Higher education is dying already. Therefore, we’ll just finish it off for you.

17 07 2012

This breathless post about that Coursera announcement in Forbes is just too much. Here’s my favorite part:

“Quizzing is an absolutely critical part,” [Daphne] Koller [of Coursera] says. “If someone is explaining a complicated concept, the video will pause a few minutes into it, and ask you a simple comprehension question: “Are you getting what I’m telling you?” When we check with students, we find they consistently say they want more of these.

Quizzes. The front lines of the education revolution. You heard it here first.

To be fair, this is at least a much better argument:

“I believe that what we have is in many ways superior to face-to-face teaching in a large lecture class,” Koller maintains. In a physical classroom, she observes,”when the professor asks a question, “80% of the students are still scribbling the last thing you said, 15% are on Facebook, and then there’s the smarty-pants in the front row who blurts out the answer before anybody else has had a chance to think about it.”

This argument seems an awful lot like another story that passed through my Google Reader feed today: “John McCain: I Didn’t Pick Romney Because ‘Sarah Palin Was The Better Candidate’”

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t available? How about Richard Nixon?

Perhaps the better question in both cases is, “Why are our choices so unbelievably limited?” Ironically, in both cases the answer is the current state of the modern Republican Party.

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4 responses

17 07 2012
RAB

Right on.

17 07 2012
tony grafton

The emperor really doesn’t seem to be wearing very much . . .

18 07 2012
Historiann

“In a physical classroom, she observes,’when the professor asks a question, “80% of the students are still scribbling the last thing you said, 15% are on Facebook, and then there’s the smarty-pants in the front row who blurts out the answer before anybody else has had a chance to think about it.'”

That’s a decent point–but where’s the proof that students “watching” online lectures are completely focusing on them, and not also checking e-mail and updating their fB account? Just because students click a button in a pause in the video doesn’t mean this is a more effective method of education. In fact, I’d wager that students left to their own devices would probably permit themselves to be more distracted by various electronic media than students in a lecture hall.

Besides: what decent lecturer doesn’t pause to permit the 80% (optimistic!) who are scribbling to finish their note-taking and ask them if they’re following along and if anything needs clarification or further explanation? At least when you’re F2F, you can use the sophisticated facial recognition software in your own human brain to gauge whether or not the students are with you, not with you, bored out of their minds, in need of a stupid joke or pop culture reference to wake them up, etc.

Great coverage & commentary, as usual, Jonathan!

18 07 2012
Our colleagues, ourselves : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

[...] Tell me how you’d rate yourself.  Also, per yesterday’s conversation, I missed Jonathan Rees’s two posts on the New York Times article on Coursera I linked to yesterday.  Just read it and weep, [...]

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