Get the Powers to Act from Fresh Ideas

December 19, 2012

The Crisis in Higher Education, Nicholas Carr, MIT Technology Review

The Crisis in Higher Education, Nicholas Carr, MIT Technology Review reviews many e-institutions such as Coursera, edX, Udacity, Open Learning Initiative, University of Phoenix etc.  Many professors, educators have valid concerns about MOOCs(massive open online courses).  The article shows no way out. I point out one way out here. Many more ways out may come in my upcoming posts.

The promoters of MOOCs have a "fairly naïve perception of what the analy­sis of large data sets allows," says Timothy Burke, a history professor at Swarthmore College. He contends that distance education has historically fallen short of expectations not for technical reasons but, rather, because of "deep philosophical problems" with the model. He grants that online education may provide efficient training in computer programming and other fields characterized by well-established procedures that can be codified in software. But he argues that the essence of a college education lies in the subtle interplay between students and teachers that cannot be simulated by machines, no matter how sophisticated the programming.

Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois, raises similar concerns. In an e-mail to me, he observed that the work of college students "can be affected in dramatic ways by their reflection on the rhetorical situations they encounter in the classroom, in real-time synchronous encounters with other people." The full richness of such conversations can't be replicated in Internet forums, he argued, "unless the people writing online have a skilled novelist's ability to represent complex modes of thought and experience in prose."

In theory, this "flipped classroom" will allocate teaching time more rationally, enriching the experience of both professor and student.

Here, too, there are doubts. One cause for concern is the high dropout rate that has plagued the early MOOCs.

The greatest fear among the critics of MOOCs is that colleges will rush to incorporate online instruction into traditional classes without carefully evaluating the possible drawbacks.

The Way Out I Promised

A Myanmar saying goes : "With the fish's oil, fry the fish." The answer comes on page 92 of that same magazine. How Authors Write By Jason Pontin on October 24, 2012 :

The technologies of composition, not new media, inspire ­innovations in literary styles and forms.

The Atavist's authors have not been moved, as Baker was, by the creative possibilities of a new technology. Writers are excited to experimentation not by the media in which their works are published but, rather, by the technologies they use to compose the works.

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