It’s easier to point to other pages than to write out thoughtful (or facile) blog entries, so because today is Packing Day — in which the professional packers come to finish off what Margaret, Jennifer, and Pippa have not already done — I’ll simply point to other people’s thoughtful entries. Well, another reason is that the topic I most want to blog about is still embargoed.
So, today’s postings at Inside Higher Education include several noteworthy columns. Evidently the Obama Education Department wants to underwrite online courses at the high school and community college levels, which would then be “owned” by the feds and would be free and open to all. (I infer that this means “not for credit.”)This makes tons of sense to me; it’s the sort of educational initiative that I’ve been pushing for all along. “For credit” is a cost-intensive system that’s easily open to abuse; “not for credit” depends on the student’s own interest, makes available the skeleton of guidance toward deeper understanding, and can persist without constant intervention for evaluation and updating. I just hope that their express interest in “vocational” course offerings doesn’t tie the courses to transient topics and phenomena (“Introduction to Cobol”).
In related news, the government is announcing a study that shows that online (or, especially, mixed-format) courses produce superior results compared to face-to-face courses. Big caveat: if I read the article correctly, the more precise reult of the study is that the amount of time a student puts into their studies — which turns out to be greater in online courses and mixed courses. My takeaway is not so much that digital trumps carnal, but that effective teaching requires that teachers elicit voluntary interest from their students. If you interest students in the topic under examination, and demonstrate to them that they can learn what they want to (at least, some of it) if they put the time in, they will be more likely to put the time in. Online courses tend to have more elastic schedules, so that students have access to more time in which to pursue their interest. The principle doesn’t favor online education; the contextual framework for teaching favors online. In an all-face-to-face setting, such as in many conventional schools, teachers will be able to amplify the effectiveness of their teaching by eliciting willing participation in study — not a news shocker, but well worth remembering anyway.
I was interested by the article on administrators who deal with campus crises mostly because it supports the research of Gary Klein on “intuition” and decision-making, and hence coheres with my arguments relative to the Aristotelian practical syllogism, signifying practices, and ethics, interpretation, and pretty much everything. The administrators on whom the column reports knew the rules and procedures well enough, but they made their decisions based on experience, intuition, and a sort of pattern-recognition that enables them to spot the key relationships and mechanisms that would bring about the best results. Plus luck.
Last, a chain of links led me to this powerful comics-form comparison of Orwell and Huxley, with acknowledgment to Neil Postman. I’m not uncritical of Postman and his technological Cassandrism, but the comic makes its worthwhile point quite vividly.