The \\\"McDonald\\\'s-ization\\\" of Education
Oct 17, 2009 Other 2037 Views
McDonald's is astoundingly successful at purveying inexpensive fast food of consistently high quality. They have achieved this primarily through standardization and quality control. If you purchase an "Egg McMuffin," or a "Big Mac" at an outlet in Seattle, or Milwaukee, Chicago or Miami, it will be almost exactly the same.
Standardization is increasingly making in-roads into education. Once the realm of diversity (of opinion, thought, approach, teaching technique, classroom styles, etc.) and independence (academic freedom), the higher education classroom is being transformed into a "product" type delivery system. The "products" in this case are the concepts, lesson plans, group exercises, assignments, etc. - indeed, the education itself.
The intent of this transformation is to provide a "standard" high quality student classroom experience within disciplines, and across institutions. With the student being the customer (consumer) of the educational delivery system, we want to make sure he or she is getting the highest possible quality product, and the key to this is "quality control" and standardization.
Instead of the after-the-fact quality control offered through instructor "evaluations," " classroom observations," and the like, the approach introduces a far more intrusive and directive model. Lesson Plans, indeed, entire courses and curricula are loaded into pre-packaged modules, on thumb drives (USB) or onto computers, or servers.
As in the fast food business, manufacturing, or other product producing sectors, the product creation and delivery process is developed to gain the efficiency and effectiveness obtained in industry.
JUST LIKE McDONALD's
Just like McDonald's where the customer can expect to enjoy a standard, high quality product, served in a clean, well-designed environment, the student consumer can expect convenient delivery of the educational product, for his consumption, and enjoyment - "satisfaction guaranteed."
First, a product team is assembled. In this case it consists of academic experts, curriculum designers, course writers, technology experts, product representatives, trainers, content specialists, etc. The product development process is based on outcome objectives, i.e., "what do we want the student to know?," "what should he learn during this course?" and "how do we measure that?" This "beginning at the end" philosophy is crucial. It keeps the spotlight on the product, promotes quality, and ultimately, "customer satisfaction."
THE ENTERTAINMET COMPONENT
Gen Y students have different expectations from their predecessors, and are less likely to indulge obsolete or dated instructional methods and techniques. They demand to be engaged.
Instructors are partially selected on their ability to "entertain" as well as "inform." They are expected to be animated, humorous, engaging, and entertaining. They are expected to convey knowledge in convenient, enjoyable, and satisfying, bites.
STEAMLINING THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS
The more standardized the process becomes, the less latitude for the educator, the more prescribed the content, exercises and learning activities are, the more the business managers of the career and "for profit" colleges like it. This concept may, however, benefit the student as it concentrates on a quality, standardized, classroom experience.
Once the instructor has mastered the technology, the whole instructional process is easier under this model. Everything is pre-packaged. No messy development of lesson plans - they're already done - and done well. No thinking about creative learning activities and approaches - they're already there. You could almost do it in your sleep! (if it wasn't for the requirement to be animated and entertaining.)
Students in this new education model will be immersed in technology throughout their degree program. This is the world of today, and the future. They will participate and interact with SMARTboards, laptops, WiFi, simulations, business games, remote "clickers," interactive learning, real-world relevant projects, presentations, etc. It's designed to match their learning styles and attention spans It is preeminently designed to prepare them for their careers. Although many students are "comfortable" with technology, fewer are proficient, and fewer yet have an in-depth understanding. The curriculum should help them become more proficient and better prepared for the technology demands of the future business environment. The intensely technological nature of the classroom experience also addresses the various learning styles. The auditory learner will have voice, music, and noise. The visual learner will enjoy the videos, powerpoints, and other visuals. The kinesthetic learner will appreciate the hands on components, especially the SMARTboard.
Student satisfaction is, of course, a primary objective. Education, especially for-profit education, exists to serve the student, while running a business. And, through serving and satisfying the student, ultimately the student will stay in school, graduate, and learn valuable knowledge and skills in the process. These graduates will benefit the business community, and society at large. An advanced society like ours is critically dependent on an educated and productive populous.
What do employers want and need? The link to employer requirements is a vital one. Businesses need educated workers. They require technologically adroit employees who can meet the demands of a rapidly changing technological environment and a highly competitive situation.
Ours is a productive society. Businesses spend billions of dollars training and re-training their employees. "Business Ready" graduates will be more productive from day one and employers will appreciate this.
HAS EDUCATION COME TO THIS?
Purists would argue that the more traditional approaches are preferable, and that academic freedom is being infringed upon. They would say that instructors should be hired based on their knowledge, quality of education, expertise, research history and contributions to their field. They would undoubtedly prefer to see pure "academicians" and "scholars" in the classroom. However, there is room for an interesting debate here. Is it about the instructor or the student? Obviously, we understand that it's about both, but whose needs take precedence? The answer has to be - THE STUDENT! After all, the whole educational system is in place to meet the needs of the student, and ultimately, society.
Instructors with real-world, practical experience and without techno-phobia will be more adaptable to this new format, and perhaps better equipped to relate to the student.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In education there is always room for a broad range of opinions and approaches. Let's try this new one. It works in business - why not education? This is probably why Career Colleges are embracing the approach much more readily than their mainstream counterparts. The "for-profit" Career Colleges are definitely the forefront of this initiative, and "early adopters."
We all know that "quality " is an issue in education. Graduates with virtually identical credentials can have vastly different skills, knowledge, and abilities. This is, and always has been a concern. This standardized, quality-assured model addresses that issue.
Sure, this educational model is controversial, as it should be! But the end result may very well be that students have a reasonably similar experience, learn comparable skills, and become better "fits" within the business world. Employers can be better assured and confident that graduates have the knowledge and skill base they require to be successful contributors. They will probably, at some point, wish to be full participants in the curriculum development process. In the globally competitive market, this might just be what is needed.
When we're teaching Business we must be business-minded. Let's transfer those "best practices" from the business world to academia, keep our students involved, and better prepare them for their future careers. And, the lessons to be learned from places like McDonald's may be more applicable to education than we might have ever imagined.