Tuesday, May 26, 2020

this article (picture links to a NYTimes op-ed) elevates long-standing argument, but is more than ever necessary to consider. [https://nyti.ms/3ejLhL2]

For sure, the current (pre-pandemic) model has been in free-fall for some time.  And just as certainly, schools will struggle to stay alive in any way they can.  So much of the bloat has been centered around ‘student experiences’, i.e. dorms, gyms, student centers, dining halls.  And that investment is what they’re being forced to make income-impotent with no one on campus.

If the large-scale demise of universities comes to pass, then the use of that U-infrastructure will have to be repurposed in some ways, and I almost wonder if high schools or private el-hi schools might be the winners there, especially in the case of smaller schools in the <5000 student zone.  Dorms?  Who knows, maybe low cost public housing.

The teaching and learning that this author advocates as a move that can be both pedagogically effective and open up access to the ‘other 99%’ has been the argument for correspondence and other asynchronous learning models for decades.  Like you, I don’t see this as a good thing for education-learning, even while it may be good for education-business.  Some of this author’s claims are exaggerations, noting tech that isn’t at all common—as an example, the mention of a Stanford prof using tech which allows real-time performance.  That tech exists in the world, but not in the US.  So much of the US infrastructure/backbone needs fundamental re-conception, from burying electric/phone/net lines, to universal ‘net access, to computers in everyone’s hand…  Otherwise there’s still the 1%-elite issue that exists in the until-now model.

I have long wondered (and I’m sure you/I have discussed) whether post h.s. education is a must for everyone, or if we need to boost the content of h.s., and not push everyone to another degree.  I think the pursuit of a BA just isn’t for everyone; an AA is an appropriate starting point and, if it makes sense, then continue further.  But the ‘passing through’ of students through college programs to allow college income. 

There is a ton of content that can be offered online, asynchronously.  As an example, Pattie and I have now taken three scuba certification courses which were about 30-40% online.  Definitely enhanced the in-person time, as it was almost completely experiential rather than lecture.  Same with getting my motorcycle license.  But it’s the blending that’s key, as skills can’t be learned without the experiential supervision and guidance.

I’ve been spending lots of time (too much, if you ask my writing projects) reading about and exploring different online teaching models.  While still in Hawaii, I started taking an online course on Max, a piece of software I teach in e-music.  The course I’m taking is free, asynchronous, and produced by Stanford.  It’s a lightning fast, non-stop lecture, that goes on for hours—each class is about 2.5 hours, and there are 12 of them.  It is exhausting, and the only way I can get through it feeling that I’ve absorbed the material is to constantly pause it, work on the concept, and return.  The 2.5 hour lecture usually becomes ~4 hours. 

So, how to adapt this to broader use by students who can’t possible spend that kind of time?  Lots of different approaches out there, and some seem doable to me.  But this is a wholesale re-writing of a course and its content delivery.  The ‘flipped classroom’ is at the center of it—leaving the content-digestion to the students on their own time, then either a synchronous session, or a discussion forum, or something else (which I’ve not yet found) that hones the use of that content through “in-class” practicum as individuals or small-groups.

The author of this article does note that “training” will be necessary for this transition-to-online to happen, but that training will have to happen at every level of the educational process.  The best teachers in this medium will be those who grow up with it, really know the pitfalls from the learning perspective, and are then trained in the tech through their own higher-level education.  They’ve likely not yet reached kindergarten, but I bet that by 2050 the entire culture will have changed in ways that we can’t even imagine.  And I wonder how the current college campuses will be utilized. 

Too many words spilled here, sorry about that.