More to Discover

“Gotham, take control…Take control of your city. Behold the instrument of your liberation. Identify yourself to the world!”

For years now my peers and I have been quoting everything from the Batman trilogy. From “why so serious” to the more philosophical “it’s better to die a hero than live long enough to be the villain”. So with all the hype of the recent release of the new Dark Knight Rises movie I decided to tie some of Batman’s ideas so that we too can summon our inner superhero.

As students we fully understand the financial pressures of higher education. If we just had to pay tuition that would be manageable. But the added cost of books, lab materials, food, rent, insurance, phone bill and alcohol burns a hole straight through our summer earnings.

Imagine if university education was free. A recent article in ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Globe newspaper outlined some of the initiatives being taken by institutions of higher education, including Stanford, MIT, Michigan, Princeton and U of T.  The article written by Margaret Wente claims that, “Coursera [a social entrepreneurship company that offers free online material] is just one of the many new initiatives in online learning. Harvard and MIT are pouring millions into edX, a joint venture that will offer their online courses. This spring, MIT launched an experimental online version of a course called Circuits and Electronics. Almost 155,000 people signed up. More than 7,000 passed”. Although Canadian university tuition is roughly one third of what American students in similar programs pay, Canada has been paying attention. The demand to offer advanced educations to interested and capable minds is an endeavour that McMaster University has took on recently, with the first graduating class of McMaster’s Discovery Program conferring on December 10th, 2011.

Although it is not an online education, the McMaster Discovery Program is an amazing and inspiring initiative that has taken McMaster one step closer to realizing the goals set out for us as we move forward with integrity. The Discovery program allows Hamilton residents who have obstacles hindering their access to higher education the opportunity to expand their minds and participate in the McMaster university experience. With resources being donated to the Discovery team from many facets throughout the city, it has been absolutely moving to see the unity and progress that has ensued. Students of the program have reported feeling a rejuvenated hunger for knowledge and a new sense of confidence as they move forward. Faculty members who were instructors for the class also felt enriched and enlightened from their experiences with the Discovery program.

While there are definite benefits to learning within the brick and mortar university including social skills, networking, confidence in public spaces  and other  components of the hidden curriculum, I can also confess that the widening of opportunities to those who cannot afford the face to face experience is also of  incalculable value. In this way, the availability of affordable education  prospects are available to students who are familiar with the lecture style of contemporary university, as well as to students who have not been in a class room for several years, or even decades. The changing face of the university is something to look forward to and stay in the know about. By looking online, we can discover what schools are offering what courses free of cost.

I understand that it might be difficult to manage our already taxing course loads and as such it may not be realistic to add on another course right away, even if it is free. However, let us think together about how we can get involved with McMaster’s Discovery program and volunteer for this noble endeavour. Do you know any colleagues, TAs or Professors who might be interested in advancing the McMaster community and broadening the wealth of knowledge to its maximum potential?  To learn more, spread the word, and to get involved please visit these links:–students-set-out-to-discover-hamilton

In the words of our favourite bad guy, this, the Discovery program at McMaster University and the free online education being offered to thirsty minds all around is what happens “when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”.

Written by: Ashley Marshall