“Dozens of Plagiarism Incidents Are Reported in Coursera’s Free Online Courses”

There’s an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (or maybe it’s just on the web site, I’m not sure) called “Dozens of Plagiarism Incidents Are Reported in Coursera’s Free Online Courses.”  I’m quoted in it as is one of the frequent commentators here on this MOOC stuff, Laura Gibbs.  You can go read it if you want and other than the one issue I raise in the comments, I think that Jeff Young’s take on this in the article is pretty accurate.

I’m guessing I’ll be writing more about the whole peer review thing this week(end?) as part of my ongoing MOOC-iness, but three other things I’ll mention for now:

  • “Dozens” of plagiarism incidents out of 39,000 students (this is how many are in the class the article is about) is actually not that bad, when you think about it.
  • The short writings that I have peer reviewed as part of my participation in the World Music class so far seem to be both not plagiarized and surprisingly earnest in addressing the assignment.  Mind you, that’s a small sample– like 8 examples– but still.
  • Plagiarism in these writing assignments is only as important as the class itself.  In other words, if the value of the Coursera credit/certificate/badge/gold star/fuzzy feeling is ultimately high (for example, it actually counts as honest-to-goodness college credit toward a degree at the University of Pennsylvania or wherever), then this is an enormous problem.  If the value of the experience is not (for example, it’s all about sharing in a personal learning experience with a community of other interested people and that’s it), then it’s not.  Not be too clichéd about it all, but in the “personal growth” scenario, cheaters only hurt themselves.

 

MOOC Week 3, wherein I sympathize with some of my students

Last week was a tricky week for me in the World Music MOOC because I do have a day job that required some attention, it was a busy week of teaching in my SOPOC and I was traveling (I began writing this post from a family gathering in Iowa).  So I am falling behind.  I missed the deadline for peer evaluations (again), I have really been having a hard time keeping up with the video lectures, and I just barely got my assignment in on time.

But this has all been quite useful for me to think about as a teacher.

When my ego and/or self sense of importance is unchecked, I am certain that the classes I teach are critically important to my students, at least as important to them as they are to me.  The reality is students (like all people) have complicated lives that involve families, jobs, distractions, surprises, and a whole lot more than my their classes.  So the moral of the story for me this week is it is probably useful to remember that usually my students have other things to do besides worrying about me.

This week has been about Tuvan throat singing, which is this weird kind of tonal singing/sound from a region in central Asia sort of between Mongolia and Russia.  A bit more on that and more on the logistics of the class below, but I have to say that the earworm I’ve been rolling over and over in my head this week is a song by Dan Bern song “Go To Sleep.”  Here’s a link to the MySpace version of it (go figure, there is still a MySpace!); here are the lyrics I’m thinking of:

Enough of this throat singing already
If you wanna sing two notes at once
Why don’t you do like everyone else
Get a multi-track machine
Lay ’em down separately
Make a little harmony
Maybe a bass track
Like one from the Rolling Stones
None of this long lost art
This archaic stuff
Go out and make something

Continue reading “MOOC Week 3, wherein I sympathize with some of my students”

More MOOC-iness than necessary

I’ll get to my update on my experiences in World Music and it’s interesting twists and turns after the break.  First I wanted to comment on a few important MOOC-oriented presentations I came across this week.  First, there are these two TED talks, the first from Daphne Koller, who is the cofounder of Coursera:

The second is by Peter Norvig, who taught a MOOC on artificial intelligence at Stanford in 2011:

Last and far from least is a talk that George Siemens gave at EDUCAUSE recently called “MOOCs:  Open Online Courses as Levers for Change in Higher Education.”  The slides are below, but this link will take you to Siemens’ site and a link to his actual talk.

