From time to time, one of my neighbors and I talk about the future of education. We come at this topic from different places. His daughter is studying neuroscience at a very large university, while my daughter graduated from a medium-sized school with a communications degree. He has a Ph.D. in a highly technical field, while I have a bachelor's degree in the humanities. He is always thinking about how technology could make our lives more efficient, while I want to preserve some of the social and aesthetic pleasures of the pre-Internet days.
Not surprisingly, my tech-immersed neighbor advocates for online education. He thinks it would be not just feasible but also advisable to do away with the college classroom and provide the same education via an array of technologies, such as video, two-way communication, electronic polling, and more. This approach, he contends, would be superior to traditional college classrooms in terms of cost (for educational institutions and students alike), efficiency, and job preparation.
It's hard to argue with that; it would be superior in terms of cost, efficiency, and preparing students for their future professions. Still ... is that all we want to get out of education—quick, efficient, lower-cost vocational training? For some people, the answer may be yes. But I still believe that face-to-face learning, with its opportunities for intellectually stimulating discussions and experience-broadening communication with teachers and peers, is of far greater value because it develops the "whole person." Students should learn more than facts, figures, and how to apply math and technology to data sets. They should also be learning how to strategize and think creatively, how to collaborate, how to listen to and learn from others, and how to lead.
This topic is especially relevant as we prepare for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals' EDGE annual conference, which will be held September 24-27 in Atlanta, Georgia. To my mind, one of the greatest benefits of attending this and similar educational events is that they serve the "whole person." The main reason to attend educational conferences is to learn what you need to know to help you and your company succeed. But you also have much to gain by taking advantage of the presence of thousands of supply chain professionals from around the world. The question-and-answer sessions after presentations, networking at meals and receptions, scheduled meetings, and even hallway conversations during coffee breaks are all invaluable opportunities to exchange information with peers and learn from each other—face-to-face and person-to-person.