Thursday, August 25, 2011

Waiting for Wikipedia or Superstar University


"Harvard and Ohio State are not going to disappear any time soon. But a host of new online enterprises are making earning a college degree cheaper, faster and flexible enough to take work experience into account. As Wikipedia upended the encyclopedia industry and iTunes changed the music business, these businesses have the potential to change higher education. 

Most experts agree that given the exploding technologies, cuts to university budgets and the expanding universe of people expected to earn postsecondary degrees, there is no end in sight for newfangled programs preparing students for careers in high-demand areas like business, computer science, health care and criminal justice. 

Chester E. Finn Jr., a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, predicted that all but the top tier of existing universities would “change dramatically” as students regained power in an expanding marketplace." 

“Instead of a full entree of four years in college, it’ll be more like grazing or going to tapas bars,” Mr. Finn said, “with people piecing together a postsecondary education from different sources.” 

“I’m just waiting for a Wikipedia University, with high-quality, online, open-source courses provided by a variety of different people,” said Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor who directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “Or the moment when someone like Bill Gates creates Superstar University, finding the best professors for the 200 courses that a good liberal arts college offers, and paying them $25,000 each to put their classes online.” 

HT: Larry G.

33 Comments:

At 8/25/2011 9:09 AM, Blogger George said...

"put their course on line"

You can put the lectures on line, and the people who think that by listening they are getting an education are the natural prey of those who advance such a claim, which you carefully did not.

Also, when people watch video, they expect WAY MORE quality than me standing at the chalkboard. There is a reason that a ten minute training film, years ago, cost $10,000 or $25,000 to produce, and one of those superbowl ads may cost in the six or seven digit range to produce, *and that is what students expect to see on screen*.

Finally, screen resolution until very recently has been useless for large equations, though that is no longer the case.

For my ten minute lectures in physics, search YouTube for "George Phillies Lecture"

Having said this, internet university shows no sign of replacing the other major function of a university, namely scholarly research.

 
At 8/25/2011 9:30 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

i have, over time, optimistically bought several of the learning company's "great lectures" series of "superstar" professors classes on a variety of topics.

without exception, i have found them to be insipid and uninteresting.

i suspect that is because the real superstars don't do this.

why would you?

why would a top school, paying top dollars from its faculty, want this sort of information out there for peanuts?

i have real doubts about this model.

 
At 8/25/2011 9:38 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

the current Virtual Schools are way, way more than lecture broadcasts ...

they are exceptionally interactive and they interact with real teachers...also...

Virginia has online distance learning that is certified in their SOL achievement standards.

A kid in a rural county can take a course his local high school does not offer... and in order to get credit for it - has to pass the same SOL test that others who get classroom instruction have to pass.

Again.. I keep asking.. what is the core purpose of a human classroom (not a tutor or coach) in a world where online content - certified content is available to anyone motivated enough to want to learn?

what... for instance.. should any classroom teacher now days - have to endure jerks and jerk offs in their class room?

Indeed.. many schools are now offering expelled students alternative education in the form of online courses - where their anti-social behavior has no consequence on teachers and other students.

 
At 8/25/2011 9:43 AM, Blogger Bret said...

Already in process. See http://www.khanacademy.org/ . It's even funded by Bill Gates.

 
At 8/25/2011 9:55 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

you know.. the armed forces has a test you must take to get into any of the services:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Services_Vocational_Aptitude_Battery

that test is extremely important because your score determines what level of training you're eligible to receive and what jobs are available to you.

and the military does not care how you came by your intellectual horsepower... whether you were home schooled, public schooled, tutored by Sylvan or Huntington.. or online virtual schools..

all they care about is how you do on their test....

 
At 8/25/2011 9:55 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

George,

Students may not wish to pay for scholarly research. When they become the price maker instead of the price taker, as they will soon, they might not.

morganovich,

Don't underestimate today’s technology. Online lectures with Skype conferencing support puts the class in your living room or your bunker in Afghanistan as the case may be.

Larry G,

Your jerks and jerk offs can be students who are able to learn with a properly trained teacher. You should not give up on them just because they have given up on themselves. Anyone who does should not be a teacher.

You seem to think everyone is an instant A or B student who is academically and emotionally engaged and motivated to learn. My experience is about half are. Are you really willing to write off the other half? What evidence do you have that an unsuccessful in-class student will be more successful in alternative education using online courses? I’ve found online classes take more dedication to the learning process and not less.

