The “McDonald’s-ization” of Education

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McDonald’s is astoundingly successful at purveying inexpensive fast food of consistently high quality.  They have achieved this primarily through standardization and quality control. If you purchase an “Egg McMuffin,” or a “Big Mac” at an outlet in Seattle, or Milwaukee, Chicago or Miami, it will be almost exactly the same.

Standardization is increasingly making in-roads into education.  Once the realm of diversity (of opinion, thought, approach, teaching technique, classroom styles, etc.) and independence (academic freedom), the higher education classroom is being transformed into a “product” type delivery system.  The “products” in this case are the concepts, lesson plans, group exercises, assignments, etc. – indeed, the education itself.

The intent of this transformation is to provide a “standard” high quality student classroom experience  within disciplines, and across institutions.  With the student being the customer (consumer) of the educational delivery system, we want to make sure he or she is getting the highest possible quality product, and the key to this is “quality control” and standardization.

Instead of the after-the-fact quality control offered through instructor “evaluations,” ” classroom observations,” and the like, the approach introduces a far more intrusive and directive model.  Lesson Plans, indeed, entire courses and curricula are loaded into pre-packaged modules, on thumb drives (USB) or onto computers, or servers.

As in the fast food business, manufacturing, or other product producing sectors, the product creation and delivery process is developed to gain the efficiency and effectiveness obtained in industry.

JUST LIKE McDONALD’s

Just like McDonald’s where the customer can expect to enjoy a standard, high quality product, served in a clean, well-designed environment, the student consumer can expect convenient delivery of the educational product, for his consumption, and enjoyment – “satisfaction guaranteed.”

THE PROCESS

First, a product team is assembled.  In this case it consists of academic experts, curriculum designers, course writers, technology experts, product representatives, trainers, content specialists, etc.  The product development process is based on outcome objectives, i.e., “what do we want the student to know?,” “what should he learn during this course?” and “how do we measure that?”  This “beginning at the end” philosophy is crucial.  It keeps the spotlight on the product, promotes quality, and ultimately, “customer satisfaction.”

THE ENTERTAINMET COMPONENT

Gen Y students have different expectations from their predecessors, and are less likely to indulge obsolete or dated instructional methods and techniques.  They demand to be engaged.

Instructors are partially selected on their ability to “entertain” as well as “inform.”  They are expected to be animated, humorous, engaging, and entertaining.  They are expected to convey knowledge in convenient, enjoyable, and satisfying, bites.

STEAMLINING THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS

The more standardized the process becomes, the less latitude for the educator, the more prescribed the content, exercises and learning activities are, the more the business managers of the career and “for profit” colleges like it. This concept may, however, benefit the student as it concentrates on a quality, standardized, classroom experience.

IT’S EASIER

Once the instructor has mastered the technology, the whole instructional process is easier under this model.  Everything is pre-packaged.  No messy development of lesson plans – they’re already done – and done well.  No thinking about creative learning activities and approaches –  they’re already there.  You could almost do it in your sleep!  (if it wasn’t for the requirement to be animated and entertaining.)

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