Friday, November 5, 2010

The supposed future of higher ed

A couple of days ago I got a bulk email from the Provost's office, excitedly announcing the launch of "a systemwide Project to evaluate the potential application and effectiveness of online instruction in UC’s undergraduate curriculum." The project is supposed to
evaluate the applicability and effectiveness of online instruction in delivering a UC-quality undergraduate education. Letters of intent (LOI) are sought in particular from faculty who are passionate about teaching and learning, and who are curious about the roles technology may play in support.

In their LOI faculty will identify the undergraduate course or courses they would like to develop as part of the Project and provide some additional information, e.g. about themselves and their approach to determining content scope and learning objectives. In this request, online refers to courses that are largely or wholly online.

In the planning phase, selected faculty will bring their creativity and their expertise as subject specialists and as teachers to bear in thinking about the online learning environment and the course design principles that will be used for the Project. They will also advise in the development of an evaluation framework to assess the Project’s progress and the efficacy of online instruction in UC’s undergraduate curricula.
This morning there's an article in the NY Times about how many undergrads are getting their coursework entirely online. Despite the breathless excitement about online ed that the UC is trying to whip up, the real driving force is the what the Times article discusses: money. There just isn't enough money to teach all the students. So, rather than teaching them, the University has them watch a video.

I really can't generate any enthusiasm about this online ed, and it's not just because it would make me redundant. There was an additional article in the Times that elicited a "well, duh!" response. It reported a study that--surprise!--showed that students who did everything on line didn't learn as well, and scored a full letter grade lower than their peers, even those who had sat in a lecture hall with 499 other students.

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