How Student Loans Are Workable for Higher Education

Studying in a global university is an uphill task. With increasing admissions and other expenses, parents cannot guarantee the finance for their child’s higher education. Securing admission under this scenario requires money and time management too. The range of expenses include admission costs, hostel rent books and the tuition fee. Parents dream of a successful career, and therefore, nothing should come in way of pursuing the studies. Parents help to a great extent money wise, but even they have their limits. In this situation, students are offered an opportunity to take care of their expenses in the form of short term student loans. Availing the loan is fairly simple. A loan benefits by providing the funds to take care of their cost of education.

Advantage of the Student Loan

The loan is important to anyone looking forward to secure finance for their higher education. The acquired funds have capability of helping the students for further education. There are a few advantages to these loans listed here that will help the borrower make a sensible decision:

Minimal Interest Rates

Before applying for any type of loan, people are cautious about the interest rates. Nobody wants to burden themselves with whopping interest rates that would result in non-repayment of the loan amount. Student loans are suggested by many brokers on competitive APRs and manageable terms of repayment. The borrowers have an option to consider all the available offers through a comprehensive online research and compare the prices. Only after proper research, the customer should approach the regulated broker.

Flexible terms of repayment

Before countersigning the documents, applicant must clearly understand the terms and conditions that are being laid down. The intermediary will explain them to the borrower, if he is unable to understand. The repayment provisions are kept trouble-free. The payment amount is decided keeping in view the financial condition of the applicant. Sufficient time is provided to repay the borrowed money. Paying off the loan is reflected on the credit report, finally improving the credit score and establishing the credibility.

No requirement of guarantor

When the individual applies for the loans online, there is no need to provide the guarantor. Adviser makes sure, the lender disburse the funds without putting forth the condition of arranging the guarantor. This saves a lot of time, as you do not need to search for the person, to act as your guarantor and support your application.

Student loans not only serve the purpose of providing quick funds for the education. These types of loans also assist in creating a positive credit history. The funds are not provided out for free. The short term student loans must be repaid when the borrower completes his or her education. Adequate time is provided for the payback.

Is the Carrot and Stick Method Useful in Higher Education?

Consider how the process of learning begins for students. As a general perceptual rule, when students begin their degree programs they hope to obtain good grades, useful skills, and relevant knowledge. The tuition paid assures placement in a class and there are implied results that students expect as a product of their involvement in that class. In contrast, instructors expect that students will obey the academic rules, perform to the best of their abilities, and comply with specific class requirements that include deadlines for completion of learning activities.

For students, grades serve as an indicator of their progress in class, a symbol of their accomplishments and failures, and a record of their standing in a degree program. I have heard many students state that their primary goal for the class was to earn what they refer to as “good grades” – even though they may not be fully aware of what constitutes a good grade for them. When students aren’t achieving good grades, or the minimum expected by instructors and/or the school, instructors may try to nudge them on – either through positive motivational methods such as coaching and mentoring, or negative motivational methods that include threats and a demeaning disposition.

I found that many educators dangle a carrot in front of their students through indirect methods, such as the potential to earn a better grade, as an “A” in an indicator of the ultimate achievement in school. There may be incentives given to prompt better performance, including additional time or a resubmission allowance for a written assignment, as a means of encouraging students to perform better.

My question is whether the focus of teaching in higher education should be on the carrot we dangle in front of students to perform better or should there be more of a focus on what motivates each individual student to perform to the best of their abilities? In other words, do we need to be dangling something in front of students to serve as a source of motivation?

What is the Carrot and Stick Method?

I believe that most people understand the meaning of dangling a carrot in front of students to motivate them. The phrase is actually based upon a tale about a method of motivating a donkey and while the carrot is dangling in front of it, the stick is used to prod the animal along. The carrot serves as a reward and the stick is used as a form of reinforcement and punishment for non-compliance.

This approach is still used in the workplace, even subconsciously by managers, as a method of motivating employees. The carrot or incentives may include a promotion, pay increase, different assignments, and the list continues. The stick that is used, or the punishment for not reaching specific goals or performance levels, may include demotion or a job loss. A threat of that nature can serve as a powerful motivator, even if the essence of this approach is negative and stressful.

