Saturday, June 02, 2012

goodbye faculty

Education is the means of propagating knowledge from one generation to the next. Education has grown exponentially, both in terms of its own food-powered/make-work employment base, and, in terms of the numbers of these humans receiving it. Sadly, for the most part, education methods and results have not improved.

Education is commonly regarded as a good. It is seen as being a means of ensuring the continuing development of society. Ironically, one of its continuing deficiencies is that as currently configured, it fosters the fallacious belief that society can continue to grow without paying ecological costs.

That hallucination is coming to an end, even though few currently understand that fact. Various forms of human growth - population, economies, affluence, information and misunderstanding are unsustainable and coming to an end. There will continue to be a place for various forms of education as society seeks to power down with as little pain as possible.

Knowledge of science and engineering principles will make primary contributions given increasing demand for frugal operation and maintenance of the vast infrastructure of civilization. However, economics based on unsound and fallacious principles must soon die.

Relearning how to use only natural forces to produce and distribute food will take curricular center stage. Research will cease to advance the frontiers of knowledge about extraneous issues as it seeks to make best use of what natural capital is still available. The redirection of education is bound to head the agenda as society slowly wakes up to what civilization has done wrong.

prosperouswaydown | Goodbye faculty, hello neoliberal MOOCs. I read a NY Times article last week and was clued into a recent ‘innovation’ in education which may soon be sweeping the globe. Massively Open Online Courses or MOOCs are being produced and promoted by some of the most prestigious universities in the world, such as a just announced MIT-Harvard ‘nonprofit’ partnership, and another with Stanford, Princeton, UPenn, and Michigan. MOOC courses include video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback and student-paced learning, and most so far have been produced in the areas of engineering, computers, software, etc, but courses in all fields are clearly coming. Most of the article is techy and upbeat, but they let this quote slip in. George Siemens, a MOOC pioneer ominously said, “But if I were president of a mid-tier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now, because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course.” Get it? This is the end of universities as we know them. A few top universities produce coursework for the world and there’s no need for any of the rest of you out there. Still, the reporter tries to keep it positive and ends with this quote, “What’s still missing is an online platform that gives faculty the capacity to customize the content of their own highly interactive courses.” That’s right, we’ll still need you to ‘customize’ the MOOC course for your classrooms.

So I started to search for articles on MOOCs. It’s all tech hype and whiz-bang. I could find nary a discouraging word. And I certainly could not find what I was really looking for, which is the corporate strategy behind all of this. Why are the big boys interested? I have some of my own ideas that I will try to relate and that refer particularly to issues of peak and descent.

16 comments:

Big Don said...

If BD was hiring to fill a professional position, we would take a high-grade-point candidate, from a traditional university educational environment, over a MOOC product.  The daily in-class pressure and interchange with the instructors develops the kind of think-on-your-feet capability needed in professional positions which involve demanding high-stress meeting environments with customers, clients, and regulators....

Tom said...

Thank goodness you apparently haven't actually hired technical people, BD.  GPAs are virtually useless.  Good boys and girls get high GPAs.  They eat what's put on their plates ... if it's cut up sufficiently.  I can't use most of them.

You have to do your own technical evaluation of each candidate.  Most people out there, whatever their GPA, are disasters waiting to happen.  Same deal with "diversity" as I've tried to explain despite your lack of experience and common sense.  You start with a diverse pool of candidates, screen the crap out of everybody as objectively as possible, you'll end up with a diverse group of (mostly) competent people getting hired in.  You start by filling four of your five slots with white men who people say are "smart," then panic about "diversity" and throw up your hands, you're likely to get a crew of five losers.

While it's true that Black or women engineers have to be better than white men, unfortunately that's not much help.  The average candidate, whatever color, is nowhere near good enough to hire.  So you can't avoid screening for technical ability (and a few other key items like not being a ridiculous bonehead).

Tom said...

(I've left out folks whose family origins are in Asia, which is an idiotic omission in technical fields; lemme just say they're obviously a huge factor & leave it at that. )

Big Don said...

Did not really expect you folks to get it _____ ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, a traditional is a better risk than a MOOC-er.

Dale Asberry said...

Bzzzzzt.

The best people are self taught. Why? Because tech changes so frequently you need people who are self motivated. These people often don't have anything more than a diploma.

Tom said...

One of your limitations, BD, is your inability to differentiate between people who don't understand what you're saying and people who don't agree with what you're saying.  
Back when software was a credential-free, figure-it-out-yourself discipline the average programmer was considerably more capable than now.   Anybody disagree with that?   Is the reason for it somehow not obvious?   So credentials are very iffy.   You can up the total biomass of people who call themselves programmers by establishing college programs that force-feed homework assignments to folks whose parents want them to go there, but you don't get that much control over the real-world quality of the graduates.  Do MOOCs add more to the capable side of the distribution, or to the biomass side?  Dunno!  I've never hired anyone educated via these open online courses.  The 'graduates' may be terrible.  Who knows?  But my point is still true:  the only way to find decent engineers/scientists is still to screen them yourself.    And only the totally uninitiated talk about GPAs.  It's foolish.

Tom said...

Thanks, Disqus, for disregarding my paragraphing yet again.  It's so refreshing to see everything just munged into a big pan full of refried beans.

Tom said...

And please play credential-contest with me, BD.  Please.

Ed Dunn said...

Big Don,

The outsourced talent is a MOOC product..surely they are vampires on the American economy and MOOC must work over college grads..

Tom said...

Now this is scary.  I want people to come here, turn into Americans, and work here.  Just educating Indonesians and helping them kick our ass from where they are is not on my program.   They gotta come here for this to work for Americans.

Dale Asberry said...

Very odd Tom. Works fine for me on several different devices and multiple browsers. Is there any other odd behavior that the editor displays?

Dale Asberry said...

I have noticed odd copy-paste behavior but that seems to be windows using the wrong ole editor under the covers

Dale Asberry said...

Further along those same lines, do you know the 90-10 rule Donnie? 90% of programmers do 10% of the work and vice versa. The only thing credentials are good for is fake-make-work companies needing rock solid alibis when they fleece the government and our fellow citizens for multi-billions of dollars. The real welfare system is right in front of your eyes little man.

Tom said...

Dale,    That's all I've noticed.  I lose some (but not all) of my carriage returns. 

Tom said...

Yeah, and credentials help corporate HR departments decide how to misallocate compensation.

CNu said...

lol,

I goes out and plays tennis with the little boy - and looky what jumped off in my absence!

Um.., my boss was one of Hyman Rickover's new-cue-ler engineers and one of the pioneers of MOOC back a generation and a half ago at Stanford when it was done using CCTV and VHS. On average, for STEM subjects, MOOC enhanced traditional learning yielded a 35% increase in test scores and overall comprehension/retention.

On average, STEM graduates from military academies tend have a comprehension competence edge over STEM graduates from selective schools because of lots of help, lots of OJT and application of what they've learned, and, because there has been a now rather longstanding application of MOOC enhancement.

At the end of the day, it's not an either/or proposition - and it pretty much never has been...,

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