As a current undergrad at UC Berkeley, they've moved all classes here online , and exams are either being postponed or converted to take-home assignments. I'm currently accessing lectures through Zoom.
If these actions are successful in curbing the virus' spread, most people won't appreciate how bad things could have really gotten.
One example is the Knight Capital trading disaster, where they eventually noticed (I don't remember the exact number) X minutes after the runway trading bot had been put into place, and shut it down, but got blamed for not shutting down the trading soon enough.
Can't find any links about this right now though :(
It would be like going to doctor and blaming the doctors for why I was sick.
To be fair, I am sure doctors experience that a lot.
I also blame him because, over the years, other patients of him had trouble for his sloppy work.
I absolutely praise the dentist I went after that one, who made his best to fix everything, explained me the pros and cons of every decision he made, and ultimately got me top notch (as best as could be done).
Sorry for he weird "counterpoint", but the example could be open to ambiguity. I still get the point: don't blame the guy fixing things when it's someone elses responsibility.
In my case: I'd be wrong to blame the 2nd dentist for the mistakes of the 1st.
Everyday people in the leadup to y2k assumed it meant that every computer would somehow explode. Almost nobody stopped to actually reason through the real life consequence of a program getting the date and time wrong.
Fast forward to 2020, we still have Feb 29 bugs around (I saw a few posted on twitter, none in person). The response back then was huge and adequate, but totally underappreciated as time went by.
In the American context, a successful response would be seen by the uninformed as an overreaction. The administration responsible (federal or state) would be blamed for the economic damage and voted out.
It would take a very strong leader who was willing to act without thought to reelection to really meet the crisis head on. That would be ... rare.
This is what worries me the most. Is there a name for this bias? Seems similar to survivorship bias, I'm sure it's seen across all kinds of contexts.
Seems likely. Since solving the problem would make it look like there was no problem in which case what was the point of all the work.
This is also one of those cases where you have to overreact to begin with because once you have an actual problem its too late.
Consider raw r0 of 3.0. Each case infects three other people. But as more and more of the population gets infected and acquires immunity the infection rate drops. Say half the population is immune due to prior infection. The rate is now half r0 = 3.0 * 0.5 Left unchecked 66% of the population will get infected and then the disease dies out.
Social distancing, hand washing, quarantine reduces r0. And reduces the total number that the virus can infect before is dies out. Cut r0 from 3.0 to 1.5 and the number of infected goes from 66% to 33%.
In the US that would be 100 million people. And maybe a million fewer deaths.
Scuttlebutt is China and Taiwan due to high early compliance have r0 down to about 0.3, which means the epidemic is in a state of exponential crash.
If a vaccine wasn't even in the picture flattening the curve would help with these things.
They’re eventually going to lift quarantines after it burns out in different areas.
There are students who are graduating this spring and the skills they learn in upper division or capstone lab classes are some of the most important skills they will learn at school. You can’t just cancel the classes (or those students won’t graduate), you can’t do a very good job at all teaching them online... What can you do? We haven’t figured it out here at my institution, and it looks like nobody else has figured it out.
Or, refund this semesters’s tuition, room, and board, and give everyone a do-over until next fall. (I am assuming the virus will burn out in 2-3 months.)
Maybe the best outcome would be radically improve remote learning, this time with full institutional support.
This is a really optimistic assumption. I hope you're right, but I would hope no political unit is making plans based on it.
Not excited to install a rootkit on my computer to take finals, but oh well.
"No non-religious head coverings"
Which makes me think that they record a video of you while you're taking it, which is kind of eerie.
That being said, it won't stop anyone who has a USB webcam you can just unplug, unless the software requires you to have a webcam plugged in and pointed in the right direction.
- Someone will watch you
- The entire session is recorded
- You hold up multiple forms of ID and rotate it / tilt it
- It's effectively a keylogger + mouse tracker + eye tracker + ..., basically malware
- Triggering any security features like looking "to the side or down" will result in human intervention asking you to do a 360 degree view of your room
- You are not permitted to cover or pause the video stream and you may be randomly asked to do things like blink or hold up fingers
- Yes, they can remote control your device
Unless maybe the requirement is to catch you looking elsewhere?
Israel is the best example right now. They have the strongest reaction of any country, essentially closing their borders, but their people don't seem to be outraged, at least not yet.
The big question this begs:
If there is no refund being offered for the content shifting online from in-person, why have in-person at all?
Is room and board going to be refunded?
If courses being taught online is an acceptable substitute, why have caps on admission at all?
Edit: Understood that infinite sized classes aren't workable for human intensive grading, interactions, etc.
I'm an MIT grad and know the benefits of being on campus. In fact I spent more time in the lab than I did in classes or my dorm and that just isn't possible online.
My son's school (Courant) has sent everyone home too, with online substitute, but like MIT that only really works for undergrads.
If I was in that situation today, I'd prefer the semester be outright cancelled and replaced with a summer semester.
