Riding The Roller Coaster of Knowledge

Photo of Don Goeltz, DPS - Associate Professor Management-Marketing in the School of Business AdministrationBy Don Goeltz, DPS
Associate Professor Management-Marketing
School of Business Administration

We are all on the roller coaster of knowledge. Warning: it is very scary, but we have no choice and are in for the ride.

Knowledge has a half-life, so we are plunging downward on the knowledge roller coaster as the value of what we know decreases. At the same time, we are also hanging on for dear life as the volume of new knowledge increases exponentially, making the ride back up quite steep. To make matters worse, the roller coaster of knowledge gets steeper and falls more quickly each year.

For example, if you graduated just five years ago with a degree in marketing, up to half of what you learned is already out of date. Plus, you received no training in digital marketing. As a result, half of your knowledge base is suspect, and you are on your own learning the inner workings of Google AdWords.

The half-life of knowledge varies by occupation, with a steeper curve in the sciences than in the arts, but even a relatively stable field such as mathematics is grappling with the emergence of artificial intelligence and data analytics. In the School of Business Administration, we now offer a concentration in Business Intelligence that did not exist five years ago. In general, much of higher education is preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet or for jobs that went out of favor while the students were in school.

What does this mean to educators? At Holy Family the professors are very aware of the knowledge roller coaster. We keep up with the latest advances in our field by reading the industry and academic press, attending conferences, and pursuing research. We train each other twice a year in different teaching approaches and delivery methods, including online, blended, flipped, active student engagement, group activities, and student research projects, just to name a few. Every now and then we even deliver a traditional lecture, but it may be interrupted with an interactive Kahoot quiz.

What does the knowledge roller coaster mean to students? Students do need to learn the language and tools of their field. However, that’s not enough. What we are really trying to teach students is how to think about and acquire new knowledge. After graduation, students will need to continue to access new information, to discern what is important to their career, and to apply the new learning quickly. A graduate degree is helpful, but the recipients have just moved up a few cars on the roller coaster.

All of this is scary to educators, to educational institutions, and to students. But, getting thrown off of the roller coaster is even scarier. Therefore, all of us must get ready to learn for a lifetime and to apply new knowledge every day.