Too much information?

With knowledge being omnipresent there are a lot of challenges, including assessment, that crop up for the higher education sector. Neha Shah finds out more.

Too much information?

Circa 1995 – An MBA student has to pursue a project to specific topic. He needs to provide analysis, with facts and figures to support his arguments. He does several rounds of the institute’s library, checking out reference books and photocopying the related material, and then does rounds of other libraries and book stores in the city too. Finally he is able to find some precise and detailed information on the topic he needs and carries out his project.

Cut to 2012 – The MBA student does not have to move an inch from the place he is to gather information for his project. All he needs is the internet, and if that does not work, the connection and password to virtual libraries, which will provide exact data in a matter of seconds.

This current generation of students does not need to be reiterated with the fact that knowledge is easily available now. He does, however, need to know a contrast of how it used to work not as long as 15 years ago. Or even 12.

Over the years, we have encountered a wide spectrum of knowledge levels from different students. There are the folks that have to start by learning how to create a simple flowchart, and there are others who are already aware of different marketing strategies. This is the other extreme, where individuals that have read a lot about their subject even before they come to class. There, however, comes a point when too much knowledge becomes detrimental.

That’s because it’s challenging to execute a plan where there are 10 different variables that need to be considered in order to feel confident talking about the plan. And by then, it’s usually too late for students with the background of so much information. Sometimes, instructors agree that it makes more sense if students come in with a little bit of the slate blank to acquire understanding and knowledge of the process within the classroom and within the realms of the problem at hand.

“I think that too much knowledge, like too much of anything else, is not necessarily an advantage. When I give out academic research to be done, or papers to be written, I figure that many students are hell bent on applying their existing knowledge to the topic, even if forcefully. That’s when it starts to become detrimental,” says marketing research instructor R Venkatesh.

“In fact,” offers advertising professional and teacher Siddharth Jain, “In many cases, assessment of students becomes difficult, because the matter is so subjective, and students tend to sway with the knowledge they are able to find. Having so much knowledge around is not a bad thing, but the problem is that students are spending lesser and lesser time on research, so are not able to apply the available knowledge in an exact and pointed manner. That’s why, we need the correct kind of channelisation.” Jain ends with the idea that knowledge should be a means, not an end in itself.

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