I hope MIT really does take this stuff on a case by case basis. The student who can relocate and be back on their feet in a day will be at an advantage compared to the student who takes longer to settle from the shuffle.
Stack ranking in employee evaluations is unfair, and is the same thing as curve grading.
Grading on a curve allows everyone to get a perfect score. Stack ranking means that if everyone is perfect only one person can get a perfect score.
They are in fact opposites.
Also, if half the class fails, that is a teaching failure, not a student failure. The teacher failed to teach the material and/or failed to write a good test.
At Berkeley, if 1/2 the class failed, the professor usually wasn’t allowed to teach that class anymore.
Sure they are. The best get a raise/A, the worst get fired/F.
> that is a teaching failure, not a student failure
Let's put it another way. Do you want the pilot flying you across the Atlantic 747 to be graded on a curve where he happened to be better than some of the other students, or graded against "met the standard / did not meet the standard"?
Me, I want "met the standard" every time for someone I trust with my life. The teacher failing to teach is not a reason to pass a pilot who didn't meet the standard.
> Sure they are. The best get a raise/A, the worst get fired/F.
That's actually not at all how stack ranking works. The best might get an A, or a B or a C, and the worst might get a B or a C or a D or an F.
An example: You give a test that is out of 120 points. Here are the scores:
P1 = 100
P2 = 99
P3 = 98
P4 = 97
P5 = 96
Under a curve grading, they all get A's. Under objective grading, they all get B's. With stack ranking:
P1 = A
P2 = B
P3 = C
P4 = D
P5 = F
Should P5 be given an F or get fired? That's what happens in stack ranking.
> Let's put it another way. Do you want the pilot flying you across the Atlantic 747 to be graded on a curve where he happened to be better than some of the other students, or graded against "met the standard / did not meet the standard"?
A pilot is not the same as your undergrad physics class. The pilot was taught by instructor who has to teach in a specific way, often using specific words, developed over many years by a committee of pilots. They then take a test that 100s have taken over many years, written by a committee of pilots.
The pilot instructor has very little leeway on how they teach the class and has no leeway in the test.
Same with medical boards, or any other standardized test.
But your physics professor probably wrote the curriculum themselves, teach it a different way every semester, and use a slightly different test every time.
And as much as you wish it were true, none of your undergrad classes are life or death scenarios.
So yeah, it makes sense to grade on a curve for an undergrad class.
I think you misunderstand what curve grading is.
> none of your undergrad classes are life or death scenarios.
Except that bridges fall down and kill people when designed by incompetents. You bet your life every day on the competence of engineers.
Employers are NOT interested in curve ranking. They're interested in a degree as a mark of meeting a standard. Caltech's policy is that their graduates meet a standard of quality. A curve is not a standard. Someone who gets sympathetic good grades because of a bad teacher is not of interest.
If you don't accept that, there are plenty of other schools to attend.
But I suspect that if you think about it, you expect a standard of quality in everything you buy - goods and services. You're not interested in a flexible curve.
I think you do. Curve grading is where the top score in the class determines the max score, and everyone is graded accordingly. It's a way of making sure that the test isn't so bad that even the top student can't get a perfect score.
> Except that bridges fall down and kill people when designed by incompetents.
That's true. That's why people who design bridges have to take standardized tests with objecting grading standards designed by groups of experts.
But that has nothing to do with the grading policy of undergrad classes.
> Employers are NOT interested in curve ranking. They're interested in a degree as a mark of meeting a standard.
No, they're interested in a degree as a mark of someone who can finish something that takes four years to complete. I don't care if you went to Caltech or MIT or Cal State Northridge, as long as you can write code.
> But I suspect that if you think about it, you expect a standard of quality in everything you buy
Again true, but I'm not buying people. College graduates are not a product to be bought and sold.
- the people you meet
- the brand name on your resume
- the psets and structured guide to learning hard things
Notice that the last two still work over Zoom. If I were in the hard sciences this might be different but as a professional Software Engineer, the classes were almost entirely irrelevant to me.
Maybe your specialty is a different case, but there's no way on Earth that I would have gotten access to the equipment I used without the lab. Doesn't have to be MIT's lab, but someone has to have the ridiculous amounts of money necessary to construct and outfit advanced research labs if a student is to replicate that experience.
And that hypothetical, "someone", would have been unlikely to allow me to use it simply because I taught myself a bit about, say, nanomaterials online.
Let's be frank, if you need a lab, you're screwed.
Hundreds of thousands of people have graduated from MIT.
I don't think you can categorically say in-person class is a waste for everyone.
As with many things in life, YMMV. Your one anecdotal experience is not going to be the same for everyone.
I did skip most of the big lecture freshman classes (I was in ESG) which would not have worked for me (my HS graduating class was 39) but apart from them the classes tend to be relatively small.
