Monday, March 25, 2013

Scuttle the University/College as Hotel?

Below is another provocative reflection from Peter Lawler, posted at "Minding the Campus", to scuttle the University as Hotel (or, one might add, as resort).  If college/university costs too much for too little gain, why not strip it down and focus on the essential functions of teaching and learning? I don't agree with everything in this post, but there are many good ideas and this paragraph points to one huge benefit of putting a college education within easy financial reach of students and their families:
My college, you might object, will have to deal with numerous accreditation issues.  But I suspect that I can keep costs so low that government subsidies won't be needed, and the intrinsic excellence of our activities and our graduates will clearly transcend the limited horizon of the accrediting agencies and their bogus competencies. Maybe we can achieve the genuinely disruptive outcome of dispensing with accreditation.
Here is the whole article:

Glenn Reynolds, perhaps the leading libertarian critic of the higher education bubble, has yet another idea for popping that bubble:

What if you unbundled the "hotel" functions of a college -- classrooms, dorms, student center, etc. -- from the teaching function? You could basically have a college without faculty: Get your courses via MOOC, have a bunch of TA's and adjuncts to help students with problems, paper-writing, etc., but basically give the students the "college experience" of living together, etc., while getting your teaching from somewhere else.

He thinks the core function of college is living together, not teaching. It doesn't seem that Reynolds is being ironic here. He shows how little the libertarian "bubble" critics really think of professors. His thought is that what some (but not most) professors are good at can be captured by the MOOCs.  But we certainly have no need of those tenured radicals who now lounge around our campuses.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Where Higher Education Went Wrong

That is the title of this good collection of short articles on higher education in Glenn Reynolds, Richard Vedder, Lisa Snell, Naomi Schaefer Riley, Nick Gillespie, Zachary Gochenour, Michael Gibson & Alex Tabarrok look at a variety of different problems and make some predictions and suggestions.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Money for Language Study

Here are two excellent resources for students who want to study languages, but need some financial help to do it.  The first is the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, which offers full-funded summer language institutes for U.S. university students and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.  See the CLS website here. The next one is the Boren Scholarships, which provide up to $20,000 for students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests but are underrepresented in study abroad - places like Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, etc. More information here at the Boren website.

Reacting to the Past at AU

For several years  Dr. John Moser has been using a pedagogical tool called "Reacting to the Past", where students in a course take on the roles of various actors from real historical events. Students learn about their characters by studying primary sources and then act the part of their characters in selected events.  It can get quite intense. Imagine debating the fate of the king during the French Revolution.  In this video, Dr. Moser and some of his students in the Honors Western Civilization course discuss the approach.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What do Employers Really Want from College Grads?

Another in a long string of articles (this from that return the answer: something like a good liberal education, preferably with an internship involved. Marketplace teamed up with the Chronicle of Higher Education to ask employers what they wanted. The employer who is the focus of the story said that his company puts every new hire through an expensive year long training program that "covers basics – like how to write an effective business document – and throws in some philosophy and history."  
“We ask people to read Cato the Elder,” Boyes says. “We ask people to read Suetonius.”
“We do that because we ask them to look at the process – the abstract process – of organizing ideas,” Boyes says.
Sounds a lot like an argument for liberal arts education, at a time when more students are being told to study science and technology as a path to a career. Maguire Associates, the firm that conducted the survey, says the findings suggest colleges should break down the “false dichotomy of liberal arts and career development,” saying they’re “intrinsically linked.”
Or, as Boyes puts it: “We don’t need mono-focused people. We need well-rounded people.” And that’s from a tech employer.

MOOCs and the Socratic Method

Here's an interesting reflection on MOOCs from Peter Lawler (at Berry College).  In considering the difference between MOOCs and Socratic-style learning, Lawler wonders how teachers or students would use  Michael Sandel's popular series of online lectures on justice.  Would watching Sandel be the homework?  Then we have an expert talking to passive students, which many advocates of MOOCs don't like. They prefer a "blended" delivery method where students have a chance to ask questions.  But if the latter is important, then we are back to something like the traditional liberal arts approach, where students and teachers meet to discuss a book they've all read.  And in that case, what use would watching an online lecture be?  Why not just read Sandel's book or better yet, just go to the greatest books on justice - Plato or Aristotle or Locke or Kant or Tocqueville - and then discuss the reading in class?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Trouble with Online College

Amidst the perhaps exaggerated hopes and fears about the revolution in online courses, it is refreshing to come across this more sober story published in the New York Times.  The central point is that while the very best students probably do fine in the online format (which is not to say they couldn't do even better with a good teacher), students who are not so talented, motivated, or well prepared for college don't do as well in online courses as they do when a teacher is present.  It turns out that a teacher who can get to know you personally is very important for learning how to learn.  Here's the whole story: 

Stanford University ratcheted up interest in online education when a pair of celebrity professors attracted more than 150,000 students from around the world to a noncredit, open enrollment course on artificial intelligence. This development, though, says very little about what role online courses could have as part of standard college instruction. College administrators who dream of emulating this strategy for classes like freshman English would be irresponsible not to consider two serious issues.

First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed.