As educators question what college should look like in the 21st century, one answer is: global.
And to higher education trailblazers, that means more than junior year abroad or overseas internships. They find campuses to be insular places that leave students ill prepared for a globalized world, and they question the efficacy of traditional pedagogy, especially the lecture format, at a time when the same information can be imparted online.
Consider one emerging approach, wherein students hop from campus to campus across continents, earning an undergraduate degree in the process. In these programs, they spend the majority of their college years outside the United States and immerse themselves in diverse cultures. Foreign cities are their classrooms.
"More and more students, especially at the elite end, are realizing,'I can get my basic learning on the Internet and then have this collection of experiences around the globe that enhances who I am as a person,'" said Michael B. Horn, a co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute.
Campus hopping is not for everyone.
Many students don't want to give up the sustained community built over four years on a campus. Administrators note that 18-year-olds who choose this unorthodox college path have a special blend of traits: maturity, curiosity, adventurousness, flexibility and openness.
If It's Third Semester, This Must Be Berlin 若是第3學期，必須去柏林
W. Louis Brickman, 18, could have taken many paths to college. As a student at the prestigious Hunter College High School in New York, he was accepted at several elite liberal arts schools and two research universities. But he surprised teachers and friends by choosing to enter the second class at the Minerva Schools, a startup based in San Francisco, where he will spend three-quarters of his time in other countries.
"I'm passionate about international travel, and it felt to me inadequate to stay in one place for four years,"said Brickman, who was born in Berlin and raised in Manhattan.
Minerva, which is affiliated with the Keck Graduate Institute, was founded by a former tech executive, Ben Nelson, who believed that traditional colleges were not adequately preparing students for the real world.
After freshman year in San Francisco, students will move to a new country each semester; by the time they graduate, they will have lived in Berlin; Buenos Aires; Seoul; Bangalore, India; Istanbul and London. Minerva's first two classes comprise 139 students from 35 countries. They live together in leased residence halls, where they cook for themselves, and meet for seminars in libraries, museums or parks. Not owning buildings enables Minerva to keep costs to $22,950 a year, including tuition and housing but not travel.
Minerva's approach to upending traditional education goes beyond travel.Professors lead live video seminars that are reserved for group projects and debate — students often meet to take the classes together. And while majors are offered in the usual fields, like humanities, science and business, the overarching goal is to teach students to think critically and creatively and to communicate and interact well with others.
"We want them to be able to adapt to jobs that don't even exist yet, so we give them a great range of the best cognitive tools," said Stephen Kosslyn,Minerva's founding dean.
Based on research into how students learn, Minerva's faculty concluded that a key skill is being able to apply learning in new and different contexts.Toward that end, students keep blogs during their travels about how they're using the concepts they learned freshman year. Yes, they're graded.
"For the past 14 years of my life, I've been imagining I'd have this traditional college campus experience, so that part has been somewhat of a challenge," Brickman said. "But every class is relevant to the real world."
Erin McNellis, 21, did not travel far when she started at Webster University in St. Louis, where she also grew up. But she chose it because its international program would enable her to keep on traveling.
Webster has campuses in seven countries, and partnerships with schools in seven more. Students can study in Thailand, Ghana, China, Japan, Mexico and throughout Europe. About 20 percent of its students study elsewhere in the world; some never study in St. Louis at all.