#BbWorld – General Session Keynote “Learner’s Voices”

  • Zak Malamed, Founder and Executive Director, StuVoice
  • Joelle Stangler, Student Body President, University of Minnesota
  • Aaron Wagner, Georgetown University
  • Kunal Bhadane, University of Maryland


Catalyst for change – As we think about what kind of change is needed – we need to think about what learners look like today, how they behave, and what drive them. Because the change we need to make should be centered around meeting learners’ needs – it should be based on understanding the people for whom our education systems exist and how these systems are or are not working for them.

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  • The changing learner: how many, who they are, what they expect.
  • Q: What are the expectations and real world application?
    • Student: I need the basic skills of life as well as content knowledge.  How does the content knowledge apply to the world “out there”?
  • Q: What are the connections you need and what is lacking?
    • Student: Networking is important and is as important as the courses I’m taking.  Alumni websites are not used in general and there is LinkedIn and such but that is public and not targeted.  Would be great to connect with others in the same field with alumni that have been down the same path that I am headed.
  • Q: What about adaptability?
    • Student: Can we create our own major? I need flexibility in charting my own course of where I need to be.  I need support and guidance and support the flexibility pathways in creating the best learning and education experience I can get. That may not be cookie-cutter based on traditional degrees.  How knows my talents better than myself! I need blended, flipped, online experiences and have the options to learn in the best way. Educators sometimes don’t know how to implement these models.  We need to grasp how students learn and deliver.
  • Q: Flexibility and the importance.
    • Student: We need the instructors to be flexible. Adult learners have a life and needs beyond the classroom but we also need to advance our learning. One example is a competency based learning model. We have the opportunity to engage in the classroom by shaping the objectives and what we want to learn. It’s not a traditional 4 hour lecture, but active.
    • Student: We need value there.  What we are “paying” and value is different for each student. I don’t do to lectures, but I learn more about politics by posting on blogs and commenting on what is happening now in politics!  To learn more about journalism by talking and being interviewed by actual journalists.
  • Q: What are the barriers in education? What are the expectations disconnects?
    • Student: Affordability. We need this as a proposition of what we invest and what we get out of it.  It’s not about scholarships, it’s about is it affordable for you.  How does debt affect accessibility?  It’s not just about the sticker price but the cost/benefit. Do you take a job instead of going to class? It is becoming a barrier as a result of affordability.  Is the debt worth it and how does that effect the value proposition?
    • Student: Veterens often have disabilities. These are not always visible. We need training and support from universities for students with disabilities.
    • Student: One of the largest challenges that I see is the separation of race. I see minority communities that bring challenges to school. Educators need to not tip toe around the issues but actually hit the issues directly. Is there really a understanding of the challenges around diversity.  The standardized curriculum can interfere with diversity.  Many students never venture out and take advantage of the opportunities. I believe the system was set up for colored people to fail.  Students may not push themselves enough and we need to fix the achievement gap and the socio-economic disparity.

We need the education system to treat more seriously and to address the achievement gap.

    • Student: We have a terrible ratio of counselors and mentors per student. These are valuable to help support students. How many people have a relationship with an advisor. We need more support structures around students and we need options and opportunity for students.  Choice is a worthy initiative to pursue.  We need students to receive advice and guidance. Choice with support so that we are not leaving people behind.
    • Student: The classes I am most engaged by are those where my instructor and my classmates actually get to know me and who I am and where I’m coming from and what makes me unique.
    • Student: Technology is beginning to change academia.  We are going to be learning not just with those in the physical classroom but beyond and worldwide, powered by technology.  Engage with people across the world. Connect with others that are not in the same physical space as you is rewarding and beyond the 4 walls of the classroom. People don’t know enough about the learning experience they are going into. We need to be able to access more information about what are the options about learning and the educational experience.
    • Student: The differences we see will be discussed and acknowledged and one way to overcome that is to have the conversation. One of the worst things in the world is educators and administrators trying to fix education without the student voice.
    • Student: Let’s call teachers – “learning facilitators”.

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We need to look at education through the lens of learners… to bring about the voice and experience of students.


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