If it looks like a bunch of apparently smart people are behaving like total idiots, A) I could be a genius, my brain overflowing with incredible insight into the nature of the universe, or B) I could have a too-simple understanding of what they get up to, and therefore be acting like an arrogant, know-it-all jackass.
State A does happen to me occasionally, but most of the time I think I'm in state A I'm actually in state B. I've now learned to keep my mouth shut for entire minutes at a time, which helps me reduce the frequency with which people realize I'm in state B.
Find the thing that the sociological phenomenon is most effectively optimizing and work back from there to get to B. In the case of higher education it's optimizing the benefits to all those who are benefiting from the current system and not optimizing trying to educate the most people at the lowest cost which was your meta "too-simple" understanding of your understanding.
C) there are massive, incumbent pressure groups obstructing changes in government spending practices
Whenever there's some kind of education reform, it's usually to add stricter standards, because we're always falling behind in education and feel that stricter standards will help make sure that we don't. This means that textbooks need to meet stricter standards. Which mean that there needs to be some kind of review. Which means that someone needs to pay for that review. Which generally falls on the textbook publishers, or some overworked underpaid government committee. Which means that only a limited number of textbooks go through that review, locking out anything else which might be suitable but hasn't been reviewed to determine if it meets that standard.
The standards wind up changing every few years, so the textbooks need to be updated to match.
Please no. I've found that eReaders are only good for novels, where there is a linear progression from start to finish. The inability to flip back and forth through the book, have two pages open at once, and the like is a serious downside when it comes to reading reference materials on an eReader.
It's not an insurmountable problem, but it is one that the current generation of eReaders quite frankly suck at.
Pretty much all of current homeworks and exams can be. It's called standarized tests, and I'd argue it's one of the reasons education sucks as much as it does.
Except from that one, where I think a move in opposite direction is desirable, I'd love for all the changes you mentioned to happen.
To be honest I don't think anything can be done to the 'education system' that will drastically improve the results. The bottleneck lies with the children (and their parents) and their thirst for knowledge (or lack thereof), which is a reflection of the culture and values they grow up with.
But what we can do is save a boatload of money on costs.
there's software that almost every higher ed university uses in their lower division courses to administer homework electronically. it grades the homework for the instructor and populates a gradebook. it's pretty hands off.
as far as I know, they have packages like this for every lower division STEM class. I used this software as late as multivariable calculus.
English homework can't be graded by computer, but subjects like math, physics, and chemistry could conceivably be checked by computer. There'd be some details to work out, such as how to "show work", but it could work.
It's just like using TAs, except with casting a much wider net, though a lot more details would need to be worked out.
Remember, you have the advantage that grading a paper is easier than writing one (in compsci terms, the former is in P, while the latter is NP-complete).
Questions are also probably better handled with an online (or offline) forum and office hours. At any rate, I was never overly convinced about the 'interactive' benefits of the lecture hall.
You'll save money in the short-term but in the long term you'll destroy your economy as you won't have the highly educated workforce that will be required to be a competitive economy in the future.
We should focus on high quality education first, whether that uses technology or not.
> switch to ereaders
Unless they're seeing different ereaders than me, that kills most detailed and colored diagrams in science textbooks. Also makes the experience worse in many geography, history, etc. courses.
> abandon the practice of lecturers performing the exact same lecture term after term when a recording will do
Recordings don't pause to answer questions mid-stream. A chat room or forum is probably good enough for upper-division courses where students have probably learned decent learning skills, but even freshman college courses probably need a human available at some point. Suppose they could be restricted to study sections...
> move towards homework and exams that can be marked by a computer rather than by hand...
There go essays and critical thinking questions in every literature class, to start with. Also a lot of the more useful evaluations in my engineering and science courses probably couldn't be marked by a computer.
To be clear: I think Coursera and similar efforts are awesome, and are an excellent supplement to college educations. I think they could also manage partial replacement of a minority of college courses. But especially with typical college students, who are not self-directed learners, I don't think it's the kind of replacement that will help budgets much.