 
At 8/25/2011 10:01 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

Your jerks and jerk offs can be students who are able to learn with a properly trained teacher. You should not give up on them just because they have given up on themselves. Anyone who does should not be a teacher."

I don't give up on them Walt - I actually am most concerned about the kids at the margins...

but as the spouse of a teacher who has to manage a class of 20+, she has attested to what happens when one or two make it impossible for others to learn - very damaging..
and very stressful for the teacher and a major reason why teachers get disillusioned and cynical.

"You seem to think everyone is an instant A or B student who is academically and emotionally engaged and motivated to learn. My experience is about half are. Are you really willing to write off the other half? What evidence do you have that an unsuccessful in-class student will be more successful in alternative education using online courses? I’ve found online classes take more dedication to the learning process and not less."

I note that kids that are expelled are often offered "credit recovery" via "blended" curriculum which mix online with classroom.

but there are studies out now that indicate that disruptive students, at risk students, and others who have difficulties in classroom venues do better with virtual learning.

http://educationnext.org/getting-at-risk-teens-to-graduation/

 
At 8/25/2011 10:13 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Wikipedia as the UK Telegraph saliently described it is Stupedia...

Basing online college learning on wikipedia probably isn't the best way to go...

There major lapses both of a factual nature and an integrity nature about that waste of bandwidth called wikipedia...

 
At 8/25/2011 10:24 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Larry G,

I agree that more options for teaching and learning are better than fewer options. I don't think there is a one-size-fits all solution to the the roadblocks in teaching and learning.

 
At 8/25/2011 10:26 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Larry G,

"Doing better" is easy when you start at the bottom. Try getting a 99% on a test and doing better the next time.

 
At 8/25/2011 11:48 AM, Blogger Matt Young said...

Its HTML5 vs manual white board. The classroom is doomed.

 
At 8/25/2011 12:40 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

"Doing better" is easy when you start at the bottom. Try getting a 99% on a test and doing better the next time

yeah but it's not the kids that get that 99% that is the problem...

if our biggest worry was a concern than 90% of the kids/students were making such good grades that it was going to be hard to get better.. then we'd have few worries.

when 75% of our kids fail to meet basic proficiency thresholds in read and math.. we have a big problem.

if virtual schooling is an effective way to reach some of these kids .. then we should embrace it...

FWIW - I don't see it as teachers against technology but rather utilizing technology to free up teachers to do the things that technology cannot do.

but a gifted child in a rural area no longer needs to be limited by a skinny curriculum....

and an at-risk child in an urban school - now has a way to bootstrap.

it's a win-win... if we embrace it.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:05 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Leave it to a professor to come up with a prediction for what universities will look like in the future.

He's wrong, big time, in my opinion. He's wrong because the customer of a university is not the student: its the employer. What does the employer want to see in a someone they hire? Real world experience, or the simulation of real world experience and the weeding out effect that has.

Knowledge, is secondary (at least at the undergrad level. At the grad level, this wikipedia model works even less)

I'd venture to say the future model of the university will look a lot more like a hybrid between education and industry. What media method a university uses to teach each class, will depend on that class . And in the end, its pretty irrelevant if they teach English 101 from a video, and thermodynamics with an instructor.

The universities that separate themselves from the pack...TODAY...are those which have an industry component in them (be it in research, in co-op programs, in industry lecturers, and other forms of partnerships).

 
At 8/25/2011 1:06 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Wikipedia - by the way - is not a SOURCE of information.

It provides in many cases many, many footnotes and references to the source material.

Wikipedia, in fact, strongly discourages arbitrary statements that have no basis other than the opinion of who wrote it....

but if you still distrust Wiki... then fine.. just grab the references and use them... or disagree with them....

Wikipedia is really not much different that any paper Encyclopedia - written by ordinary people except many articles are unsigned and not footnoted... and yes.. there are arbitrary and unfounded statements - and even false statements and incorrect info in virtually every encyclopedia ever published.

the moral of this story is that no matter what source you use - don't rely on a single source ..

 
At 8/25/2011 1:11 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

The universities that separate themselves from the pack...TODAY...are those which have an industry component in them (be it in research, in co-op programs, in industry lecturers, and other forms of partnerships).

and internships... etc...

but some colleges already work this way - Community Colleges do.. where much of their courses are workforce oriented.. like nursing and policing programs...

the big Universities are "brands"... they're selling you their LOGO...their sports program.. the "prestige" of putting their LOGO on your car or burnish your resume....

you don't need to go to BIG U to get an excellent workforce education...

