Healthy Skepticism–The Key Ingredient for Deep Learning

Published by Carrie O'Donnell
on Oct 10, 2019

On my first day of college, as my parents dropped me off at Holy Cross, my father gave me some sage advice: the most important thing you can take away from your next four years is a healthy skepticism. As I earned my liberal arts degree, there were loads of learning activities that helped me to practice healthy skepticism: interpretive reading, argumentative writing, persuasive oral communications, peer instruction, and collaboration. These are all the building blocks of deep learning.

Today, more of our degrees are career focused than the liberal arts degree I attained. Theoretically, the general education portion of today’s degree exposes every student to the liberal arts. But, I have found in my extensive travels through higher education that way too many core courses are anti-healthy skepticism, They are survey courses–focused on a broad scan of a lot of content, on regurgitating terms, theories and concepts. Too often, we forgo the building blocks of deep learning.

There is a lot of research showing that employers are looking for students who are better prepared in these building block areas. For example, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in a recent study, found that employers seek “soft skill” attributes more than the technical skills and theoretical knowledge that is so prevalent in today’s degrees.

There is no doubt that career-focused degrees are here to stay. Arguable, they should be. Education is so costly that it should prepare our learners for the world of work. But, to be successful employees, students also need to be taught how to be deep learners, possessing a healthy skepticism that in turn, cultivates lifelong learning. Schools fail their students if they don’t provide the opportunity to practice the building blocks of deep learning – and every degree should serve up healthy skepticism in large doses.


FALL 2020: Collecting Learner Feedback and Applying the Results

Published By Brett Christie, PhD
on Oct 15, 2020

Recently, O’Donnell Learn CEO, Carrie O’Donnell and I began hosting short webinars to address critical issues higher education faculty are currently facing. Our aim is to provide concise, actionable resources to help faculty create a more successful learning experience, particularly in the context of this semester’s challenges.

Challenges in Equity and Inclusion for Online Learning: An Interview with Dr. Brett Christie

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Sep 03, 2020

At O’Donnell Learn, we’ve always believed the path to great learning includes every learner and provides alternative pathways for different learners. When higher education shifted to emergency remote learning in March, significant gaps in equity and inclusion became evident. As institutions seek to resolve these gaps for online learning, we reached out to Dr. Brett […]

Introducing Media Lab: Aligning Learning Design and Media, All Under One Roof

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Sep 01, 2020

We recently made an exciting announcement – the launch of Media Lab! Media Lab was conceived out of a desire to disrupt the current media development model and offer best-in-class learning experiences at any scale. By bringing learning design and learning media production under one roof, our Media Lab is poised to help drive this […]