Friday Notes #103 — I Would Go Back to University For This Simple Reason

Maybe one day, I’ll return to university to experience what it is like to study and learn with modern tools.

Friday Notes #103 — I Would Go Back to University For This Simple Reason

I’m a curious and easily fascinated type of guy. I love to learn new things. I often think that I could or should, one day, return to study something new at the university.

I completed a master’s degree in computer science in 1993. I’m proud of this accomplishment. What I learned and did at that time is still with me today, at work and in my personal life too.

University studies, these days, from what I’m seeing with one of my young adult kids, feel familiar but so different too. Compared to today, what was it like back in the day to do post-graduate studies?

The Internet was primarily experienced through freeware or shareware apps like Gopher for browsing content, Usenet newsgroups , the ancestor of Reddit, Mail and FTP to exchange files, all running on a Mac SE, for me at least. I shall remind you, dear readers, the maximum speed to connect to the internet was with a 14400 bauds modem, a small fraction of today’s internet access speed.

To read literature and research on a specific subject, scientific articles from other universities had to be ordered from the university’s library on a non-computer-based system as far as I can remember. Once ordered, we had to wait from 5 days to many weeks before we could get our hands on them, depending on their sources and origins. It wasn’t a free service.

We also had to go to the faculty administrative offices to get our semester schedule. Then, to get our semester scores, we also had to go to the teacher’s office to look at the billboard on the wall beside their office door.

I would return to study anytime to experience what it is like to learn and use modern tools like “The Modern Internet”, and powerful apps like Notion, Obsidian, Tana, Logseq or Craft to manage newly acquired knowledge. Today, a student must use the university’s website for many things, like reserving a service, getting an appointment with a teacher, or verifying a course schedule. Study assignments are given online too, and results are also submitted online. Back in the day, it was already possible to exchange emails with anyone in a community, but now, there are more ways to meet and discuss virtually. It must be such an empowering environment, or is it?

I wonder if all that technology would be too distracting for me. I can see myself spending countless hours trying to devise a PKM system, switching from one app to another, and trying to strike the right balance between effectiveness and simplicity.

Finally, returning to university to study the same subjects I did in the late nineties but in a much different context and with much more advances in knowledge would be fascinating. Provided that I remember the experience, comparing the two would be educative. But, that being said, If I ever return to school, it will be to learn something new, something that would add a new dimension to what I already know or think that I know.