It’s Time to Rethink How Often College and High School Courses Are Revised

More than 40 years ago, my high school chemistry teacher authored high school and college chemistry textbooks. During the school year, he updated our assignments based on the next version thereof. As an undergraduate and master’s student, I had some professors who provided us with pre-publication draft papers to supplement course texts. For most of my classes, however, syllabi changes were infrequent and usually only modified for page or chapter changes in the latest version of the same text utilized for years.

In defense of the faculty, my pre-doctoral studies preceded the era of the PC and the Internet. Despite the many technologies available today, such as Learning Management Systems and integrated applications like Google Docs and Microsoft Office, undergraduate course and program revisions are not revised as often as you would expect. With the quantity of content accessible through the Internet increasing at a breakneck pace, along with improvements in mobile technology and the Internet of Things, it’s time to rethink how often textbooks and resources are updated and the process for implementing curricular change (graduate courses are presumably more current given the mastery required). This is especially important for courses in rapidly-changing fields like IT, computer science, engineering, medicine and related fields, homeland security, cybersecurity, etc.

Developing and implementing curriculum that provides students with a solid base of knowledge is not easy. It’s not surprising that program directors and deans are hesitant to revamp a curriculum that satisfies students and faculty for its quality and relevancy. However, when examining the exponential changes that occurred in tech fields as computing devices evolved from standalone to local network-connected and wireless to Internet and cloud-connected, many of those shifts occurred as rapidly as the cost of processing chips decreased and the variety of specialty chips increased. Artificial intelligence programs that write computer code will accelerate the proliferation, connectivity, and functionality of smart devices.

Many say that today’s graduates are not ready for the workforce. Instructors will be unable to keep up with all the changes in their field and continue to become more specialized. However, a diverse team of academics equipped with readily available automated search tools should be able to coordinate with outside advisors from industry, meeting once or twice a year to review potential curricular changes to keep the programs and courses more relevant for students and prospective employers. The teams and departments that are able to successfully develop and implement a more frequent program and course review cycle will be rewarded with increased student demand and satisfaction as well as increased levels of attention from employers seeking to hire graduates able to apply their college learning to their new jobs.

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