Recordings can be paused a hell of a lot more easily than a lecture for a large audience -- the format typical for heavy-enrollment basic classes in most colleges.
I realize that googling something may fall a bit short of the ideal, but it's better than just sitting there quietly because you don't want to interrupt everyone else in a huge room. Also, those aren't your only possible options; for example, students could time their lecture viewing to coincide with the office hours of a TA, and actually be much more able to get questions answered in mid-lecture. Or you could watch lectures with a study group, and talk through points of confusion with your groupmates. Or you could [fill in the blank here!]
Agreed! Worse, in my mind, is that e-readers are good mainly for linear access of read-only text; textbooks are much better at random access and user modification. I love my Kindle, but I think it sucks for books I'm trying to study seriously. Flipping back and forth between diagrams and text, jumping back to look at previous pages, putting in bookmarks, notes in the margins: all stuff paper is much better at.
And really, the price of textbooks isn't high because they're printed on paper. It's because textbooks are expensive to create, and many markets have a small number of suppliers, giving them crazy pricing power.
And now that I think about it, textbooks are a tiny proportion of what schools spend, which is in turn a small portion of government costs. So I now regret that we've all been fooled into wasting time on a proposal that makes no sense.
People would have to write down their questions while watching the lectures, could probably watch the lectures with fellow students in a TV room with the tutor room right next door in the library or right in the tutor room on their tablets.
TA-level pay grade markers would mark everything.
This wont work for everything, but it will work for the vast majority of courses. One building the size of a library with a combo study hall / cafe could probably cover the needs of an entire university.
"homework and exams that can be marked by a computer rather than by hand" implying that we should only test (and thus only teach) skills that can be tested by computer rather than the skills that we want students to learn. Basically you'd be wiping out essay type questions (which test depth on knowledge) in favour of multiple-choice (which test breadth).
And logistically, what happens with 'live people' is that some people ask their own questions, which the lecturer will make some attempt to answer. It's not like a lecture format somehow provides the interactive benefits of a 1-to-1 tutorial for every student in the audience simultaneously.
Cite? You can't just base this huge claim on some hand waving about how you can rewind and pause things. You need a study showing how wildly successful a school based on recorded lectures is compared to traditional lectures before you start leading all of society down these paths.
On the other hand, a biology book that old is going to be missing a whole lot of key stuff; probably even knowledge of the Krebs cycle was too new to be reliably appearing in school texts.
Perhaps instead educators could band together to produce open source textbooks.
a) live lectures are crucial for the interactive element
b) the best, modern textbooks are necessary for acceptable education
sound reasonable but don't stand up to much scrutiny.
> Perhaps instead educators could band together to produce open source textbooks.
You would think there'd be more interest in 'spend once, solve forever' initiatives like that.
For my purposes state guaranteed and subsidised student loans count as they wouldn't happen without it and the restrictions placed upon which institutions' students are eligible are another example of government power over universities.
"Power" is being used in such a wonderfully nebulous way here. The relevant power under discussion is decisions about infrastructure adoption and teaching methodologies. If you can point me to an instance where the government denied a university of students in order to keep them from adopting distance learning, I'll cede your point.
On an unrelated note, I don't expect to change your mind and while I'd be glad if you were to “cede the point” I do not argue with that aim in mind. Expecting to change your interlocutor's mind when you argue on the internet is the mark of a fool. This isn't lesswrong; most commenters aim to win arguments, not mote closely approach the truth. Arguing on the internet is for the rraders, the audience.
tokenadult will not be convinced by yummyfajitas that the US education system is excellent but every time he disses it yummyfajitas brings up the same excellent argument and tokenadult refuses to engage with it and makes ad hominem attacks and appeals to authority. To some people this does not seem like someone with the facts on his side.
That's not remotely more explicit.