 
At 8/25/2011 1:16 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"yeah but it's not the kids that get that 99% that is the problem..."

Unless they get bored and disengage. We tend to forget we need to challenge gifted students and those at the top, too. NCLB theoretically, but not legally as I interpret it, includes all students because if students are not realizing their full potential, they are being left behind even if they are at the top or their class

Technology is cool, but it is not the cure for all that ails, and too many people are looking for a quick fix instead of solving the problems though old-fashioned hard work, motivation, and dedication. Humans still rule at both ends of the teaching and learning continuum with technology sandwiched somewhere in between.

AIG,

Hopefully, we can get the students to be the customers in the future. Of course, that would be driven by employability, after all we identify ourselves by occupation, but we want students that are in class because they want to be there and not because they feel that have to be. I’ll take a happy air conditioning technician student over an unhappy engineering student any day.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:16 PM, Blogger AIG said...

And I'll say once more that online classes are useless. Speaking from experience, a professor which puts up an online class spends about 10% of the preparation time and thought into it, as a regular class.

How much do you think a student will get out of it, compared to a regular class? 10%?

I'll give you another example of what works, and what doesn't. The company I work for now, requires people to take Lean 101 and Lean 201 classes. I could teach that class...but I still had to take it because it was required. Lean 101 is online. Lean 201 has the same identical material, same slides, but is taught by 4 industry experts, trained by former Japanese Toyota executives in a classroom with 30-40 people from your supplier and customer base (not just your silo), with tours of different facilities, and real-life exercises to demonstrate the concepts. They are both the same length; 32 hours.

Needless to say, EVERYONE who takes the classes, admits that they got nothing out of the online version, and got tremendous value out of the instructor-led course.

Online doesn't work for most things, because "knowledge" is only secondary. And the schools that succeed today do so not because they deliver knowledge...but because they deliver something else.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:19 PM, Blogger AIG said...

"Hopefully, we can get the students to be the customers in the future. "

I don't know if I want that. In the end its about delivering the value someone else wants. The student has to deliver that value to the employer...which the student hopes to get from the university. So ultimately the employer is the university's customer. When schools start catering to "students", thats when you get things like grade inflation.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:28 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Larry G, I agree with you that some community colleges work that way. Vast majority don't, however, even in a superficial way.

I disagree with you that Big U does it that way. A lot do fail at delivering value, no doubt. But to say all Big U is just about a logo and a sports program? Not really. My school, for one, didn't even have any sports worth mentioning in polite company.

Big universities tend to do a much better job at training for industry. My university, for example, required no less than 15 months of internship experience to graduate (on top of your 4 years of classes), which they helped set up through their industry partnerships and relations. They also had many classes where you got to work on real industry projects that companies would bring to the university to allow students to participate (and get free help, basically). They also have many companies that set up branches in the university to have "incubators" manned by students...not to mention the research that goes on in the grad level.

How you teach English 101, is pretty insignificant, in the grand scheme of things.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:38 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

AIG,

The student wants the job. You have to trust him or her to do what it takes to get the job. They might need some help doing so.

You are underestimating today's technology. I can Skype with students on my Droid while I am in the boat on a lake, but I have not figured out a way to hit them in the head with an eraser for falling asleep or not paying attention as I can in the classroom.

We are starting to educate people who potty trained while text messaging to pass the time. They expect more than they can get in the classroom. You will have to supply it or someone else will.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:51 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

AIG,

I don't buy the grade inflation argument because grades are not standardized enough to use at the margin anyhow. Two students can take the same class, learn the same material from two different instructors or maybe even the same instructor and one student can get an A and the other a C. I’ll agree an A and an E spread shows evidence of learning or not learning.

In research terms, that would be the same as changing the significance level from 95% to 80 or 90% and not telling anyone, and then changing the same experiment result from insignificant to significant.

 
At 8/25/2011 1:52 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" they are being left behind even if they are at the top or their class"

no Walt.. you're wrong on this.

the ones left behind on not the gifted ones (who have a wide variety of ways to self actuate).

The ones left behind are the ones who don't learn the same way that gifted folks learn or for that matter even the way the typical white population learns.

