- Bennington College has launched a series of short-term, real-time elective courses based upon niche subjects or current events playing out, such as the 2016 presidential election.
- Inside Higher Ed reports on the construct of the courses, which are designed by professors, last for a number of weeks shorter than a traditional academic term, and examine areas like health care, politics and social justice with research and exposition.
- The courses follow Bennington's non-traditional approach to academics, which allows students to design curriculum and to choose grading systems.
This is part of the benefit of the small liberal arts collegiate experience, but it is also the kind of approach which makes lawmakers and employers increasingly cool on the prospect of what college really means. If students and faculty can propose curricula which encourages free thinking, but doesn't help for training in a specialized field of work or industry, was the class worth the time, money or progress to degree?
Colleges should be hubs for personal and social exploration, in order to maintain the human prospect of free thinking and improvement of the human condition. But they can also do a more effective jobs of tying these kind of courses to preparation for the real world, such as a encouraging workplace diversity and tolerance, or in aiding the creative thinking or leadership process to induce industrial productivity.