Flipping the School Day: A Win-Win for Grad Schools

Oh well now this is interesting food for thought for grad schools. Forbes published “Don’t Just Flip the Classroom, Flip the School Day” by Michael Horn. The article talks about rearranging the school day so that high schoolers could go to a workplace for the mornings, gaining real-world exposure to, knowledge of, and experience in the workplace.

Now what if we applied that model to grad and professional schools? You know: having part of the daytime “program” being dedicated to the students getting real-world externships and cooperative work placements, gaining real world work experience, using the remaining day / evenings to do the traditional disciplinary core curriculum?

Cynics will say: but students will quickly realize that there’s no point in them going to grad school. That their specialized degree does not serve any advantage, and thus would drop out of the program. To which I say: that might happen, sure. But really: it’s a win-win (or, actually, as you’ll see a win on three fronts)!

How A Flipped Day Would Benefit Graduate Schools

But in my view, it would force graduate schools to make progress in tackling this thorny alt-ac problem. They would be forced to really think through what employers, and what sectors would be appropriate for their students. And to build the relationships necessary with those employers to offer work placements – meaningful ones – with those employers that are appropriate to their advanced students’ field and level of knowledge and skills.

It would force graduate schools to move the needle on what more career readiness looks like for their students, in today’s alt-ac highered employment crisis. Graduate schools would be forced to get competitive, realistic, and practical with the career training they offer their students!

It would force graduate schools to be able to articulate the value-add they offer ALL students, not just those who are still aiming for the ever-narrowing target of tenure-track faculty lines.

It would help graduate schools gather real-time data on employment trends, the suitability and commitment of various employers and industries, and placement success for their alt-ac students. Which employers would this work for? What industries can the department realistically secure buy-in from? And will employers find enough value to commit to longer-term employment for the graduate students?

How a Flipped Day Would Benefit Employers

Employers would benefit from getting highly-skilled, highly capable students, who would be required to produce real work products. Employers get to “test drive” the alt-ac workforce with minimal risk at worst and at best, recruiting for certain roles and tasks would be done for them by the graduate program. Employers would get to pilot what thorny roles and problems graduate students can solve. They could begin to realize that placing such high-quality workers correctly would result in lower turnover, quicker onboarding and training, and faster paths to productivity for new hires. And though in this model, employers would have to pay graduate students, they would pay less than a full-time new hire (because it’s a short-term experience, and students can’t work full-time).

How a Flipped Day Would Benefit Students

This is easy. Students would gain actual, real-world experience. Exposure to various roles, industries, and employers to test drive where they might want to pursue careers. And to see what they actually can do with their degree, all while continuously being intellectually challenged.

More students could be funded (through the employers paying them!).

Graduate school would no longer be churning out students who are prepared only for the traditional faculty paths.

Successful placements would naturally lead to current students promoting and evangelizing their program, over those that are training only for faculty positions.

And that’s just off the top of my head, in about 20 minutes. I’m wondering how long before this suggestion takes hold, given the (slow) speed of adoption and change in higher ed.