I don’t have a recommended order for looking at these talks and I also realize that watching them all is going to take more than an hour, but if you’re interested in the whole MOOC thing, I’d encourage spending the time.  For me, these three talks– and really the TED talks vs. Siemens– cover a lot of the possibilities, perils, and frustrations of the current “MOOC-olution” that’s going on in higher education right now.  A few highlights for me:

  • Koller begins by talking about the issues of access to higher education all over the world and relates the story of a stampede of people trying to get into the University of Johannesburg, an event that the New York Times reported as embodying the “broad crisis in South Africa’s overstretched higher education system.”  Coursera, Koller argues, is part of the solution.  That’s a noble sentiment and it went over well during Koller’s TED talk, I suspect because the audience is made up of a lot of people who could have also been characters in that South Park “Smug Alert” episode. (For those who don’t remember and/or non-fans:  this is where Kyle’s family has to move to San Francisco after his father buys a hybrid car; while in SanFran, the Broflovski’s befriend similar high-n-mighty smug folks who also enjoy the smell of their own farts).
  • And it’s also worth noting that Siemens mentions in his talk the encouraging signs he saw first hand of MOOCs being used by students in India.   But I have to wonder:  do those thousands of largely poor South Africans have the level of computer and internet access to take advantage of MOOCs?  And given the larger problems for poor blacks in South Africa (the NYTimes article mentions that the jobless rate among poor youths is 70%, for example), isn’t this a bit of a “let them eat cake” type of proposal?
  • The thing I find most surprising and even irritating about both Koller’s and Norvig’s videos is they make it sound as if they have “discovered” online teaching.  For example, Norvig makes a big deal about how it turns out that one of the ways to help students succeed in online classes is to have deadlines.  Koller makes a big deal out of one way to deal with the huge numbers in Coursera courses is to have peer evaluations.  (And more about the troubles with peer evaluation below).  It’s maddening, and as you see in the beginning of Siemens’ talk, he feels the same way.  To paraphrase/more or less quote him, “It’s as if they are discovering North America all over again.” Coursera et al, Siemens argues, have spent a lot of money on hiring a lot of programmers to get the infrastructure up and running, but they have clearly not paid a lot of attention to the well-developed thinking about online teaching.
  • And just to be clear:  online teaching is a) not particularly new, and b) it is not only  happening in proprietary schools like University of Phoenix or Kaplan.  I’m far from a “pioneer” in the field, but I’ve been teaching online for seven years, and I’ve always had online classes that included these radical pedagogical innovations called “deadlines” with students all working together on projects (sometimes even collaborating!) and “peer review” where students comment on each others’ writing drafts.  I’m not alone in this.  As Siemens points out, about one third of U.S. and Canadian college students have taken at least one class online, and these are at “traditional” universities.  That’s hardly undiscovered territory.
  • I think Siemens is correct in assessing why MOOCs have all of a sudden become a big deal:  money.  He say’s in the last 8 months, there’s been around $100 million invested in MOOCs by venture capitalists.  You put that much money into anything and there’s going to be at least a ripple.  You put that much money into higher education, which runs on the cheap as it is and which has been all about slashing budgets every which way to stop the rising costs of tuition and fees, and you’ve got more than a ripple.
  • Finally, I think Siemens draws a good contrast between his MOOC experiments and what Coursera (et al) are doing with MOOCs.  Siemens and his colleagues were all about demonstrating how knowledge creation is messy and social, about using relatively low-powered and open-source tools, about emphasizing the development of social relationships that can be fostered after the class, and Siemens describes how he ran his MOOCs “off the side of my desk.”  Coursera is all about delivering knowledge in a rather conventional “sage on the stage” lecture format, about using a mix of proprietary tools (like its course shell software) and more open media tools (like YouTube), also about social relationships inside and outside of the class, and Coursera is ultimately about a hope/dream for making a lot of money.  Again, Coursera’s founders stated goal of giving the world access to “the best” higher education is noble, but I guarantee that the investors who have put up the money have other goals.

