I’m sure most have seen the headlines about Steve Jobs blowing off a Long Island University student’s questions (link). It got me thinking about the state of customer service today and whether or not it has any relevance to the classroom.
It is quite amazing the interconnected real-time world we live. Just a few years ago it would have seemed impossible for a college student to email a CEO and get any interaction, let alone a series of messages within mere minutes. Disregarding the appropriateness of how this specific situation was handled, I would rather dwell on that notion of responsiveness when dealing with students.
As a teacher, I completely buy in to the notion of being customer-centric (and yes I view my students as customers). However real-time interconnectedness does lead to…well, clutter. It takes time to sift through every message that pops up and every question that is sent. My take is that it is part of being an educator in today’s world. Just as customer service reps and CEOs must find ways to manage their messages, so to must teachers. And it is true, we do live in a real-time world. Journalists look for responses to their queries right away, customers want problems fixed asap, and students want questions answered now. Successful educators will find ways to satisfy those demands. Because, after all, the flipside to technology crowding our inboxes is that technology has given us new ways to communicate with our classes on demand. Creating a web-based wiki community or just a plain old faq page can lessen the need for an instructor to wait by his or her phone or laptop manually answering questions. Creating a smart knowledge management system can drastically increase a student’s own curiosity for answers and at the same time reduce the time spent by faculty in real-time, one-on-one, messaging.
As you might guess, I am also a huge proponent of new technology platforms in the classroom or training arena. Being able to reach out to your students with methods that they are comfortable with is not only a smart teaching strategy but can also be motivating for the students. Next time you are in front of a class, take a look at what technologies they own. It shouldn’t be surprising when a traditional textbook/lecture pedagogy is viewed as boring by these same students who spend hours downloading content on their phones.