I’ve never really noticed the value of the brand name but perhaps that’s a sign that it works so well :-(
I suspect a lot of people believe that
If MIT switched to an online-only format, that would erode the value of the latter (which, remember, is social proof, not something which is notoriously rational), while open enrollment would obliterate the former.
A semester of remote teaching won't damage the brand.
I said "value", and that conflated value to oneself with value to and as perceived by others.
Which are definitely not the same thing, and I was referring to the market value of a degree from MIT.
I don't happen to think half a semester of working remote is going to do much to dampen the intrinsic value of an elite education, either. It will mark the cohort as remarkable, having shared the distinctive experience of being Extremely Online together.
Not in my case (Caltech). It was clear when I got an industry job that a BS from Caltech was at about the same level as an MS from other institutions. But if the institution is large enough, one can get an elite education by careful selection of the classes and professors, and doing the maximum in those classes rather than just getting by.
For example, take honors calculus, not weeder calculus. Don't avoid the math heavy classes. Don't waste your time with easy-A classes. If you don't find yourself studying 6 hours a day, you're not getting an elite education.
Seems like an unhealthy attitude to me. I really dislike the perspective that education is at its best when the learning is most difficult. The best teachers are the ones that make things as clear and digestible as possible. Bad teachers are the ones that want to see you sweat.
It's not fundamentally different from athletics. If you want to be a good athlete, you're going to have to work your tail off. If you want to be an incredible engineer like Kelly Johnson, that ain't going to happen if you party through school. Nor would you have any chance of working with an engineer like him.
So ask yourself - do you want to design rocket engines? or cup holders?
BTW, as for health, I came out of Caltech a far more confident person than when I entered. I knew what I could do, and was happy about it.
Now, I'm not arguing that hard work has no merit. Clearly, working hard can increase your rate of knowledge-consumption and get you further faster. For some people, you included it seems, that works out great. For others, the ever-present "110% or bust!" attitude can have serious mental consequences. Accepting that education can happen without rigor won't harm those that intend to push themselves anyway, but it sure would benefit the constantly stressed-out students.
No pain, no gain. You're simply not going to become an expert in any field, mental or physical, without a lot of hard work.
This is absolute nonsense and a garbage mentality, akin to gate keeping.
Of course, there were a couple unicorns (like Hal Finney) who didn't study and aced the tests, but they are as far beyond you and I as we are from a first grader. Me, I tried studying less, and it simply did not work.
I also have a friend who flunked out of Caltech. About 10 years later he asked if he could try again, and they said sure. He got straight As this time. I asked him if he was any smarter - he laughed, and said no, just that the second time he was ready to work.
I'd guess that if you attended an elite institution and got a degree without studying 6 hours a day, you're either a unicorn or a victim of the institution's marketing department.
Education doesn't stop with the degree. Good engineers never stop studying to expand their expertise.
I've been working for several decades with other engineers. It's not too hard to see who are the good ones and who aren't. The "aren't" are the ones who solve problems using trial and error, and when they get it to work they don't bother figuring out why it's working.
The "are" engineers will do whatever is required to find out what is actually wrong, work to understand it, and will do a targeted fix.
What kind of engineer you want to be is entirely up to you.
One thing you can do is take the youtube MIT CS courses. It's free. I've taken some of them to fill in gaps in my education.
An MIT grad will always have more gates open than an NCSU grad. You need to do other things in your career to lessen the gap. There is no moving past this point no matter who you ask. And no the amount of hard work you do doesn't matter. Everyone of the "elite" school students work hard.
In the immortal words of Amy Klobuchar “are you calling me dumb?”
> You need to do other things
in your career to lessen the gap.
Such as what exactly?
All your posts here disparage higher "brands" than what you have.
That's neither here nor there really. I'd appreciate an answer!
Mit was probably the first offering serious online courses with recognised certification. You can do their micromaster if you want:
So it's not like they don't offer the option. They also published opencourseware if you don't need the paper itself.
I'm not saying they don't provide value locally, but they do push for online education themselves and literally provide you resources for free.
Most assignments are not scored in an automated manner, and the number of staff is not unlimited.
Remote students and remote adjuncts--what do you need administrators for? Ah, yes, to collect the tuition, attend the luncheons, and issue the credentials.
It would at least put a small dent in the oversupply of Ph.D. holders in some fields.
Elitism works in a limited setting, probably not in an limited/open setting...
That prestige problem is especially dire with medical colleges in the US. The patient community (aka everybody) desires more numerous, cheaper, and better-distributed physicians, but the physician community desires higher-paying positions that are more costly to fill, with a remuneration premium for working in less desirable territories. So only some hospitals are teaching hospitals, and their residency programs have limited slots. (I think the Army/VA system could possibly break that cartel, by ordering qualified recruits that sign up for a longer term of service to become physicians, and routing their medical training outside of the civilian system. It would certainly drop ER visit prices when those stabilization specialists and trauma surgeons get their 20 and start to "retire" out to civilian jobs.)