Anyway, on to a few specifics about “World Music” after the break:

Continue reading “More MOOC-iness than necessary”

Going back to school, MOOC-style: starting “World Music”

Here’s another in what is becoming quite a series of MOOC-oriented posts:  after my first quasi-MOOC experience earlier this spring, I’ve once again enrolled in another massive online open class, Coursera’s “Listening to World Music.”  Let me preface this with two points:

  • When I was an undergraduate a long long time ago, I ended up taking a gen-ed “music appreciation” class in my last semester as an undergraduate because I needed credits– any credits– in order to graduate.  For whatever reason, it was a class that covered the Baroque era (more or less Bach(s) and such) and then it skipped ahead to the late 19th/early 20th century.  It was a ton of fun and I was exposed to a lot of really interesting music that has stuck with me all this time.  So when I saw this “Listening to World Music” class on Coursera’s web site, I thought “sure, let’s give that a whirl.”
  • A blog reader– I think it’s someone who more regularly reads emutalk.org, actually– sent me this link from Forbes.com, “How Duke University Deals With Disruption.”  Here’s the first paragraph:  “Unless I had a top brand, I would hate to run a college today. Colleges and universities are about to meet their disruptive hour. Websites such as Khan Academy and Udacity now offer free courses that blow away 99% of courses available in traditional colleges.”  Oh, please.  I think there’s a lot to like about this Coursera/World Music thing.  But I want in on whatever drug or delusion or group hallucination these business people are on if they really think that MOOCs are “the answer” to higher education woes and who think that they’re substitute for what’s going on in the real world on college campuses.  I bet they can hear colors too.

More after the break.

Continue reading “Going back to school, MOOC-style: starting “World Music””

Even MORE MOOC MOOC MOOC! Chronicle article explains the business model

And once again, here I am near the lake, checking in on my online class (which I like to think of as SO-POC– that is, a “small online partly open class” because anyone out there is welcome to visit, join the discussion, do the assignments, whatever, but I won’t grade your work or give you credit if you aren’t enrolled at EMU), and checking my email when I see this from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Inside the Coursera Contract: How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses.”

CHE obtained a copy of the contract between Coursera and one of its partners, the University of Michigan.  Of course, even what’s here is kind of a “let’s throw stuff against the wall and see if it sticks” sort of plan/model.   To quote:

Coursera is following an approach popular among Silicon Valley start-ups: Build fast and worry about money later. Venture capitalists—and even two universities—have invested more than $22-million in the effort already. “Our VC’s keep telling us that if you build a Web site that is changing the lives of millions of people, then the money will follow,” says Daphne Koller, the company’s other co-founder, who is also a professor at Stanford.

Here’s the part of the contract that talks specifically about making money; there are eight ideas listed so far:

  • Certificates, which a student would purchase some kind of certificate or badge or whatever (presumably after completing a course, which is a different model than tuition, which is paid up-front) that isn’t actually credit but which the student post some place.  As in on their LinkedIn account, they have a “badge” that says they passed Listening to World Music.  (BTW, since that one starts in 3 days and I like world music, I might sign up).
  • Secure assessments, which is basically the same thing as certification– students would take (and pay for) some kind of test.
  • Employee recruiting.  This one is kind of interesting; basically, this would allow potential employers to “data mine” Coursera looking for successful students based not on a degree but on skills students might demonstrate through one of their courses.
  • Employee or University Screening.  I think what this means is that if I was applying for a job where my knowledge of World Music was critical, a company could use my score in the “Listening to World Music” course as a way of making a hiring decision.  It also means that if a university wanted to give an entering student a waiver for something, they might be able to use performance in that class– in other words, I wouldn’t get credit at such-and-such a university maybe, but I wouldn’t have to take a gen ed class in World Music.  Or something.

Just to stop here for a second:  it seems to me that each of these business plans depends on the rest of the business world decides that it is going to validate and/or accept MOOCs as a legitimate educational/certifying enterprise.  Given the current reliance of the corporate world for a bachelors degree as an entry point into white collar jobs, that seems like kind of a bold assumption to me.

