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Keep alternative learning in mind

Professor Lien Tran’s new board game, Make a Move, helps young immigrants learn about the legal process in an interactive way. Meanwhile, UM students learn, for the most part, by holing up in the library and flipping through pages after pages of textbooks.

This experience reflects the style of learning typically associated with universities. After exiting the K-12 educational system, we enter a new stage of maturity. We swap composition books and colored pencils for towers of typewritten papers and weighty academic volumes.

However, the occasional deviation from typical assignments also helps transmit information without necessarily sacrificing the standards of higher education.

The incorporation of social media, for example, can help close the gap between abstract ideas and a student’s daily experience. Professors may consider accepting, for example, a series of Tumblr blog posts in lieu of an essay.

A professor can also try to expose students to current issues relevant to the subject matter. News videos and short reports provide temporary relief from the burden of reading dense scholarly material. Any sort of assignment that highlights a connection between an abstract topic and the visible day-to-day world helps that topic stick.

Of course, an institution of higher learning must hold itself to certain educational standards. Reading scholarly articles and writing analytical papers may feel burdensome at times, but these practices transmit complex information and hone distinct skills. As college students, we must rise to these challenges, not seek ways to escape them.

But we should not diminish the power of unusual or creative assignments. They are not evasions of a student’s duties; they allow students to fulfill them in compelling ways.

If you have an idea for a creative assignment, share it with your professors; they may choose to implement it in their lesson plans. Your professors have chosen to dedicate themselves to higher education, and while they may ultimately decide not to adopt the suggestion, they will most likely give due consideration to how it may advance their course goals.

While most of us will be happy to stow those science fair boards from middle school, we don’t have to consign every so-called alternative assignment to our childhood closets.

Editorials represent the majority view of  The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

October 8, 2014

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The Miami Hurricane


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.