Friday, April 20, 2012

More Creative Destruction for Traditional University Education, This Time From Within

Michigan, Stanford, Penn and Princeton have teamed up to offer free online college-level courses (not for credit) in a wide variety of disciplines, here's a link to their "Coursera" website. 


At 4/20/2012 2:13 PM, Blogger Mike said...

One must wonder if this more 'protecting the turf' than anything else. I'm sure the very qualified folks at Udacity have big schools a little spooked with their potential.

At 4/20/2012 2:16 PM, Blogger Andrew_M_Garland said...

What prevents 3rd parties from granting degrees or accreditation based on the courses published by these name institutions?

It would be laughable if Princeton claimed that only they could teach their coursework.

At 4/20/2012 2:37 PM, Blogger Krishnan Chittur said...

Re: Andrew_M_Garland - My guess is that there would be 3rd parties who would try that ... And why not? As long as they advertise that they are using freely available material and providing local mentors/teachers to help those that need more help than what is available on the site ...

What is indeed important is if those that take such classes/courses can demonstrate sufficient proficiency in those subjects through objective exams and assessments - if so, it makes NO difference where the material came from and how it was delivered ...

The world is indeed opening up for the many self-learners and those that cannot afford to pay exorbitant tuition/fees, other costs .. and yet get educated ... the issues with degrees and accreditation will come up no doubt and there will be yelling and screaming from marginal institutions with marginal instructors who will do what they can to protect their turf

At 4/20/2012 2:38 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

what does "not for credit" mean in reality?

does it mean that no grade will be recorded or available in transcripts?

does it mean that if you want a transcript, you have to pay for the course?

At 4/20/2012 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry G

"Not for credit" means unless an organization accredits the program, the program of study and passing a course is not generally accepted as educational credentials in the field. I can give you an "A" right here, but what could you do with it?

There is usefulness for self-study as background for coursework and passing industry tests. Knowledge is still power regardless of where it comes from.

At 4/20/2012 3:37 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Walt - could folks take tests for certification after they took self study?

At 4/20/2012 3:45 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Walt - could folks take tests for certification after they took self study? If someone like CLEP certified the program, sure.

At 4/20/2012 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry G and Jon Murphy,

It depends on the field. For auto repair, ASE requires that you pass a standardized test at their location and have two years of experience in the field. If you want a mechanic's job, ASE certification is the gold standard. The HVAC gold standard is EPA Universal Certification and NATE or HVAC Excellence accreditation. Neither field necessarily cares how you learned the information, but you get credit toward experience for completing an associate’s degree program (for example, 1 year experience for 2 years of college).

I specialize in the vocational side of education, but academically I know in Michigan you would have to meet North Central Accreditation to have a useful academic credential. You would need to meet whatever requirements they spell out.

At 4/20/2012 4:38 PM, Blogger Methinks said...


They can't give you a meaningful "A", but they can give you knowledge. And knowledge is far more important than an "A".

At 4/20/2012 5:23 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Seems to me we could develop rigid standardized tests, taken only by people with solid ID's under monitored conditions (in other words, no cheating).

Students could take college classes, or take classes online and teach themselves.

The point is, by passing a $250 test, they could prove they know a topic as well as anybody.

At 4/20/2012 5:29 PM, Blogger james said...

I often wonder how the quality of are higher education system in the united states can be all that excellent considering the fact that the united states high school seniors score something like 20'ish in math and science compared to other countries around the world. Take a look at foreign languages in many of the countries in western europe a very large percentage of the college age population speaks a foreign language fluently come on. If the students of the united states were on trial attempting to defend the high quality education of their college students they would be laughed out of court in five minutes. Yet the united states keeps turning out more and more college grads every year. The percentage of the population with a four year college degrees keeps increasing. I would totally disagree with the notion that the united staes is such a highly educated population. Just because some college student crams for a test and gets a C does not me that they know all that much about the subject that they are studying

At 4/20/2012 5:36 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

I think in order for online learning to yield something an employer would accept as proof of knowledge and competence - there would need to be a standardized assessment of some kind.

this is not that off the wall.

After all we have standardized tests to demonstrate what you've learned in K-12 and whether it is enough for a given college.

The armed forces gives standardized tests both on entrance and then for qualification for specific jobs and disciplines.

Lawyers have to take the bar exam.


what's changing is HOW you can obtain knowledge - a certain extent.. what is the essence of an instructor if students can obtain content and learn it on their own.

At 4/20/2012 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry: " a certain extent.. what is the essence of an instructor if students can obtain content and learn it on their own."

All learning comes from the students, but the instructors have to get them there. Our greatest goal, at least for most of us, is for the students to take the reins and make us unnecessary. I will find something else to do if that happens.

Remember: Only about 25% of the U.S. population obtains a bachelor degree or better, and it will probably never get over 30-33%. That leaves 2/3 of the U.S. workforce who will usually need some type of education past high school to get a job good enough to support a family.

A lot of what you guys are talking about is already being done by the industries using standardized testing. Caterpillar helped design our heavy-duty diesel repair program,they donate the equipment to work on, and they perform the exit testing to see how well we do. Instructors and students can’t cheat on that.

At 4/20/2012 6:32 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

re: what is the value of an instructor?

"they have to get them there".

Walt - don't get me wrong. I know full well the value of an elementary instructor teaching reading to 6 year olds.

But I'm also fascinated when I see a 6yr grab an IPAD and start to learn how to read also.

They are developing software now that adjusts the pace to each child and documents the areas where they are struggling and then the teacher can then look at the results and know where to target the help.

It's very exciting.

but it got me to thinking a bit about what happens when someone has successfully learned how to read (as well as articulate, etc) and the job is now to acquire content/knowledge and at that point what role is the instructor performing?

Chalk this up to my own lack of understanding (ignorance) of the kinds of things that are central at the level you teach at.

I know from personal experience what a Calculus or Linear Algebra instructor is doing... trying to get people to think in different ways about mathematical concepts...

but what about stuff that basically is memorization of content?

I used to have a geography instructor who absolutely delighted in trivia questions on the exams. It was loosely-related trivia he covered in the lecture but it was delivered almost as an "aside" and the ones who did not "know" that professor were wondering why others were still busily scribbling notes.

We found out when the exam was given!

At 4/20/2012 6:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larry G,

Some people have to be taught what and how to learn, and some don't. I find even the ones who don't necessarily need the help often do better with it than without it. Good leadership is knowing when to lead, when to follow, and when to get the hell out of the way.

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