The latest bombshell in science has created ripples in the mainstream news: an experiment revealed
that neutrinos, electrically neutral subatomic particles, were able to travel faster than the speed of light.
This, of course, is a direct contradiction of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity—and, if the experiment
can be successfully repeated, it has the potential to force a complete reevaluation of Einstein’s theory.
But this discovery wasn’t made in a vacuum; a group of scientists and students worked to build the
machines and create the conditions that made it possible. Because of the ingenuity and collaboration of
the scientific community, the world may be on the edge of a new scientific frontier.
What these researchers were able to achieve is a testament to their superior knowledge, but it’s also
a demonstration of how the quest for knowledge can reach beyond academic pursuits. While earning
a degree may not lead to such earthshattering discoveries, it can encourage people to collaborate
with others in their field to solve problems both big and small. And a commitment to discovery and
collaboration is what matters: an education can give students the opportunity to be a part of something
Fostering collaboration in education
For an increasing number of students, earning a degree is becoming a solitary task. The goal is often
simply to finish school and move on to a career, or at least a steady job. Likewise, professors and
instructors are pushed to treat students as consumers rather than potential collaborators. As a result,
classes can seem segmented into lectures and exams, with little class discussion and few group projects.
And while school administrators and instructors have to bear the responsibility of ensuring students
have the chance to work together, students must view their college education as a chance to learn
skills that will help them work with others while they’re in the workplace. Very few of us are able to
perform our jobs without collaborating with colleagues. In fact, many fields—health care, information
technology, business—depend on the intelligence and creativity of others to make progress.
The new classroom: Online education and collaboration
Learning online is becoming increasingly popular in colleges and universities, and the potential for
collaboration is becoming more of a focus. As the world becomes more dependent on technology,
students and their teachers are learning the value of online education and the collaboration with other
colleges and universities using the Internet.
Other advantages of teaching and learning online include the ability to reach audiences beyond
academia, as other professors and experts have done with projects like TED and websites like the Code
Academy. Efforts like this allow experts and laypeople alike to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and
pursue education without an obligation to earn a degree. By encouraging everyone to explore their
interests, students and experts in various fields can collaborate with each other to discover new and
exciting concepts and work to solve some of our most serious problems.
This week’s discovery of faster-than-light particle travel is exciting and promising—but it’s important
to remember that such a discovery would be impossible without the community of minds that helped
create the experiment. Earning a degree can be the first step toward discovery, as well as community—
and while the results may never be as astounding as faster-than-light travel, they can have a significant