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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

People are excited about or afraid of online education because…





I learned something yesterday. (This is not an everyday experience at my age.) I met with a group of faculty from a university that was thinking about adopting some of my online learn by doing curricula. I don’t typically meet with faculty about this because in general faculty don't care about educational change and they aren’t the decision makers anyway. I learned that I had been invited to talk with the faculty to allay their fears about online education.

I hadn’t really thought about this before. Of course, I know that faculty at places like San Jose State are objecting to MOOCs for a valid reason. MOOCs are providing canned lectures to students that are essentially faculty job eliminators. Stanford may be pushing MOOCs but they surely won’t be using them much. Faculty need to lecture in order to pay the bills. At places like Stanford, the faculty care about research and… did I mention research? They should be happy to not have to lecture. But, if they don’t who will pay their salaries? Some superstars can pay their own salaries from their research funds, but the average faculty member is actually being paid to teach, despite the fact that they get no respect for it and often do it badly. Stanford will muddle on and will be around for a long time. Not so San Jose State, which could easily disappear if State officials widely adopt MOOCs.

So, at the meeting I had with a good, but hardly Ivy League, private college, the faculty were afraid. I didn't realize what they were afraid of exactly for a while.

It was me.

They were afraid of me. They were the kind of faculty that dominates the educational landscape but not the kind of faculty that I have encountered in my professor’s life at Stanford, Yale, and Northwestern. While research dominates the life of faculty whom I have lived with, teaching dominates the life of the faculty with whom I was talking yesterday.

They were worried that if their university adopted my online master degree programs they would lose their jobs. After listening to me talk for a while (I was still at this point oblivious to their concerns,)  they started making odd statements like:

So you think that the problem at universities is that their isn’t enough good teaching?

Yes.

Your on line courses wouldn’t take away our jobs?

Hardly, we would need you to supervise the new mentors you would have to hire.

And my last and favorite:

Isn’t this the way people have always learned and universities always used to teach?

Yes. Exactly. Mother chimps teach their children by showing them what to do and then helping them do it. Professors teach PhD students one on one, supervising their work as they try things out. No one gives lectures to their children at home.

Online learning, in my mind at least, was always supposed to make learning more fun, more relevant to each particular student, and was meant to require a heavy investment from faculty to improve the nature of the university by better teaching. This does not necessarily mean more teaching, but rather individualizing teaching just in time in a way that online learning makes possible. 

So this is another thing MOOCs have screwed up. They have put faculty in fear of losing their jobs (rightly so) when the real issue is how to use online learning to improve the teacher-student experience.

Here is a picture of me doing one on one teaching with my grandson. I am teaching him how to handicap a horse race:







1 comment:

buggin said...

I had this project in high school and while at the front of the class my teacher asked, "if you could change one thing about our country, what would it be?" My answer was something like, " I would change the way school works." Back then I had this chip on my shoulder about school in general. I had all these reasons why school was a waste of 13 years of our youth. But it was written off as "being a rebellious teen." But my teacher was suprised and interested (seemingly so), when I gave my reasons. That was 10 years ago. I now have an 8 year old son, and I feel the same. My reasons then are much the same as they are now...

* students are in school for too long each day. 7 hours a day - 5 days a week is a full-time job.

*Why do the students have to learn things that really have no use in real life?
-typical response "how do we know what interest students if they are not taught/ exposed to it?"
~why not teach the basics to students and give them the responsibility of choosing specialized interest studies. Responsibility is a pretty important part of shaping students into adults, right?

*math, english, science, and history is taught every single year of mandatory school. Why? Do we really need to stop and start from year to year on the exact same area of each subject? Its drawn out and tedious.
Typical response, "we need math and english in every day life... science is needed for so many things we do... social studies is important because we need to know history to not repeat it..."
~yes we need to be able to add, subtract, divide, multiply, read and write. Budgeting, finances, savings, etc are all necessary. And reading and writing are as well. Communication is not a debatable part of life. But it does not take 13 years to do it. There us simply too much 'fluffer' being taught. Students are bombarded with info and forget the mass of it anyway. Example I love... "are you smarter than a 5th grader" tv show, proves that adults do not need the information that is mandatory to learn. We are not smarter than 5th graders in this area, but it isn't because we weren't exposed, it is because we don't need it. This gets in the way of needed info. It waste the childhood of our youth. It also makes many students feel school is more of a punishment when they could learn more important in less time, and take time to figure out what they want.

An individual with a 7th grade education can go to technical school and learn all of it in one 'intro to math' course. Same with english. I know this is true because I have seen it.

*homework is excessive and ridiculous. Why should they need to work at home if they are there 35 hours a week?
-most answers to this are "practice makes perfect" or "homework teaches responsibility. "
~why do students need to practice at home when school days are plenty long... because they try to cram so much into a day that students can't remember it.
~why do we need to use homework as a means to teach responsibility, when going to school, studying for test, etc. is responsibility in itself?

I believe that schools need to be gutted (figuratively) and redesigned to focus on important and essential information. And we need to look at the amount of mandatory time goes into it because our kids grow up fast enough. School needs to be about preparing our youth for adulthood so that they can function and exceed normalcy. We should teach needed and pertinent info at younger ages and use high school for specialized interest. If school is mandatory for youth to grow up and contribute to economy and society - why aren't we teaching and helping in that? Why pay taxes for school for children, if it isn't preparing them for anything. We should be preparing youth for life and that means specialized education as well.