What’s the Point of College? is an age-old tension. Is the primary role of the university as an employment gateway, or as an academic bastion dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge? As the cost of college rises, so too do the stakes associated with this answer. Unfortunately, if you ask the three primary stakeholders involved—students, institutions, and (in many cases) parents, you’re likely to get three different answers, with employment readiness being high in the rankings.

This debate is reflected, among other things, in ed tech. With one indication of this faster, cheaper, remedial trend being the love affair with competency-based learning (CBL) predominantly in higher education. While CBL certainly has a role to play in making college more accessible and affordable, it’s certainly not enough and it might come at the expense of poor learning experiences. We need to focus on deeper learning and critical thinking.

Luckily, there is another side of edtech – one that allows us to do things inside and beyond the classroom that we never thought possible, and to move from faster, cheaper, remedial to also making learning smarter, deeper, interactive. These are actually not contradictory states when the medium is the right one. We’re seeing learning experiences having a greater role in determining how fast and well students become competent and prove they have mastered the knowledge or skills required.

Engaging better and more deeply with the learning materials does not necessarily mean spending more time studying, and building learning experiences that are more engaging and interactive, that allow students to dive deeper, also doesn’t mean the wheel has to be reinvented constantly. Education technology can facilitate the creation of learning experiences that are rich, interactive, and adaptive, and that can be implemented seamlessly at scale. Arizona State University’s Habitable Worlds course is one example of motivating students through enquiry based learning, with the underlying technology allowing them to engage a large number of students.

Whether college should be primarily for education or primarily for employment, one thing is clear: either way, students need to end their academic careers with more than just content knowledge- and new tools can help them get there.

Thoughts, feeling and emotions?