In recently hearing a radio discussion regarding how much content different kinds of media personalities generate (regular columnist vs. social media maven vs. radio host and so on), I wondered: are academics also content generators? Here are several of the kinds of content we provide:
-Classroom lectures and experiences. These are geared toward learning in the moment through discussions, experiences, lectures, and additional pedagogical options. This is often delivered to students in a classroom but it can be done remotely, through video, and through other formats.
-Publishing. The academic articles, books, reports, reviews, and more go through a particular academic publishing process and they come out as packaged content.
-Advising. Academics can answer a lot of questions ranging from what courses students should take to questions about life paths to inquiries about our areas of study. Such responses are not typically captured formally.
-Additional venues including academic presentations, media outlets, community forums, and more.
If content is just information or things that can occupy the attention of people, these may all qualify. There is also competition in all of these areas; could you learn from a textbook or Youtube video or on the job rather than in a classroom?
What, then, might be different about academic content?
-The classroom setting is a unique one with potential for engaging and transformative learning experiences and communities.
-The academic training and processes that informed the work. From the time spent studying to the disciplinary-specific methods and perspectives, an academic approach to a topic is different.
-The particular formats in which academics operate more often are more likely to involve schools and academic publishing processes. This does not mean that academics work outside these systems but their work is recognized and rewarded in specific systems.
If the world today is just about generating content, do we lose something by suggesting academic work needs to fit the broader need? The fate of colleges and universities in the coming decades may depend on academics expressing and living out a satisfying answer to how what they do is valuable in a landscape full of information.