If universities are going to order students and faculty to leave campus, they are removing a huge piece of their competitive advantage over universities that already have mature distance-learning programs, but with lower tuition. If MIT takes its campus off the table, the thing they have left is their brand name. That's enough to sustain them, specifically, but there aren't many other universities that could get away with it. The one just up Massachusetts Avenue, maybe, and a handful of others. And they still have to pay for grounds and facilities upkeep, even if they aren't using them as much.
Any other distance learning program could probably hire 1 remote adjunct for every 10-15 remote students and outdo "two sections of lecture hall plus office hours" tenured professors that have a 1:300 ratio. They can use some of the savings for cheap test proctors at distributed--and possibly also shared--evaluation sites. If every surplus Ph.D. can get a part-time remote teaching-support gig for 20 hours a week at $25/hour, they can still keep working the jobs they already have, that don't require their advanced degrees, because their graduate universities did not restrict Ph.D. output to just what the industry could bear.
A degree from MIT might open more interview doors, but there is less difference in switching between schools like Rose-Hulman and Georgia Tech. If campus location is no longer a factor, any student could study at any school. Schools that want to survive under such competition would have to bring down costs, fast.
Online doesn't mean that you have unlimited capacity for students. You still need to grade homework and exams, offer virtual "office hours", answer emails.
The school where I earned my master's degree had two programs, one online and one in-person. There were several differences, but the most salient one was that the in-person program conferred an academic degree while the online one conferred a professional degree, and the online one had significantly higher tuition.
The fact that many state universities have policies limiting how rapidly academic degree programs' tuition can increase, but not the professional ones, is, I assume, just a coincidence.
But all of the above can be done by TAs, and do not need a professor. Professor time is much more limited.
My university had a course where an external professor would deliver a mixed online/offline course. Videos were available on institute website. Professor would hold a class every week to go through that week's contents and clarify student doubts.
This saved a ton of effort on the professor's part.
There is a reserved scheduled class room for the class, but there is no organized zoom meeting yet (or maybe not use zoom after all?).
There is a mail box to drop of home work assignments, but nobody has figured out where students should email things for grading (the prof, the TA or a function account?).
The prof has a set of notes that (s)he writes onto the white board, but not a set of slides to be emailed out. Or might have electronic slides, but they contain annotation that should not be sent out to students.
Everybody has to figure out how to make sure that 200 students can join the zoom session, but have their mic muted. And know how to unmute when they want to ask a question.
Exams for the mid terms might be printed but now need to be (e)mailed. And how do you prevent cheating in an exam that was meant to be taken under supervision with pen(cil) and paper only. Of course you can create an open-book exam where google doesn't help, but that is extra effort. And does not prevent collusion between students.
Somebody need to figure out how to replace lab courses.
And the list goes on. All of that can be fixed. And after a couple of semesters an online class might be no more (or possibly even less, but that is not proven) work than the current offline course. But switching in the middle of a semester with ideally no downtime IS a lot of extra effort.
I'm honestly not sure what you do at this point. Finish up the semester as best you can and just give everyone a Pass? Force people to attend a summer session whether or not they can afford to not be working? There aren't any good options.
We are getting to the point where lectures should be mandated to be recorded and put into the public domain, and the University's value proposition in admission, tuition, and residence should be the everything else involved which could raise the focus away from re-doing the same lectures over and over.
If my undergrad CS Theory prof had used recorded lectures, it would've been great for 5 of us, and terrible for the other 30 or so. There were sections that they just did not get and needed repetition or clarifying examples. What's more, the students often don't know what they aren't understanding (sometimes they do, but often not). So they don't know how to ask for clarification because they don't know what needs clarification.
Waiting for test, quizzes, or homeworks is often too late. What worked out well for my classmates was the help of the professor and a couple of us who got the material faster. The three of us could observe the class and identify what material (by non-verbal reaction or by questions) needed to be delved into more. Try doing that with a set of recorded lectures.
In the end, perhaps you have a sufficiently complete set of recorded lectures that cover everything. But you still have the challenge of identifying what students need help with and helping them immediately, instead of failing a large portion of a class and hoping you do better the next time.
I mean, this is literally the waterfall vs agile debate. Classrooms are agile and responsive to student needs, recorded lectures are not.
How about recorded lectures and in-person small group recitations? Or longer office hours? Obviously you have to change the methodology of learning a bit, but I'm sure it can be figured out.
In any case undergrad level science lectures are basically a one-sided info dump where the lecturer is lucky to get so much as an ACK that someone is listening.
Put it on the internet?
Some minor student issues that can be tolerated when lecture is not recorded, will be completely unsuitable in recording.
Does that really make sense? I thought MIT was a private institution. The research is often publicly funded but I don't believe that's the case for the tuition.
There isn't really a good reason other than some people being more disciplined when there's a human instructor that they see face to face every couple days. Plenty of people self-teach from MOOCs, MIT OCW, or just buying the textbooks and working through the exercises and get just as good an education.
