Universities are an illusion

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Kizmet, Jul 26, 2015.

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  1. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

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  2. Paidagogos

    Paidagogos New Member

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  3. Paidagogos

    Paidagogos New Member

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    But in all seriousness, I think that there is a severe devaluing to what teachers do nowadays. Bloated school administrations are soaking up the dollars of what would otherwise give teachers a living wage. They are the ones measuring and quantifying, largely to justify their jobs. Now, I'm not here to discredit all school admins. I know some do good work, but I'm just saying overall, there are far too many admins. Too many pigs at the tits, as Lincoln used to say. Many believe that technology is going to fill in whatever gaps exist in educations, whether that is MOOCS, online classes, programs, etc. Technology is a tool, and it can and does help, but I think teachers still need to be a necessary and respected part of the equation. Teaching at a local CC, sometimes, I feel technology supplanting and hurting what I do. Technology needs to continue to support the connection made between teachers and students, and students and their peers - whether that is online or in the classroom. Unfortunately, I think many admins see technology (much of they do not even understand) as being the secret ticket to fixing/improving education. I hope I do not come off as a luddite here; skeptic was what I was aiming for.
     
  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Active Member

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    I would agree with the shift away from pedagogical, classroom-based teaching if it was being replaced with facilitated, student-based learning. But it is not. It's just a move from one lousy pedagogy to another, cheaper one.

    My method: I learned from the real world, took a bunch (a bunch!) of exams and a few night courses, took my two bachelor's degrees at 21, then shuffled off to grad school. My undergraduate education took 18 months and I was working full-time (in the military) while doing it. Seemed a better way for me.
     
  5. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Active Member

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    Colleges and Universities offer two complementary, but different, services: they provide education and they provide validation of knowledge.

    Education - When you go to a university and take a class the university is teaching you. Faculty provide you with a learning experience.

    Validation of Knowledge - When you meet the requirements, to the satisfaction of the school, the administration confers upon you a degree. Very few colleges and universities insist that you only participate in their learning to meet this requirement. Some schools accept ACE recommendations. Some schools accept CLEP. Most schools accept transfer credits in some capacity. If Penn State awards me a degree they aren't necessarily taking the position that I did all of my learning at PSU. I could have attended a community college for two years and then transferred to PSU. So clearly, PSU is OK validating my knowledge achieved outside of its walls up to certain limits and from limited external sources.

    These are separate roles but they are very important to keep in mind. Rich Douglas is perfectly qualified to teach a course. He may even hold it in his living room. And if I attended that course I may well learn more than any course at a traditional B&M program. But that course, interesting and informative as it may be, will not carry the same weight as a course taught by Rich Douglas working as an adjunct at a local university. The same teacher. The same course. One is recognized by institutional credit and the other virtually useless for achieving a degree or impressing my employer.

    Why?

    The position that knowledge is good is not particularly controversial. But the institutional setting allows us to avoid some potential pitfalls. For starters, the average employer and university has no idea who Dr. Rich Douglas is. But they may know UCLA (where he might teach in this hypothetical conversation). Even though the faculty ultimately provide the instruction it is ultimately the institution which has the reputation employers care about. Consider that you can earn a "Jack Welch MBA" at Strayer University. Jack Welch certainly knows about business. Jack Welch can almost certainly teach meaningful and substantive lessons about business. But, at the end of the day, your degree would be from Strayer. Accordingly, your MBA is not going to receive the same respect and will not carry the same gravitas as an MBA from the Booth School of Business (even though the average person is likely much more familiar with the name of Jack Welch than David Booth).

    MOOCs are great because they allow us to access learning. Yet, the credibility of the teachers of MOOCs is directly tied to the institutions where they teach. But those same institutions don't really validate the learning in MOOCs as they do with the for credit offering of the same course. It's entirely possible that you can learn all about programming via MOOCs for a fraction of the price of a degree. Then again, it's always been possible to learn all about programming with a book and, perhaps, a personal tutor for a fraction of the price of a degree. So it isn't really a new concept. It's just a new delivery method. I tried in vain to learn programming back in 1999 with a book I bought at a Borders (blast from the past!). I was frustrated and I didn't learn anything. But now I can (and am presently) learn Python on Code Academy or Khan Academy for free with much better results and greater levels of support.

    My grandfather never graduated from high school. And yet, he successfully completed the NY Times Crossword puzzle every day for thirty years. He had literally read the Encyclopedia from A-Z multiple times by the end of his life. He had no degree but he had a lot of knowledge. In fact, years after he had retired, he went out and took the GED exam one day because he was bored. He scored above 90% with no dedicated preparation. When he got his results he said "Boy, that wasn't so bad, I probably should have taken this when I was still working." But in the eyes of many he was a high school dropout and nothing more. The validation function provided by institutions (theoretically) measures knowledge attained. But the absence of that validation does not indicate that a person does not possess knowledge. I love tinkering in Python. But I don't have a degree that indicates I should have any proficiency in programming languages. Does that mean my knowledge isn't really? Hardly.

    It's fine for us to think of the validating function of a college or university as being a positive thing (like accreditation for institutions). But we also need to start facing the reality that if a degree represents the totality of one's knowledge, that individual is not a lover of learning and would likely disappoint greatly in the areas of professional development and adaptability. We need to focus more on the knowledge that people have that may not be validated by a college because that is the knowledge that is going to make the difference between a stellar employee and someone who just shows up to collect a check.
     

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