Academic Rigor or Rigor Mortis?: Relaxing Standards and Expectations

Dear Colleagues:

The expectations for attending institutions of higher learning is to pursue depth of scholarship. Said another way, the focus of learning is academic rigor. In recent months, however many of my colleagues and I have asked the question is the reality academic rigor or Rigor mortis?

Rigor mortis is Latin by definition; Rigor typically a medical term that refers to stiffness, typically once the body has ceased, and mortis of death. In academic terms, the term applies to the stiffness or death (dearth?) of academic standards.

First, let’s discuss the concept of academic rigor—standards to which accrediting review boards want to ensure attention to quality and depth of content knowledge in the pursuit of post-secondary degrees.

With the increase of societal speed, accelerated pace there seems to be a trend in the lessening of standards, to ease the burden of the working parent or student who has less time and less money. The true tragedy becomes the rigor mortis of academic standards in favor of enrollment and profit, as well as convenience. Is this really the direction we want to proceed?

Let’s look at the concept of the Consumer Learner that Dr. Gillian Silver and I put forth back in 2011, where we suggest that education is becoming more of a transactional business exchange of investing monies in favor of specific educational outcomes, instead of a transformational experience where one engages in academic pursuit for the opportunity to learn.

The question to ask is what is the ideal return on investment (ROI) for those in pursuit of post-secondary education? Is one only interested in the credential—the completion of the MBA or the DBA or PhD? Or is or should the credential be secondary to the mastery of skills and learning that the degree portends the possessor to have? To answer this question, one needs to use a stakeholder approach to remember the purpose of academia—as a means to an end. Academia was supposed to be the keeper of the wisdom to prepare students for the expectations in the world. For many, a business degree in particular held the expectations of preparation for either a better job, to further one’s career, or perhaps begin as an entrepreneur in business. Instead, academia may need a gentle reminder of its mission, as the goal is not the business of academia, but to further and serve the needs of the expansion of the business world.

I cannot begin to tell you the disappointment I hear from business owners all over the world as I travel. Upon hearing I am a college professor, many a business owner has bent my ear, lamenting over the best credentialed resumes they have seen on paper, only to be disappointed in the actual mastery of those skills by the credential holders. Many business owners suggest we in academia have failed our primary mission.

Again, let us review the expectations for attending institutions of higher learning is to pursue depth of scholarship and skill mastery. Said another way, the focus of learning is academic rigor. Let us reflect upon asking the question is the reality academic rigor or rigor mortis?

My best wishes to your academic success. The world is in desperate need of your skills and talents.

Dr. Cheryl Lentz,
Publishing & Editing Consultant
The Academic Entrepreneur
[email protected]

December 9th, 2014 by admin