When you go to an elite college, you're really paying for the degree. This is also why there are caps on admission: it creates scarcity value for graduates from that university. When there are fewer graduates with a credential, companies that want to employ them have to compete for a limited number of human resources, which drives up wages. Additionally, the university can impose selection bias on matriculating freshmen who will eventually receive the credential, which helps maintain the reputation of the university's graduates.
If you don't maintain the selectivity of the institution, you end up with what's happening in the mid-tier for-profit colleges, where students take out massive loans for a degree but then it doesn't really improve their employment prospects much. If everybody has a college degree, its financial value is basically 0.
Are there studies (not from the MOOC providers themselves) that demonstrate that this works?
I got the impression that the MOOC thing wasn't working out as well as expected. The hype around them certainly seems to have cooled off since their peak a few years ago.
My hunch is that it's only a small subset of people that thrive with MOOCs.
Each semester I teach a graduate seminar that typically has about a dozen students, all sitting around one table in a cramped room. The format is ideal for discussions, as we can all see and hear each other and read each other's expressions and gestures in real time. (Needless to say, the format also seems ideal for spreading coronavirus infections.)
If I had to, I could teach the seminar using Google Meet or a similar service, though it would be difficult to replicate the spontaneous interaction of the in-person discussions. However, there might be advantages to online discussions, such as allowing people more time to compose their thoughts before speaking or writing. I won't know until we try.
My bigger concern is with two freshman courses that I am scheduled to teach starting in April. While graduate students are already socialized to university life, first-year undergraduates are being exposed to it for the first time. I worry how well newly admitted students would be able to adjust to the university if they are still sitting at home by themselves in front of their computers. (Most students at our university live at home or in their own apartments, not in dormitories, so the housing issue is not so serious.)
Other commenters here have noted the difficulty of moving lab classes online. To those I would add foreign-language classes that emphasize spoken interaction and practicums in subjects like nursing, medicine, physical education, etc.
In some ways this is the great strength of capitalism, because it provides an incentive to adopt innovations that helps overcome the status-quo bias that most humans have. But it also encourages firms to restrict access to their suppliers and tear their competitors down rather than building everybody up.
Have you read any Guy Standing?
“ …today, a tiny minority of people and corporate interests across the world are accumulating vast wealth and power from rental income, not only from housing and land but from a range of other assets, natural and created. ‘Rentiers’ of all kinds are in unparalleled ascendancy and the neo-liberal state is only too keen to oblige their greed.
Rentiers derive income from ownership, possession or control of assets that are scarce or artificially made scarce. Most familiar is rental income from land, property, mineral exploitation or financial investments, but other sources have grown too. They include the income lenders gain from debt interest; income from ownership of ‘intellectual property’ (such as patents, copyright, brands and trademarks); capital gains on investments; ‘above normal’ company profits (when a firm has a dominant market position that allows it to charge high prices or dictate terms); income from government subsidies; and income of financial and other intermediaries derived from third-party transactions.”
What are some of your go to authors, areas of interest? Or in other words, who are you grateful for, for their influence on you?
> When you go to an elite college, you're really paying for the degree.
In many cases, you go to an elite college to pay for the experience to learn from, engage with, and collaborate with the world's best scientists, thinkers, engineers, and professors. In some cases, like Rice, if your parents make less than 130,000 a year - you don't pay a dime. Undergraduate tuition is pennies to these institutions whose endowments are orders of magnitudes larger than the revenue from tuition. I look at it like this... My degree cost quite a bit a year... in exchange for that I got to study, learn, work in labs with scientists doing things that without me paying the entry fee.. I would have never been able to do. It's not like you can just walk up to a group of NASA researchers and IEEE fellows and say... hey can you send me GBs of data from the Huygens probe and provide me hundreds of thousands of dollars of computing power to play around with that data? Will you let me use your multi million dollar clean room to learn about lithography? Will you let me use that nanotube growing lab to learn about growing carbon nanotubes? If you are just paying for the degree you are doing yourself an offensive disservice.. and I would suspect one day you will look back and realise what a waste you made of the opportunity.
> This is also why there are caps on admission: it creates scarcity value for graduates from that university. When there are fewer graduates with a credential, companies that want to employ them have to compete for a limited number of human resources, which drives up wages. Additionally, the university can impose selection bias on matriculating freshmen who will eventually receive the credential, which helps maintain the reputation of the university's graduates.
There are caps on admissions for a wide variety of reasons - but largely because the faculty of the individual schools within these Universities are working to create a culture and a learning and discovery environment.. these goals are threatened when you have too many students to support while at the same time supporting the research that actually makes the university a worthwhile place to study.
> If you don't maintain the selectivity of the institution, you end up with what's happening in the mid-tier for-profit colleges, where students take out massive loans for a degree but then it doesn't really improve their employment prospects much. If everybody has a college degree, its financial value is basically 0.