The economically disadvantaged and the minorities (the ones that get left behind)... don't learn the same way and not only do they not meet minimum reading and math proficiency benchmarks.. they actually do much worse to the point where they can be functionally illiterate and unable to graduate or even if they graduate unable to get a job that pays enough so they can support themselves and their families without entitlements from those that do go on to college but end up paying high taxes to provide those entitlements or worse, incarceration...

we want as many kids with normal IQs to graduate with the ability to get a job that pays enough to support themselves and their families and not require higher and higher taxes from those that are "gifted".

that's the entire purpose and justification of collecting taxes from people to pay for public schools - an educated workforce...

and we are in a competition for 21st century jobs.. these days.

our kids are going to grow up and there won't be any more manufacturing jobs for the basic high school graduates.

what are you going to do with them if they are incapable of getting 21st century jobs?

 
At 8/25/2011 2:02 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

walt-

"Don't underestimate today’s technology. Online lectures with Skype conferencing support puts the class in your living room or your bunker in Afghanistan as the case may be."

i think you are trying to have your cake and eat it too here.

the whole point of these distance classes is scale.

more students.

add skype and so what?

it's a class of 5000.

you think you can just let everyone barge in with questions?

you think a professor can field 100 questions per hour long lecture?

nope.

i deliberately took lots of small seminars. with 12 students, you get great access to professors and participatory feedback.

a 300 student lecture has already lost most of that.

up it to 5000, and it's just TV.

so, even with sykpe, this either doesn't scale (eliminating much of the point) or it's effectively non interactive.

there is no such thing as an interactive 5000 student lecture with a star professor no matter what the technology.

 
At 8/25/2011 2:14 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

" Two students can take the same class, learn the same material from two different instructors or maybe even the same instructor and one student can get an A and the other a C."

that's why I like the approach the military has taken with their entrance test....

it's one standard...

no matter who taught you or where or what you learned - you take that test and that test and receive a score...

and that score is compared to all other recruits on the same standard basis..

All of Europe and Japan uses a standardize national curriculum and no matter what school you went to or who taught you.. you take the test that everyone else does and you get graded totally objectively without a subjective component by the teacher.

 
At 8/25/2011 2:16 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

it's a class of 5000

yep.. the funny thing is when you show up at college as a freshman and you sign up for the basic required courses.. you show up for your class and it's in an auditorium with hundreds... and your "teacher" is a grad student with a thick accent....

and we're arguing the "benefits" of classroom instruction here...

Walt ought to do if he teaches college, eh?

 
At 8/25/2011 2:45 PM, Blogger AIG said...

"You are underestimating today's technology. I can Skype with students on my Droid while I am in the boat on a lake,"

So what? Of course you can. That ain't what you're offering to them in terms of value.

"We are starting to educate people who potty trained while text messaging to pass the time. They expect more than they can get in the classroom."

Thats my whole point: the "knowledge" isn't the value delivered in the classroom.

"I don't buy the grade inflation argument because grades are not standardized enough to use at the margin anyhow. Two students can take the same class, learn the same material from two different instructors or maybe even the same instructor and one student can get an A and the other a C. I’ll agree an A and an E spread shows evidence of learning or not learning."

I don't buy the grade inflation argument, either.

"yep.. the funny thing is when you show up at college as a freshman and you sign up for the basic required courses.. you show up for your class and it's in an auditorium with hundreds... and your "teacher" is a grad student with a thick accent...."

Larry, how or who teaches English 101 to undergrad freshmen...is totally irrelevant. Thats also the point: education today is beyond undergrad its beyond delivering information, or knowledge. Its about something much more than that.

 
At 8/25/2011 2:49 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Larry, how or who teaches English 101 to undergrad freshmen...is totally irrelevant. Thats also the point: education today is beyond undergrad its beyond delivering information, or knowledge. Its about something much more than that.

well.. it's not if someone is claiming that the 101 English classroom "experience" is SUPERIOR to virtual learning...

if you want to say that a tutor teaching a student one-on-one English 101 is superior to virtual learning... I'd not disagree...

but if you want to say sitting in a classroom with 200 others is superior to a virtual classroom... I dunno...

I personally think a classroom with 200 people in it is a joke... in terms of learning...

and more than a few college kids..just skip it... and keep up with the material... and show up for the tests...

 
At 8/25/2011 3:32 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Larry G,

The ones who are left behind are the ones who do not reach their full potential. That's my job--to help students excel no matter where they are in "class rank."

