Higher Ed Lab Notebook 10/10/2012

  • Random conversations at the edX institutions:  “There is no strategic discussion on this campus of the future of higher education.”  A speaker proposing massive changes: “We will all disappear.”
  • The very idea that a study exists to contradict experience draws overt hostility:  discussing Academically Adrift a senior faculty member reports: “I find that [referring to the Arum/Rokser finding that 45% of students show no measurable increase in learning after two years of college] very hard to believe. The students I see as Juniors are measurably better than they were as Freshmen.”
  • Big Idea: Daphne Koller seminar at Georgia Tech:  Benjamin Bloom’s  2 Sigma Problem is  a driver of the Koller/Ng approach to MOOCs.  It has been known for 30 years that the mastery classroom moves who populations by one standard deviation.  1-1 tutoring moves it another, hence “2 Sigma” Why have institutions ignored this result?  It would require abandoning normative testing.  Non-normative assessment is widely thought to depress productivity, but the long-term effects of future failure are not  considered in those calculations.  Bottom line is that the technology enables  a solution to 2 Sigma.  Who will sign up to the obvious challenge?
  • Woody Flowers in the MIT Faculty Newsletter writes about MITx and edX:
    • In edX’s MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), I believe we have a product without a strategy. We should design products that help us improve while also helping schools everywhere. MOOCs do neither…
    • I believe MOOCs are a fad. Right now, their purveyors are preoccupied by a race to volume.
    • Collections of inexpensive “course badges” could undermine the value of a diploma and society would realize too late that critical thinking, creativity, and professionalism are not easily adopted or evaluated via a screen. Imagine what state legislatures might do to their state’s college budgets. What would happen to the symbiotic relationship between education and research?
  • Global discussion among higher ed leaders focused on the winner-takes-all aspects of  MOOCs.  There are other possible outcomes because consolidation is not an inevitable consequence of serving new markets.  It seems to me equally likely that there will be a very long tails in which the marginal cost of defining and launching a new, specialized university .
  • How to blend:  the NPR model for online education: 50% highly produced content + 50% local content.
  • As the the Adrift-denying professor mentioned above illustrates it’s a constant struggle between data and how you feel about what’s going on.  How you feel about it has no effect whatsoever.
  • “Education theory is like a toothbrush.  Everybody has one, but nobody wants to use someone else’s.”
  • Merrick Furst in today’s C21U meeting:  “It’s all about value.  If you get that wrong then these discussions [of future scenarios for institutions like Georgia Tech] don’t matter at all.”
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