I'm going to argue that what is happening at the mid-tier for-profit colleges is that they are actually not providing their students with a quality education or network that improves their employment prospects.
You're paying for the degree. If you want to take interesting courses, learn cool stuff, socialize with intelligent students, and meet Nobel-prize-winning professors, most professors will let you audit their course even if you're not a student at the university, particularly if you seem genuinely interested in the material. (Hell, I'd taken half a dozen college courses as a high-school student before I even got to college.) It just won't count toward the degree, because the colleges know that their business model is selling a limited credential that the rest of the world values very highly.
I dunno about Amherst but Rice students and alumni also have insane access to the worlds coolest toys - https://sea.rice.edu/instruments/all
Perhaps for some, but everyone I knew while I was an Ivy undergrad was doing their level best to take advantage of the benefits of that amazing environment of smart, educated people, both the profs, the visiting speakers, and the other students. Since then, it has been what I've learned, not what signaling I could do that has helped me most (tho I'm not the most social person, so YMV).
One thing I really learned there (among other places), is that it really pays to learn from the best -- you have to go through a learning process, and best to learn it once going directly to the top level, vs. a watered-down version and then re-learning. (of course, you can't instantly jump to the top level, but just getting the clues form those who work at the top levels as you work your way up the curve is a huge benefit).
Yet my above comment, a factual 1st-person account -- nothing more, nothing less -- earns multiple downvotes with no dispute/discussion.
Evidently, anti-intellectualism and 'anti-establishment' virtue-signalling is dominant even here on HN... Sad to see. (yup, let the downvotes begin --- sheesh)
Most MIT undergrads pay no tuition, even though tuition is something like $70,000 a year there. They have a massive endowment and are thus on average one of the lowest cost colleges in the US, though not as low cost as Princeton. What refunds could they give?
> Is room and board going to be refunded?
> If courses being taught online is an acceptable substitute, why have caps on admission at all?
Most of MIT's undergraduate course work is on line and free for anyone to take. Many take advantage of that. They also have a Masters program, the first year of which anyone who wants to can take it for free. Those who do well are admitted to the second year.
MIT's way ahead of other universities on online education and does extremely well with it. The main "problem" is that MIT is in the top two engineering schools in the world, their classes are extremely rigorous and it simply is not for everyone. 99% of the world population, to be blunt, are not intelligent enough to do well there. And MIT has no intention of dumbing it down to be more "fair and equal" in accordance with the democratic ideal of minimal expectations.
But yes, there are effectively no caps on admission if you want to take online classes there. You won't get an MIT diploma, but you will learn the material and what you do with it is up to you.
This is strange. Isn't the travel they are forcing quite possibly a cure worse than the disease? And are they really expecting students (many of them international) to go home within a week, seeing that flights are getting cancelled all over the place?
They do seem to have reasonable exceptions for students who "have concerns that they would not be allowed to return to MIT due to visa issues" or who "will have difficulty returning to their home country if it has been hard-hit by COVID-19" or who "do not have a home to go to, or for whom going home would be unsafe given the circumstances of their home country or homelife". I'm wondering how reasonably these will be implemented, though.
In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway? Are they not trusting their students to prepare their own food? Why don't they just close the dining halls instead?
The dorms have shared bathrooms, often shared rooms with doubles, triples, and quads, and shared living spaces (lounges, study rooms, laundry, etc.) in addition to the dining halls. Moreover, in our dorms, we have effectively no way to eat if the dining halls close down. Since mine has a dining hall for us to eat, it has only one kitchen for the entire dorm, which is ~500 people.
It's also worth pointing out that MIT students are at very low risk right now. Sending us all home before we're at a medium/high risk level is the right move, so students aren't bringing it home with them. Nobody on campus has tested positive yet (as far as we know), and once it reaches the campus it would spread like crazy. Better to preempt it and send us away now.
That sounds crazy to me, in Poland there's a multitude of cheap restaurants full of students close to every university campus. There's a big demand because universities are packed with students that don't cook for themselves. Why hasn't the same happened to the US then?
Its the right decision in my opinion since the largest number of fire alarm evacuations I've had to do were in those dorms because 18 and 19 year olds living away from their parents can't even figure out how to not burn popcorn in the microwave every couple weeks for movie night.
The shared kitchen in my "dorm" (we don't use the word) in London was great -- I made good friends by cooking together with others, and massively improved my cooking ability and confidence.
Day-to-day we mostly cooked fairly simple things (like on the front covers of these "student cookbooks", which I was given about 5 of by relatives and friends), but every 2-4 weeks someone would decide to make an elaborate meal, probably something traditional from their country.
The fire alarm was activated once in two years -- and that was the warden burning something in his kitchen.
These kitchens are all for first year students:
It was plain ridiculous that they were fixated on requiring me to eat dining hall food. Cooking is one of the most basic and healthy life skills anyone can have.