I've been pretty clear I embrace all forms of learning, which includes classroom intsruction among all other available methods.

morganovich,

There isn't one whole point of distance learning, scale or otherwise. I had a soldier in Afganistan as a student last winter. Distance learning turned an impossibilty into a possibilty.

You learn to teach just as the students learn the course content and anticipate 90-95% of the questions beforehand. I also set Blackboard (Internet) up for students to ask each other questions and receive answers. Most classes with over 6 students has at least one student who knows the answer, and I monitor the exchange. I have had as high as 35 students in a class, but that was approaching the limit I could handle by myself.

I respect your knowledge and opinion even if I don't always agree with you, but most of us will never receive a Brown University type education. I doubt that will change in the future.

 
At 8/25/2011 3:39 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

AIG: "Thats my whole point: the "knowledge" isn't the value delivered in the classroom."

Try this statement instead and I will agree with you: Thats my whole point: the "knowledge" isn't necessarily the value delivered in the classroom.

 
At 8/25/2011 4:41 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

There major lapses both of a factual nature and an integrity nature about that waste of bandwidth called wikipedia...

=================================

Maybe, but it is probably an accurate barometer of commonly accepted knowledge, which, even if it is wrong, gets a lot more currency than the Juandos version of the facts.

 
At 8/25/2011 5:29 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

wikipedia is no better and no worse than many paper encyclopedias that carried opinion and wrong info... routinely..

at least in Wikipedia.. someone can dispute the material and when they do everyone gets told that they dispute it...

Wiki usually gives both sides - from the people who hold the divergent views...and lets you decide.

how many paper encyclopedias do that?

people have always assumed if it was written it was true.. now they know otherwise and they often have trouble just vetting info... because they always assumed .. before...

 
At 8/25/2011 9:55 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

George, you mean as opposed to the universities that routinely prey on their students to the tune of $100k of debt after graduating? Please. $1k-2.5k per minute of production is nothing, you'll see lectures that cost much more than that and will still be wildly profitable. Screen resolution has never been inadequate for equations, as long as you employed the well-known and easy solution of having two separate components on the screen, one with raw video of the lecturer speaking and the other with the actual powerpoint that he's using, as opposed to video of it. As for research, good riddance. :)

morganovich, I suspect that the real reason you don't like the lectures is because they all suck, almost everywhere. This is because university researchers don't make good lecturers. Who cares what a top school wants? A top blogger doesn't need to care what a top magazine wants because he can hang out his own shingle online, the same is true for good lecturers. Pretty funny for you to accuse others of having it both ways when you routinely do so when you talk about the university. As Larry and Walt both note, the modern university is built on 300-500 seat lectures with little to no interactivity. All learning will always be a blend of such scale and some interactivity, but the point is that online will deliver a much better mix at a fraction of the cost.

juandos, Wikipedia has its flaws but as Larry notes, so did all previous encyclopedias. Wikipedia is just the first iteration of what's coming online and it's already remarkably good: just imagine what's coming next. :) But Wikipedia itself won't be the one to profit off of that and it will fall by the wayside soon enough.

 
At 8/25/2011 9:57 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

AIG, most physical schools don't offer much real-world experience either, so you're barking up the wrong tree there. My Big U had basically no industry involvement for my engineering degree in the late '90s, whether internships or on-campus. I agree that there will be more industry experience in the future, delivered online. Your example of Lean 101 vs Lean 201 is ridiculous: I too could say I drove a Porsche once at 10 miles per hour and an Accord at 60 miles per hour, so the Porsche is a shitty, slow car. Just because your online experience was botched is no indication of what's possible. As for your Lean 201 experience, there's nothing you're describing there that can't also be delivered online, unless those Japanese guys were blowing you in class. ;) The point is that you can always fuck up the experience with a superior technology: that doesn't make the technology inferior. As for your mystical claims on how offline delivers something more than "knowledge," try stating what that actually is, or you sound like a village shaman.

larry and walt, carry on. I don't often agree with you two on other subjects, but you two clearly know this topic better than most. I will say that I disagree with larry's emphasis on nationally standardized tests, though I do think various online certifications will be a big part of the equation, and on outdated curricula of "reading and math," consisting of old books that nobody wants to read and math they'll never need to use in our software-drenched world. One of the big benefits of online learning is that it will allow for a radical rehaul of the basic curriculum that is 50 years overdue.

 

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