On the 2023–2024 School Year

Posted: 2024-05-05
Stats: 884 words / ~5 minutes

I am about to enter the great limbo that many non-researching teachers and professors experience each year. We call this period “Summer Vacation” or “Holidays.” Despite the fact that I am still correcting exams, interviewing potential candidates, advising interns, preparing content, and attending meetings, seeing that the “teaching” portion of my job has come to an end for the school year, non-teachers describe my situation as “On Holiday.”

This not-really-on-holiday situation has once again given me the chance to reflect on the past academic year.

Many of my comments from last year rang especially true again. AI is creeping into classrooms. Some teachers can deal with it, some think they can deal with it. Anxiety is high; digital literacy is low; absences are up; critical thinking is down.

Here is my very brief recap of the school year and some predictions for the future.

Not Good Enough

Never have my students complained as much as they did this year. Normally, you would imagine a student complaining about something like the difficulty of a class, or the strictness of the professor. Not this year. This year they said it wasn’t challenging enough! But, at the same time complained about being overworked.

Some of the feedback I received made no sense.

One student, for example, in the same comment said the course was too easy, but they didn’t have enough time to do the work?

I don’t know what higher education is like where you are from, but being overworked is part of the game, isn’t it?

Let’s ignore those comments for now and focus on my takeaway: this year private schools (plural, because I am hearing similar comments coming from competitors) did not live up to the expectations of the students. They were just not good enough.

Programmes, while making changes yearly, have not succeeded in adapting to Gen Z.

For example, in previous years many classes have included an environmental (CSR/ESG) aspect. That suited students. That is something they care about and want to know more about. This no longer works. Many of my students are convinced that if they learn it once, that is enough, they are experts, case closed. It would be like me watching a single YouTube video on a subject and declaring myself proficient. We all know that even if you watch every video on the subject, you cannot be an expert until you’ve put it into practice.

As much as schools are trying (and advertising) their student-centred approach, it isn’t cutting it any more. Any new subject presented to students garners eye rolls. A unit on DEI? They already know about that because they saw a TikTok about it. Something about tech? What could a 40-year-old professor know that they don’t? What I’m getting as is that by trying so hard to appeal to what Gen Z obviously cares about, we are coming on too strong and that is cringe.

Conversely, whenever I use an activity from the 90s it seems to please them. Whenever we focus on culture rather than business (because I work as a business school), it piques their interest. Using a photocopy of some activity from years gone by instead of a computer-based activity brings out their competitive nature.

New isn’t always better.

Cheaters gonna cheat

We wrongly suspect students of cheating all the time. Most students do not cheat. I live and work in France, though. Students do cheat a lot more here than where I went to school. They cheat and they brag about cheating. I will paraphrase what a student told me this year:

Sir, you don’t know. There is a rush to cheating. When you succeed at cheating it is like a 2-for-1 deal: you get a good grade, and you got away with cheating.

So the obvious solve for this is… technology!

Because, as we all know, it is impossible to cheat when technology is involved[!]

Luckily many altruistic companies have generously created efficient and well-tested solutions to remotely proctor students. Because now that students have access to crap like ChatGPT, we cannot trust them! So online exam companies that would never ever harvest data from students are here to rescue us.

(It took students about 15 minutes to circumvent the anti-cheating methods…)

I will agree that it is possible to save time correcting when using the online testing solutions. But—and this is a big but—the solution chosen by my employer is just barely functional and when it starts acting up (getting angry just thinking about it) it makes you want to rage-quit the 26 MB JavaScript web application with a punch to the screen.

The future?

This is what I think is going to happen over the course of the next school year:

You can or contact me if you wish to comment or propose a correction.