Anyway, back to the list:

  • Human-provided or manual grading.  To quote, “Company will provide access to (paid) human tutoring, grading, or other forms of human academic support.”  I’m not sure I understand this, but I think it means that maybe students would take these courses for free but they’d pay some kind of tutor.
  • Corporate/university enterprise model.  Basically, Coursera would sell access to its courses to companies for in-house training and/or to “non-University academic institutions (e.g. community colleges)” (swear to God, that is a quote) with the goal of offering a high quality course at a lower cost than these non-University institutions.

So, let’s dwell on this for a moment.  The first idea is corporate clients would contract with Coursera for training.  This isn’t that far-fetched to me, but “training” is not the sort of thing that elite institutions do, and it certainly isn’t what’s likely to happen in that World Music course.  Rather, most businesses are looking for employee training along the lines of what’s going on lynda.com or similar sites– and by the way, those places are making money and they rely on an individual instructor/contractor model, not an elite university model.

The second idea is to sell these “quality courses” to community colleges.  First, the way this is presented in this contract is patronizing at best, but second and more important, there’s already a large enterprise doing this at community colleges and universities alike. It’s called “the textbook industry.”  Now, Coursera courses might turn out to be great, but like textbooks, they don’t teach themselves.

  • Sponsorship, which is simply running ads along the classes.  I don’t see how that makes anyone a ton of money, though that’s Google’s business model.
  • Tuition, which is basically reverting to the model that exists for higher education right now.

Two last thoughts here.  First, I am certainly not a business person and the people starting this all seem like smart cookies to me.  But I have to say this is starting to look like pets.com

Second, I think this passage from the CHE piece is spot on:

When I (meaning Jeffrey Young, the CHE writer) showed the Coursera contract to Trace A. Urdan, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities who focuses on education-related companies, he found it “ironic” that major universities are embracing online education when they have been dismissive of earlier efforts by for-profit companies like the University of Phoenix.

“These are two of the most arrogant types of institutions—Silicon Valley companies intersecting with these elite academic programs,” he says. “Neither of them considers that anyone else has come to this place before they’ve arrived. They say, We’re here now, so now it’s sort of legitimate and for real.”

I guess time will tell if that arrogance is going to pay off.

More MOOC MOOC MOOC craziness

I’m quasi-vacationing this week (that is, I’m away from home at a lovely vacation spot near Traverse City, but I am still teaching online and doing a ton of work stuff so am therefore not really “unplugged” from it all), and while I haven’t been keeping up with my RSS feed too religiously, it sure seems like the MOOC stuff just keeps on coming.  For example:

  • In the New York Times comes  “Universities Reshaping Education on the Web.”  MOOCs are discussed as a “tsunami,” a “game changer,” an experiment too big to ignore, despite the fact that there is no evidence that these things will work, there’s no decent business model, and there isn’t even a good definition here as to what a MOOC actually is.
  • Coursera is adding a dozen more institutions, and Audrey Watters rounds up some other MOOC news.
  • The University of Washington is trying to offer “enhanced MOOCs” that might ultimately grant credit.  Or not.
  • UVa is getting involved in this and apparently not getting involved early enough was one of the reasons why their board fired the president.  Well, before unfiring her.
  • Alan “cog dog” Levine has a lovely song about all this (and the graphic I have borrowed above, too).  And of course the great Stephen Downes links to smart stuff here and here.

