from behind the lectern were considered innovative. Remember the poster boy for this movement, John Keating in Dead Poets Society, who not only stepped out, but who also stood on desks and occasionally left the tidiness and conformity of the classroom to teach his students using “unorthodox teaching methods”? Check out this clip:
Many of us who started teaching in the few years that followed that movie wanted to emulate Keating’s style, and the role of “sage on the stage” quickly gave way to the teacher as “guide on the side,” hence the former name of this blog, “Guide on the Side.” The concept of teacher as guide still felt unnaturally constrained, however.
Education is something more. It is an adventure that beckons many of us to better ourselves and our lives. Therefore, to reflect what education truly is more accurately, as of today, the new name of this blog is “EdVenture Calling.”
Make Them Extraordinary
For many, faculty and students alike, standing on a desk or even walking outside for a lesson isn’t enough. The universe is massive and largely unexplored. The challenge uttered by the narrator in the above clip to “make them [students] extraordinary” also describes why education should be seen as an adventure. Academia must take students on a journey, a heroic quest to see more and be more than they ever dreamed possible. When graduates walk across a stage to get their diplomas, they should be thinking, I’ve done something incredible, and my extraordinary adventure continues.
Calling All Heroes
That attending college online is a heroic quest for today’s students is obvious when placed within the stages of the traditional heroic cycle and further augmented by what the new focus of this blog will be.
• The call to adventure involves students feeling the desire to do something more with their lives, to be something more. According to Classes and Careers‘, “Online Student Demographic Infographic,” 81% of students are working and 85% completed a high school diploma or its equivalent. At an average age of 34, it’s a safe assumption that most also have families (2011). But they want something more for themselves and perhaps for their children. This is also something those of us who work as online educators hear on a regular basis from our students.
• Helpers exist in the heroic cycle in the form of divine creatures, such as gods or goddesses who mysteriously appear to help the hero on his or her quest. This is where those working in education and on this blog come into play. Hero-students also need the assistance and encouragement of those who may seem to have some sort of divine insight into postsecondary education. Many online students, upon hearing the call, need and want assistance of some sort. They often feel intimidated by postsecondary education or some aspects of it (e.g., math or writing). Helpers tend to appear throughout a quest, and this blog, for example, will be here to help guide students through their education-adventure from beginning to end.
• The threshold marks an important step for the student-hero from his or her comfortable known world and into the unknown world where adventure awaits. This is also true of higher education. For instance, working students may have been employed in business or manufacturing for over two decades, doing roughly the same job. They may feel comfortable and secure in their employment; however, either by choosing to answer the call on their own or by being unwillingly thrust into answering the call to edventure because of a downsizing, they must enter the unknown world of academia. This blog will help make students feel more comfortable by helping to explain what is on the other side of this doorway-what is awaiting them in postsecondary education.
• Challenges and temptations are a natural part of life and any heroic journey. Most college students worry about student debt. Almost one-quarter of freshmen who start college in the U.S. will drop out and 42% of those will state finances as the reason while 58% will offer a variety of explanations for leaving (Ramsey, D. “College Attrition Rates on the Rise,” 28 April, 2011). Simple complacency may also be a leading obstacle to student success. After all, it’s easier to do nothing, to give up, or to find a reason not to go on. This blog will help students explore and overcome challenges and temptations associated with postsecondary education with the valor of a classic hero.
• Revelation and transformation eventually occur for heroes as they face and defeat their most difficult challenge. This may be overcoming their own fears and self-doubt to defeat a horrible monster. Similarly, Students also must face the challenge of self-discovery and true change. For example, many students start off with the goal of obtaining a degree in a field they have heard will lead to a good job (e.g., nursing). However, at some point they may have to face the fact that their initial choice of majors is not for them. According to Ohio State University, on average, one-third of college students begin with “undecided” as a major, and students change their choice three times (2013). In this blog, guidance will be provided on choosing the right college and major to fit your own needs, goals, and personality.
• The return happens after the hero successfully completes the quest. He may have slain a dragon, she may have led an army to victory, or a college student may become a college graduate. This isn’t really the end of the edventure because heroes bring something back to share with others. This may be a treasure or knowledge. In the case of the typical online student, it’s likely that there will be a higher wage and standard of living with the earned degree, knowledge that may be shared within a new profession and a greater sense of happiness and well being for themselves and those around them. Many online students express the joy they feel because they have set a good example for their children.
The hero throughout time and across the globe is in reality the common person who successfully traverses life with all of its trials and triumphs. These include education, and “EdVenture Calling” will be your guide throughout this journey whatever form it may take.
If you desire to do more than sit behind your desk or even to stand upon it, please join me by following this blog and sharing your own thoughts, questions, and successes with me. Your edventure is calling!
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