Online Learning and the Liberal Arts

That’s about where we stand this week.  For my weekly resource share, I hope you don’t mind if I stand on a soapbox for a bit.  I’m a biased person so feel free to ignore me as well.  There’s been talk for the past few decades about the decline and eventual death of the liberal arts in higher ed and I know may institutions are scrapping LA and Humanities Programs all together.  The logic, of course, is that there’s no money in this learning, for the institution or the student after graduation.  This isn’t surprising, in fact many employers complain that students are graduating ill prepared for the modern job market.


I don’t question this.  I was born on the front end of the lost generation, and I recognize the need for the students coming behind me to be trained as competitively as possible to fold into a career.  That said, I believe the skills that have carried me throughout my (burgeoning) career are rarely the ones I gained from my Master’s degree.  Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t do this job without my education degree, but when you see my interactions with you and your faculty, I believe my liberal arts grounding I received in undergrad shines more brightly.  Liberal arts gives students the ability to adapt to any career, to any situation – and if the current market trends continue, some worry that the skill set may be relegated to the economic classes of students that can afford to study it.


This isn’t really a new debate I suppose, LA programs have been on the decline for decades, and in online education they’re the lowest field in demand.   A professor of mine at U. Louisville’s School of Ed said something in grad school that stuck with me “so long as your students become readers, writers, mathematicians and processers of information, they’re going to be able to take anything you throw at them.”  To me, the future role of Liberal Arts is to instill those intangible skills that distinguish a school’s graduates from the fold and creates a reputation that follows future graduates.  But how do you integrate the liberal arts (if you should) with a program that will prepare students for their chosen career?


With that in mind, I thought I’d share some cool articles regarding how institutions are trying to redefine what liberal arts education means in the 21rst century.


Rebecca Chopp – President of Swarthmore College: Liberal Arts in the 21rst Century

Nannerl O. Keohane – A commentator for the Chronicle: The Liberal Arts as Guideposts in the 21st Century

Mauri Ditzler – President of Monmouth College: Faculty Triads


You’ve obviously wondering why I brought this up.  I’m wondering how you think LA education translates to the 21st century, do you feel that it has value, or do you feel as though it’s in the way of career oriented education that prepares students to make a return on their investment?  Something else?  Most importantly, how do you feel Liberal Arts can translate (if it can at all) to online?  I’m interested in your thoughts on the subject.


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