Monday, 15 February 2016

Students as Customers

Last Monday I went to Brotherton library with my new staff card and read academic literature, taking proper notes and everything, for the first time in ages. It was wonderful. There's something about having less time that really makes you take advantage of the limited time you do have. In my student days, my attention would wander and I'd get distracted from my reading, because I had little else to do that day. Now, my 2-hour trip to the library is the only time I have to go there, and I needed to get some reading done because I knew it would be my only chance all week (and it has been--I checked out 3 books and haven't looked at them again since!). I was more focused than I had been in years!

Another reason for this improved attention span and dedication to my work is that my free time now costs real money. Going to the library means paying somebody else to look after George, and my one day a week of childcare costs £48. I have to make the most of that time and get as much done as possible to make it worthwhile. It's costing me a lot to study now, which got me thinking about our students under the new £9,000/year fees.

Over the past couple of years, since the £9k tuition fee was introduced, there's been a noticeable increase in the 'student as customer' mentality. It's prevalent amongst students, their parents, higher education administrators, and even some educators. Students demand more when they think of themselves as customers. They want course readings to be scanned as PDFs instead of having to find them in the library, they want lectures to be recorded and put online (along with the powerpoint slides), and most significantly, they don't want to study any material that won't be assessed. The other day on the bus, I overheard a student complaining to a friend, "I wish they would just teach us what's on the exam." I wanted to say something, but didn't know where to start...

In America, the mentality of student-customers has been around for many years. It's not all bad--I've seen it used to encourage attendance, in fact. Some professors remind their students that each lecture is costing them $100+, so they'd better attend in order to get their money's worth. If only our students looked at it that way, rather than demanding customer satisfaction...

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