The flip side is that there's no shortage of UK students who have no clue how to budget, spend all their money on booze and then have £3 to last them two months until the next student load comes in. Perhaps raising the minimum age to purchase alcohol to 21 isn't such a bad idea ...
oh and it was 2 years mandatory (most schools it's just 1 .. ours was out of money and shitty). I was so glad to get out of there. Those things are cesspools of ... cess. Get you meningitis shots kids.
Hot plates and other heating elements were banned. Use of a dorm room was mandatory for freshman year.
Which means it's not a viable fallback.
Can you imagine if even every other room had an appliance pulling 1000W whenever the hell a student felt like blowdrying their hair after their shower?
Imagine if every other room had a computer the student could just turn on whenever he felt like it.
In reality, the number of computers is of course more than one per room. No one is worried about the power supply.
As a rule (non fast-food) restaurants are very expensive in the US compared to most places in Europe.
Poland is on the extreme end when it comes to high quality food being extremely cheap. In Berlin it isn't terribly hard to get a healthy and large meal for 4-8 euros at a restaurant for me, but even I was surprised visiting Poland when pretty much every restaurant outdid and undercut that.
This depends how you define fast food. Which by the way is already a massive segment in the US versus other places. There's a whole range of restaurants in the middle that serve cheap food that you stand in line to order, often serving working-class people, but aren't technically fast food. Maybe not so many in the expensive gentrified area adjacent to a big university of course.
E.g. there is a tiny Vietnamese place around here that's very fast, but also very tasty, very fresh and reasonably priced (6-10 EUR). They are fast as "fast food", but lack the other "qualities" of junk food, so nobody around here would refer to them as fast food.
Döner (kebab) shops are somewhere in the middle. They offer unhealthy stuff (tons of - depending on the shop, low grade - kebab meat on a Döner for example) as well as a range of veggies and less greasy meals.
I thought it was VAT tax. Everyone said it was VAT tax.
The area also has/had a small number of food trucks at lunchtime (only) IIRC.
It doesn't even seem like the lunch options are better today, just more expensive. And dinner options, forget about it, way too expensive. We used to go to Tommy Doyles after playing corporate softball, and at least you could get a cheap burger.
One thing I disliked about grabbing lunch in the area was that it mostly seemed really expensive or unhealthful.
I'm about average (I think) in terms of how healthful of a diet I try to have. But around Kendal Square it was hard to avoid crazy amounts of grease and salt in most of the meals. Okay for once in a while, but not every day.
Also I had a friend who lived in a shared bunk room in the UK.
This actually varies significantly by university. Prices for accommodation have been going up since the recent government funding cuts (that accompanies the fee increase to £9k), but were traditionally subsidized by the universities such that they were cheaper than market rents.
UK tuition fees are increasing, agreed, but that is a separate argument. Not making an argument against better tuition either, MIT is obviously a leader in some areas.
Please assume my intention is positive. I am not willfully spreading misinformation, if I'm wrong, point me to the facts.
Cost https://sfs.mit.edu/undergraduate-students/the-cost-of-atten... here says $10k/yr for housing, my mortgage isn't even that high. As a comparison: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/experience/student-life/l... (which I think is still quite high)
There are certainly shared rooms in a university in the UK (at least were ~10 years ago and doubt has changed). However it was a handful of students in shared halls rooms (in big old houses etc) compared to a population that must have been a few thousand. It was cheaper, and some people thought sharing a room would help make friends.
I remain dubious.
Dorms do not have private kitchens. They don't even have private sinks. I'm not familiar with MIT specifically, but the most you can usually hope for in the average American dorm room is a mini-fridge and a microwave. It would be incredibly difficult to expect a large number of people to live in those conditions for multiple weeks if quarantined.
In other words, it's not like the dining halls are being closed and then as a consequence the dorms are being closed for lack of food options.
>In what way are dorms worse than personal homes for diseases anyway? Are they not trusting their students to prepare their own food? Why don't they just close the dining halls instead?
Dining halls are inherently a highly trafficked gathering of a large group of people. That is exactly the type of things people are being instructed to avoid. It is likely a losing effort to try to prevent the spread of the disease through a college campus while still running dining halls at normal service levels. And once the decision is made to close the dining halls, you have to look at other options to feed the students. There is no clear answer to that question due to the reasons outline in previous posts so the ultimate response is to just send people home.
Anyway, good day!
The point about bringing up the dining hall is they can’t go to the grocery store because they have no way to cook (and maybe even store) the food they bought.
These options will continue to be viable unless society completely collapses, which doesn't seem in the cards here.
You're only considering the best case scenario of people not getting ill. That's not good enough. Sending people home is as much about planning for the future issues as it is about dealing with the current issues.
Many MIT students will later be discovered to have been exposed, and then exported the disease to places around the US and around the world.
Have any been tested? How many have been tested?
I am not sure how one determines "risk" (?) with this asymptomatically contagious disease that lingers on surfaces and can travel in aerosal form a few meters.