> On an unrelated note, I don't expect to change your mind... [snip]
So basically, you're using me as a foil. I understand. Fuck you.
The parent's ideas for reforms are most applicable to state governments, since that's where most education spending happens. California is also in a pretty bad spot economically, so if it were possible to drastically reduce the cost of education (without impacting the level of service), it would significantly help our state's finances.
[Disclaimer: California is the largest state economy, and the relative education budget will vary between states.]
The deficit was $1,293B, so education spending was a big chunk of it.
Not sure about all the details but the gist is you can make these things cheaper by stripping out some of the features that the Kindle has: built-in battery, wifi, 3G, lots of controls on the device.
I don't know how txtr is managing to obtain such a low price point, though. 4GB of flash, a CPU, RAM, the display, the case, manufacturing costs, a bluetooth radio, and two AAA batteries seems extremely difficult to obtain for < $13. This is not including the price of manufacturing and shipping.
EDIT: Ah, I see. They've got their own book store, so they're hoping to recoup costs on that.
You won’t be able to get the txtr beagle as a standalone product just yet. Instead the plan is to distribute it as an accessory on smartphone mobile phone contracts.
I can understand why txtr is taking this approach, after all it's reliant on a smartphone for transfers, but I'm still disappointed that txtr isn't brave enough to launch the product on its own.
Txtr hope to bring the product to the UK at the beginning of next year but were unable to comment on which mobile phone operators were in the pipeline to offer the device with their contracts."
Amazon's Kindle is being sold basically at cost. Amazon has incredible power to make suppliers dance, and they've spent years bringing the price of the Kindle down. So I don't think it's possible to make a decent e-reader significantly cheaper than the Kindle without subsidies.
Could Coursera just apply to offer their services in the state of Minnesota? I mean, unless it is a terribly difficult process, I don't see the big deal here.
It quickly becomes a big deal as soon as other jurisdictions start doing the same thing. If I was Coursera I would definitely not want to go down that path. It takes away the key benefit of being on the web, which is the elimination of geographic barriers. Better to just be transparent and let your users see the absurdity for themselves.
Keep in mind that there's absolutely zero evidence that this regulation has any benefit. Clearly many other states are not enforcing this kind of law, and yet they're not demonstrably any worse off. This looks to me like a classic licensing scam: it probably got passed with the support of incumbents who wanted a higher barrier to entry.
Subd. 2.Educational program; nonprofit organizations. Educational programs which are sponsored by a bona fide and nonprofit trade, labor, business, professional or fraternal organization, which programs are conducted solely for that organization's membership or for the members of the particular industries or professions served by that organization, and which are not available to the public on a fee basis, are exempted from the provisions of sections 136A.61 to 136A.71.
Educational program; business firms. Educational programs which are sponsored by a business firm for the training of its employees or the employees of other business firms with which it has contracted to provide educational services at no cost to the employees are exempted from the provisions of sections 136A.61 to 136A.71.
Alternately, I can't imagine it'd be too difficult to spin off a second organization, funded by the for-profit parent that provides the non-profit programs. There are likely additional incentives for doing so.
Hopefully it'll even make someone in the MN Office of Higher Education realize they need to update their policies.
Coursera is not a university, doesn't look or pretend to be a university. It doesn't grant PhDs, MDs, or indeed anything beyond a simple certificate that isn't even valid as college credit. They go to some length on every single course page to explain this. Some courses don't even give you a certificate. The website doesn't talk about certification it talks about "Advance your knowledge and career". There is a big tab that says "Universities" so I can't see how you could think Coursera was a university.
School accreditation really isn't an effective solution to the problem you pose.
One topic of conversation during a networking break was having a theme to the next demo conference. The one theme which was heavily discussed? Wait for it. Edu-tech.
Oh, the irony.
