Monday, May 27, 2013
Thoughts on College (Un)Bound
I read once that it’s unfair to criticize a book for not being the book you would rather have read. So okay, this one does a nice job of glossing the worldview of the people who attend lots of national conferences. We’re still missing the book that takes the paragraph above as a starting point, rather than an afterthought. This is not that book.
One issue I've been hoping you'd write about is what effect the MOOC movement will have on what I'm assuming are the high-cost programs like nursing. Wouldn't those programs rise in cost if they weren't subsidized by the courses that will be cannibalized by MOOCs?
This sounds to me a bit like Richard Florida's approach to writing. He appeals both to elite institutions (currently he holds a research position at the University of Toronto) as well as the "creative class" popular culture at large. He tries to get it both ways: if academia decides he's not so interesting, he'll take to the high-end public speaking circuit. Or vice versa. Or both.
The ideas you mention here in College (Un)Bound fall into the same pattern. They appeal to elite academic institutions and to jet setting Silicon Valley wags. At this point, Jeff Selingo can shoot for broke and have it both ways. Hence the not-quite-solid analysis and half-hearted commitment on some issues.
What is "genuinely effective education"?
Whatever it is, why isn't it already being delivered in our high schools, on which we spend fantastic sums?
If genuinely effective education were delivered in our high schools, wouldn't it be economically sustainable on a mass basis? Isn't that the important question?
“These free courses developed by elite institutions that serve tens of thousands of students at a time will likely become the content provider for the core courses that every college offers. By using online materials to power these face-to-face courses, colleges can accommodate more students with the same number of instructors or spend their limited resources on top professors teaching the courses best presented in a physical classroom.” -- Jeff Selingo, College (Un)Bound, p. 178
I've spent a lot of time over the past two months looking into and thinking about the MOOC phenomenon, and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it.
The first thing I would say is that anyone who plans to write about them should take one and see how it actually works. I'm doing that (I'd planned to make it something I am interested in but that is outside my professional expertise; unfortunately, in the time frame I needed, I would up doing an economics course).
The one I'm taking is better in some ways that I had expected. The course materials are pretty good, especially the suggested readings (most of which are available online), but the course is basically a talking head with power point slides. In that sense, what differentiates this course from a face-to-face course is the lack of personal contact/interaction,
The discussion forums in the course (it is, by the way, a survey of world economic history since roughly 1800--the beginning of the industrial revilution) are active, but there's a lot of waste in them. In the absence of someone knowedgeable to guide the conversations, a lot of it devolves into unsupported opinion, or political rants (that does get quashed pretty quickly, though). A number of the students do seem to know what they are posting about, which is good (I've tried to stay out of most of it...).
Tha assignments (of which there are 3) seem to be well-constructed, but clearly they are not well-suited to assessing learning in anything like a comprehensive way. And they are peer-graded, which means it's a crapshoot.
But to talk about the promise or pitfalls withough experiencing one seems to me to be a bit overweening.
All of that will require a faculty member's involvement to coordinate everything, and a raft of TAs (just as we have now in large lecture classes).
And I think MOOCs will eventually split into a three-tier arrangement:
Tier 1: MOOC as entertainment. If you're familiar with the products of The Learning Company, they the concept should be immediately understandable. Enrollees who want this will pay a small fee (e.g., $25?).
Tier 2: MOOC as recognition. Many MOOCs currently offer "certificates of completion" to enrollees who do the prescribed work. These are not equivalent to course credit and will never be "transferable" in that way. Given the need to devise and grade some assessments in some way, I'd expect enrolles in this tier to pay somewhat more, maybe $50 or so.
Tier 3: MOOCs for credit toward a degree. Here's where the institutional component comes in. These would be enrollees who are in degree programs somewhere, and where their institution agrees to incorporate the MOOC into their curriculum. Monitoring/conducting discussions, grading, and supplementary material will be done by the institution. And the fee will be equivalent to tuition at that institution.
That is, of course, just my guess. But I do think the on-campus, 400-student intro lecture section in intro psych, or intro soc, or intro econ, or intro to American history/western civ/world history is about to die.
Because high schools have been turned into day care centres for teenagers who don't want to be there — a place their parents can park them where there will be at least minimal supervision.
And don't get me started on standardized testing and how the drive to 'boost test numbers' has sucked what little attention was going to academics…
thanks for sharing..
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