The Carrot and Stick Approach in Higher Education

If you are uncertain about the use of this approach in higher education, consider the following example. You are providing feedback for a written assignment and it is now the halfway point in the class. For one particular student, you believe they have not met the criteria for the assignment and more importantly, they have either not put in enough effort, they did not perform to your expectations, or they did not live up to their full potential.

It is worth mentioning that your beliefs about students are shaped by how you view them and their potential. In other words, I try to see my students as individuals who have varying levels of performance and that means some will be further along than others. In contrast, instructors who believe they do not have enough time to get to know their students as individuals may view the class as a whole and set an expectation regarding the overall performance level that all students should be at for this particular point in the class.

Returning to the example provided, my question to you is this: Do you reward the attempt made by the student or do you penalize that student for what you perceive to be a lack of effort? As a faculty trainer, I have interacted with many faculty who believe that all students should be high performers and earning top grades, regardless of their background and prior classes. When students fail to meet that expectation, there is a perception that students either do not care, they are not trying, or they are not reading and applying the feedback provided. The instructor’s response then is to dangle a carrot (incentive) and use the stick to try to change the necessary student behaviors.

Relevance for Adult Learning

There is a perception held by many educators, especially those who teach in traditional college classes, that the instructors are in control and students must comply. This reinforces a belief within students that they do not have control over their outcomes and that is why many believe grades are beyond their control. I have seen many students stop trying by the time they were enrolled in a class I was teaching simply because they could not make a connection between the effort they have made to the outcomes or grades received. In other words, while they believed they were doing everything “right” – they were still getting poor grades.

At the heart of the adult learning process is motivation. There are as many degrees of motivation as there are types of students and it is not realistic to expect that all students will be performing at the same level. I’ve learned through time and practice that adult student behaviors do not or will not permanently change as a result of forced compliance. However, behaviors will change in time when an instructor has built a connection with their students and established a sense of rapport with them. I encourage instructors to think beyond dangling a carrot and try to influence behavior, and not always through the use of rewards.

From a Carrot to a Connection

It is important for instructors to create a climate and classroom conditions that are conducive to engaging students, while becoming aware of (and recognizing) that all students have a capacity to learn and some gradually reach their potential while others develop much more quickly. My instructional approach has shifted early on from a rewards or carrot focus to a student focus. I want to build connections with students and nurture productive relationships with them, even when I am teaching an online class and have the distance factor to consider. I encourage students to make an effort and I welcome creative risks. I teach students to embrace what they call their failures as valuable learning lessons. I encourage their involvement in the learning process, prompt their original thinking during class discussions, and I teach them that their efforts do influence the outcomes received.

I recognize that this type of approach is not always easy to implement when classroom management is time consuming, and this is especially true for adjunct instructors. However, at a very minimum it can become an attitude and part of an engaging instructional practice. I encourage instructors to include it as part of their underlying teaching philosophy so they recognize and work to implement it. Every educator should have a well-thought out teaching philosophy as it guides how they act and react to students and classroom conditions. A student focus, rather than a carrot and stick focus, creates a shift in perspective from looking first at the deficits of students and seeing their strengths – along with their potential. It is an attitude of looking away from lack and looking towards meaning in the learning process, and a shift from seeing an entire class to viewing students individually. My hope is that this inspires you to re-evaluate and re-examine how teach your students and consider new methods of prompting their best performance.

Reflective Agents of Change: A Role of Higher Education

Changes in operational procedure, management styles and services offered to clients and customers characterize many places of employment. An examination of the internet and other media reveals the rapid development of new products and seamless modifications of existing ones. A factor which caused major changes in people’s income, lifestyle and attitude, is the disruptions in the world’s financial market. Given the fact that change is a global reality, one role of higher education institutions is to enable students to not just function effectively in rapidly changing workplace environments, but to become reflective agents of change.