Many many years ago, presumably during a discussion about travel, a great aunt of mine told her brother-in-law that he had been in two states she never had: intoxication and insanity. Either seems a sufficient defense here, and will the state of Minnesota make you blow in the bag and issue you a ticket for sober learning?
Therefore I'm not at all sure that Minnesota has the right to enforce these regulations. They probably can require that Minnesota residents not do business with Coursera. They can definitely say that Coursera courses are not worth college credits in Minnesota. But I'm doubtful that they can legally require that Coursera assist them one bit in their attempts to enforce those rules.
Edit: also, the problem is that they are calling it a "college course", this is a simple consumer protection issue..
(In this case I agree with the exception)
"Minnesota Tells Coursera To Hit the Trail...Oregon Trail That Is."
The infamous "Oregon Trail" game was developed in Minnesota.
Moreover, I only see two blogs reporting this (one presumably cribbing from the other) as I do a Google News search. No local news organization in Minnesota has picked up this story. So thus far I'm not even sure that this is a true factual report. (I'll check with my state government during business hours tomorrow.) I doubt that this is true, and I doubt that this will hold up. Because I just met my incumbent state senator and state representative this evening (at a candidate forum in our newly redistricted state Senate district), I suppose I could contact their offices for immediate response to this issue, if there really is an issue here. My advice from a Minnesota Coursera student (who is also a lawyer familiar education regulations in the state of Minnesota, continually discovering new regulations that bureaucrats have ignored for varying lengths of time) is stay tuned for further news, and check the facts before proceeding to react to this.
AFTER EDIT: The first reply here refers to the Coursera terms of service,
not a very prominent link on the Coursera site, and in context the notice fits in a big wall of text like this:
"Notice for California Users
Under California Civil Code Section 1789.3, California Website users are entitled to the following specific consumer rights notice: The Complaint Assistance Unit of the Division of Consumer Services of the California Department of Consumer Affairs may be contacted in writing at 1625 N. Market Blvd., Suite S-202, Sacramento, California 95834, or by telephone at (800) 952-5210.
Notice for Minnesota Users
"Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.
Choice of Law/Forum Selection
"Excluding claims for injunctive or other equitable relief, for claims related to the Coursera Sites where the total amount sought is less than ten thousand U.S. Dollars ($10,000.00 USD), either Coursera or You may elect at any point during the dispute to resolve the claim through binding, non-appearance-based arbitration. The dispute will then be resolved using an established alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") provider, mutually agreed upon by You and Coursera. The parties and the selected ADR provider shall not involve any personal appearance by the parties or witnesses, unless otherwise mutually agreed by the parties; rather, the arbitration shall be conducted, at the option of the party seeking relief, online, by telephone, online, or via written submissions alone. Any judgment rendered by the arbitrator may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction."
That's about midway down a rather lengthy ToS, definitely "below the fold" for a casual glance at usual screen resolutions. Again, I will say that Coursera has not sent any notice to users of Coursera about that by email (I searched in my emails again) and doesn't draw attention to that by geolocation as users log in. So while Coursera feels compelled to add terms to its ToS, at least as of this moment, there doesn't seem to be any actual change in user interaction based on this. I will contact the relevant offices in Minnesota and see what they have to say about this during business hours. As before, Google News only reveals the blog here and another blog reporting on this.
Summing up, I think the blog post has a title that is link bait compared to the substance of the issue, and the issue appears to be doing nothing to discourage participation on Coursera on the part of Minnesota students. Coursera has put up a pro-forma legal notice, but it is still dealing with Minnesota students, and no one in Minnesota seems worried about signing up for Coursera courses.
> I have received no notification from Coursera to this effect. Checking my email messages from Coursera, I see no such notice, and logging into the site, there is no attempt to use geolocation to give a Minnesota-specific notice to me.
No such claim was made.
The claim is that Coursera made a change to its Terms of Service. I just checked; there is such a notice in there. It's right underneath the one for California.
The letters were sent to "postsecondary institutions". You are not a postsecondary institution.