Welcome to Higher Ed Hell

Welcome to Higher Ed Hell. This is Level One of a four level game out here in the real world. As the game begins, you are only tracking two things on the dashboard in your mind: location and schedule. Both are given to you and your job is to show up in the right place at the right time. You have no control over where or when learning happens. Learning is supposed to occur by showing up where teaching is happening and cannot happen where no one is giving you assignments and covering the material in one way or another.

This is called Higher Ed Hell because of how much can go wrong, make you miserable and give you experiences of feeling powerless. The four key features of this first level of the game involve what you are tracking on your mental dashboard. The location and schedule of where you have to show up may be:

  • Extremely inconvenient: giving you a long commute, travel expenses, and difficulty with parking and finding a seat once you get there
  • Frustratingly inaccessible: offering only a short window when you're not available, requiring facilities that are closed at night, setting up appointments when you're somewhere else
  • Profoundly restrictive: dictating what is a late arrival, inexcusable delay, insufficient attendance or incorrect location for your learning by compliance
  • Excessively scattered: forcing you to scramble between distant buildings on campus, between a main and satellite campus or between physical classrooms and synchronous chats online

All this will have the following effects which make this level of play worthy of the title: Higher Ed Hell

  1. The stress of all this torment can induce many of the twelve negative effects on your brain function. 
  2. The pressures can seriously impair your ability to be helpful to others.  
  3. You will find you are incapable of getting creative in any but the primal sense
  4. The value you get from this so-called education will be minimal at best and completely useless more often
  5. Your self motivation will vanish leaving you dependent on imposed penalties to motivate you to show up
  6. Persistent problems with your attention, retention and commitment will get worse as you discover ways to escape the pain, indulge your urges and sabotage your education
  7. You will get mislabeled, stereotyped as incompetent and presumed to be incapable of success in higher ed
Getting out of this level involves several challenges I'll explore in a forthcoming post to this blog.


  1. You forgot the evaluation piece of Higher Ed hell. You are asked to retrieve and demonstrate knowledge of information that 1) does not interest you, 2) you have no experience or previous knowledge about, 3) is interpreted using someone else's frame of reference, and/or 4)is evaluated using a format inaccessible to you within a time frame that does not allow you to think.

    This evaluation is then used to rank students rather than to evaluate what they have learned.

  2. Excellent addition to this piece, Virginia. To that I would add advising that directs students away from their talents/interests and educators who have perfected the art of being boring. Thanks for your comment!