Being a reflective agent of change

Broadly speaking, a reflective agent of change makes use of reflection in the process of effecting change. Specifically, it involves both cognitive and affective processes such as employing self-directed critical thinking as a means of improving workplace conditions policies and procedures. The reflective agent of change develops an ‘uneasiness’ about protocol, process and procedure which leads to questioning of these aspects of the workplace, trying out new strategies and ideas, seeking alternatives, and using higher-order-thinking skills. The development and use of self-directed critical thinking and ongoing critical inquiry will also result in greater understanding of the workplace. This kind of knowledge is critical to the implementation of appropriate changes in the workplace because, successful changes to policies or procedure depend on knowledge of the nuances, thinking of the employers and employees and overall ethos of the workplace.

Secondly, being a reflective agent of change also involves the use of one’s affective skills as a means of improving practice. Markham (1999), points out that this includes the use of personal intuition, initiative, values, and experiences in the process of making sound judgment and decisions. If affective skills are honed, they will improve one’s ability to react, respond, assess, revise, and implement new approaches and activities.

Thirdly, being a reflective agent of change also requires a willingness to confront the uncertainties of one’s philosophies which undergird judgments, decisions and ideas for change. This is developed by examining ‘self’, personal competences and personal philosophies in a collaborative manner involving receiving, and giving feedback to colleagues

Developing reflective agents of change

From personal research in the area of reflection and reflective teaching (Minott 2009), I conclude that everyone has the capacity to reflect, for reflection is an element of being human. However, I also agree with Posner (1989) that there are ‘more’ or ‘less’ reflective individuals, hence there are ‘more’ or ‘less’ reflective students. This conclusion also highlights the fact that there are those who, for any number of reasons, for example, training or a lack of training in reflective techniques, or personal disposition and likeness or dislike for reflection, emerges as being either ‘more’ or ‘less’ reflective. Therefore, three things are required to develop students as reflective agents of change.

Firstly, there is the need to ascertain their belief and disposition on the matter of reflection. Again personal research (Minott 2009) as confirmed by popular theories, that students’ belief can hinder or help. In this process, it is important to help students to bring their embedded beliefs, values and assumptions about reflection to the fore for examination before beginning the process of encouraging their reflective skills.

Secondly, there is the need to develop students’ proficiency in the use of the techniques and tools of reflection. This includes the use of reflective journal writing, collaborative exercises, the use of questions, and what to question.

Thirdly, there is the need to encourage the affective or intuitive aspect of the practice, for example, sensitivity to factors that make particular ways of operating more or less appropriate, willingness and the capacity to ‘research’ their own work, and an awareness that the choices they make on the job are shaped by their belief.

References

Minott.MA (2009). Reflection and Reflective Teaching, A Case study of Four Seasoned Teachers in the Cayman Islands. Germany VDM Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co. ISBN 978-3-639-15860-1

Markham, M. (1999). ‘Through the Looking Glass: Reflective Teaching through a Lacanian Lens’ In Curriculum Inquiry 29: 1

Posner, G.J. (1989). Field Experience methods of Reflective Teaching New York: Longman Publishing groups

Why Use Podcasting in Higher Education and Training?

Podcasting is only one technology within a whole array of web-based technologies that are used in distance education. In addition, podcasting can be used in many different instructional ways. Therefore, there are many combinations of what is possible with podcasting in education.

For example, consider combining a teacher podcasting with student and teacher discussion groups, and vlogging of student presentations. Or perhaps a face-to-face class in which students create a podcast project that extends in rotation across several class sessions. In this way students can participate in sharing research and perspectives on course material.

The important point is that we do not have to be confined to one model of instruction. This premise is especially true when we have the opportunity to work with digital natives who may very well catalyze new perspectives of the content during the creative process.

Podcasting has been a movement by which more of the general public could be part of the media. It is called the “democratization of the media”.

In a similar way, couldn’t podcasting be a push in the direction of co-learning in colleges and universities? Perhaps, we could begin to see teachers and students share, dialogue and engage more through this media. The professors are content experts, the students may provide expertise in the digital culture. This provides a place where we might have a creative nexus.