The people at "risk" are the older generation [the parents ..], and movement of people contributes to spreading of the disease.
I think MIT is just off loading hot potatoes here.
Online classes -- GREAT
Cancel social events -- GREAT
Encouraging students to go home -- GREAT
Requiring 4000 students to pack up in a span of a week, getting help from other students to dismantle lofts and home-built furniture and moving heavy boxes, sharing push-carts, sharing vehicles, renting vehicles used by god knows how many strangers, scouting nearby supermarket parking lots for grocery carts because all the dorm push-carts are gone, pushing carts full of boxes around town to storage facilities, cramming hotel rooms, travelling via flights -- BAD
I think Stanford's approach is much more reasonable -- they are letting students stay if they wish but are encouraging students to go home.
The university can send most of its students home. It can't stop the rest of the world from interacting with them in the middle of a regional hub.
It would be great if this disease would finally put a stop to the madness of typical dorm living conditions.
An extra benefit would be a huge reduction in conflict. Roommate conflict is stressful and often leads to violence.
What I am concerned about is this case in town next to Cambridge where elementary school student tested positive and school remains open with “advice to self-quarantine” for “close contacts”. The town officials thought it was sufficient to close and disinfect the school for one day and then to reopen it again. I find it very disturbing.
This Seattle school figured out measures for handling lunch and remote schooling availability, at least: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/10/us/covid-19-s...
Especially in these early days, dispersal of dense populations can easily mean saving many lives. We need to flatten the curve so spread rate does not exceed hospital bed availability.
Nobody's saying we won't all be extremely inconvenienced by this, but slowing the spread will mean that inconvenience does not include many avoidable deaths. And now is the time to do everything we can. In weeks, once we feel the effects more closely, it is too late to make an impact.
This comic puts it well, the goal is to flatten the curve: https://twitter.com/SiouxsieW/status/1236721200291655680
Child gets sick at home, that's on the parents.
Child gets sick in a dorm, that's on MIT.
That might explain a lot of the drastic reactions by institutions everywhere.
You can't let yourself be accused of doing too little.
It's probably less liability for doing too much than the potential liability of doing too little.
(Disclosure: Former MIT grad, not that that should be relevant.)
I'd argue that they're adults, but from the rest of this thread (not allowed to cook, not trusted to keep clean, restrictions on alcohol, without a genuine lease on their home) maybe you're right.
When do American students / young people learn these things?
Many (most?) students already travel for spring break, so this shouldn't result in much more travel than usual. I imagine that is what motivated their timing on this.
I'm surprised more universities aren't cancelling before their Spring Breaks so that students don't bring it back.
It is possible they are violating the law, but it's probably worth assuming they aren't and understanding why. It may be related to the MA governor declaring a state of emergency a couple of hours ago.
Thing to remember law predates science by about 3000 years.
Does it really?
More specifically, computer science only dates back a few decades (being generous, call it a century), and most of the people applying incorrect frameworks to law on this site are coming in with preconceived notions from that.
But anyway, I'm not interested in having a normative discussion as to whether there should be separate laws governing institutions of learning. The fact of the matter is that there are, and have been for a very long time, and that doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon. I'm not the one that made it that way and I don't care enough to argue it with you.
Anyone with legal knowledge of MA willing to chime in on this?
They are worse for MIT’s apparent COVID-19 policy of cancelling as much on-premise work and study as possible, since dorms have non-zero labor requirements. Student return-home living arrangements may also have that feature, but it's probably not MIT’s problem, and in any case student return home probably has less marginal effect on the requirements for non-family labor at their home than their impact at MIT.
Hate to think about how anyone with a lab is going to finish - there's not much remote in that.
They would be liable for not taking action against the Virus. Personal homes are much safer especially because all movements and interactions are accounted for. In a dorm, that's basically guesswork at best.
There is literature on respiratory infections in dormitories:
It’s unfortunately paywalled, but the original authors claim they’re working on getting it more openly available
> “ Our study was conducted at one U.S. university, which may limit generalizability.“
There are pros to having the study done on a single university if there is a large enough sample of students and dorms. Since they all were in the same university, it makes it easy to isolate for the dorm variables in a way that wouldn't be as easily accomplished with multiple universities.
[Same university, different dorms] isolates for dorms, keeping the university constant.
[different universities, different dorms] does not inherently isolate for just dorms, since there may be compounding factors present due to known or unknown variables present in different magnitudes in different universities.
Some universities have many dormitories. My alma mater had 18 different dorms and an 30,000-40,000 undergraduate student enrollment. It was like a mini city, complete with its own area code, police department, and post office. If you lived in a dorm, you could go a whole semester without stepping foot off campus if you wanted to. The vast majority of undergraduates lived in dorms during their underclassman years. You can get good data from 18 different dorms and tens of thousands of students. And arguably you can get good data with an even smaller number of dorms and students.