In addition, large questions lie right in front of us that I believe students of all ages in higher education can explore, such as:

  • Political issues that collide in the close spaces of our classrooms
  • Cultural understandings that need to be understood within our local and global communities
  • Economic issues that impact worldwide audiences rather than solely local or regional spaces

Such questions pose fertile opportunities for 20, 30, or 50 year old learners as podcasters. Or similarly any aged podcast listener?

From creating podcasts, to critiquing their meaning and constructing new understandings, digital media is a nexus of innovation, technology and empowerment and these are generative elements. Let’s unleash some new possibilities of deeper learning coupled with creativity and expressing understanding. Effective communicators of the 21st century will need these same skills for their professional success. Why not take advantage of the need, the resources and the opportunity to develop engaging critical audio projects in higher education classrooms and training settings?

In a future article, we will discuss how podcasts provide other benefits for these constituencies also.

Be Smart About Higher Education: Why Are You Going Nowhere, Anywhere, Or Somewhere?

Where are you going in life and in the pursuit of higher education and why? Twentieth century writer Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Life is great as it moves along with good things happening, but what happens when (not if) the tragedies come along? What is it that enables some people to get through tough circumstances while others breakdown?

The answers to the last two questions revolve around two different aspects of the word why. Mark Twain used why in the context of a person’s existence. Seeking why we were born is smart because it opens all kinds of purposeful engagement in life that directly or indirectly involves benefitting others.

In contrast, repeatedly asking why an unexplainable tragedy occurs, a person emotionally ends up going nowhere. The brain tries to answer all the questions asked of it. Asking the brain to answer the unanswerable is comparable to a computer crashing. When given a problem that the computer has insufficient capacity to handle, it goes into what’s known as a freeze. Sustained freezing of the brain is not smart.

When a computer crashes, all that’s necessary is to reboot. Restoration of the human psyche is not that simple. Asking why to unsolvable questions has some PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) characteristics at one end of a spectrum of psychological conditions. Sudden or prolonged seemingly unresolvable trauma coupled with unanswerable questions can bring about serious emotional issues like PTSD.

Another outcome with those same traumatic experiences is the less publicized PTG (post-traumatic growth) that has the opposite effect. Instead of the traumatic experience resulting in a disorder, the person has an emotional fortification that serves to help in future challenges. Whether one develops PTSD or PTG is not a judgment of character since everyone has a breaking point, but a person can develop skills and focus on an attitude that hinders PTSD and promotes PTG.

Nietzsche stated, “He who has a why to live can deal with almost any how.” Viktor Frankl observed this concept personally in Nazi prison camps where people underwent horrific conditions. Many died, no one thrived, but a number survived by focusing on a desirable somewhere which in most cases was home. Viktor observed, “Those who cannot see an ultimate goal in life for existence, end up not having a life.”

Having a meaningful why in the pursuit of higher education is smart. Students knowing why they exist can answer the question why not just going anywhere to school is important. Knowing why higher education is advantageous leads to a more enriched experience because it makes sense. The perspective for the seemingly most boring marketing course for an engineering major can change. When the engineering major understands that marketable features included in the designing of a product radically improve sales, the course becomes relevant.

Knowing why a particular university and major are chosen enables the student to work through the most difficult challenges of academia and the accompanying circumstances – homesickness, peer pressure, and character building. When encountering any challenge, knowing why enables a person to generate the creativity necessary to figure out how. In contrast, without a clear vision and purpose, students can feel like Sisyphus, the Greek character who continuously rolled a stone up the same hill only for it to roll back down to the same place to do all over again.

College or any form of higher education does not last forever, but can be prolonged literally and figuratively due to lack of purpose and knowing why it is more than just getting a job. The majority of students are taking an average of six years to complete four-year degree programs. Others that finish within the four year window crawl to the finish line only to get a job totally unrelated to a major that cost many thousands of dollars.

The frustration of Sisyphus going nowhere does not need to prevail for those in academia. Mark Twain’s reference to that most important day of finding out why we’re born is within the grasp of students. The higher education experience can be fun and fulfilling, but it requires being smart about it.