It goes on and on and on!  Anyway, a few quick thoughts for now:

  • I am far from against online education or incorporating new tools into learning, and I am also not at all against trying to innovative and even seemingly counter-intuitive approaches to pedagogy.  These kinds of free-for-all, DIY, learning for the sake of learning communities are awesome in and of themselves.  But they’re not a good way to “grant credit,” they’re not a way to pay the bills of higher education, and even the enthusiasts haven’t gotten that part of this MOOC thing worked out.
  • This is looking more and more like the 90s tech bubble where all of a sudden tech companies were claiming that they didn’t need to worry about sustainability of making a profit anymore.  Or maybe worse, it’s looking like tulips.  The thing that’s troubling to me about all this (besides the fact that the bean counters/board members of universities are the ones getting sucked into this and they control the money) is we might not even get to the potential good application of MOOCs before the bubble bursts and/or the administrators are on to a different craze.
  • When I mentioned all this stuff to my wife (who I was surprised hadn’t heard of this), she mentioned to me the definition of “mook” in popular culture:  a contemptible, incompetent, and even stupid person.  A different spelling for sure, but is there something about the similar pronunciation?

MOOCs and “Prior Learning Assessment”

More in the series of “the summer of MOOCs” articles and posts here:  Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article, “Making It Count.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

Massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are not credit-bearing. But a pathway to college credit for the courses already exists — one that experts say many students may soon take.

That scenario combines the courses with prior learning assessment — a less-hyped potential “disruption” to traditional higher education — which is the granting of credit for college-level learning gained outside the traditional academic setting.

Here’s how the process could work: A student successfully completes a MOOC, like Coursera’s Social Network Analysis, which will be taught this fall by Lada Adamic, an associate professor at the University of Michigan. The student then describes what he or she learned in that course, backing it up with proof, in a portfolio developed with the help of LearningCounts.org or another service, perhaps offered by a college.

There’s also this handy flow-chart:

This isn’t a bad idea in theory and maybe even in practice.  It kind of reminds me of the old days when future lawyers went and studied to take the Bar Exam without needing to go through that pesky law school business.  I believe this is how Lincoln became a lawyer.

But it doesn’t take much to spot some potential problems, too:

  • “Credit for prior experience” is essentially the formula used by diploma mills to justify their fake degrees– the “PhD in life,” so to speak.  So until that well-deserved bias is overcome, getting actual college credit from an actual college will be tricky.
  • The problem with prior experience is you have to actually have prior experience.  I of course do encounter students at EMU who come into classes I teach with a lot of worthy prior experience.  Just the other day, a new grad student asked me if she could get college credit for her prior experience as a teacher (the answer was no).  But for the most part, the reason why students come to college in the first place is they don’t have prior experience.  So while some combination of MOOC/prior experience thing might be useful for adults returning to college after years in the workplace, it isn’t going to be too useful for most of our students.  And by the way, it’s the younger, more traditional college students who are going deepest into student loan debt.
  • What exactly would this credit “count” for, anyway?  Take the example of the course mentioned in the introduction:  that Social Network Analysis course looks like it might be pretty cool, but what exactly would we count that as at a place like EMU?  It probably wouldn’t correspond to anything in the Written Communication major, and I don’t think it would count here as a gen ed class.  So at best, someone could transfer this class as just “credit,” and any transfer student can tell you that that’s not very useful.
  • Even this article says that the process someone would have to go through to make MOOC credit count might not be worth it, “that students might decide it’s easier to retake an equivalent course at a traditional college than to seek prior-learning credit for a MOOC.”

Udacity joins Pearson in skipping this whole pesky “education” thing (and more complaining about MOOCs)

A couple months ago, I had a post here about how I see “education” working as a combination of learning, teaching, and credentialing.  In that post, I pointed out that ventures like Coursera are at this point PR vehicles for the elite universities because they are offering “courses” to the masses but they would never actually accept these courses as credit at said elite universities– in other words, there’s no way the University of Michigan is going to accept a certificate or badge of completion as credit toward one of its degrees, even if students pay for the privilege.  However, as I also pointed out in that post, that doesn’t mean less elite institutions like Ivy Tech aren’t willing to count these things.

Well, now Udacity is doing the same thing.  To quote from their blog:

Today, we’re excited to announce a partnership with Pearson VUE, a worldwide provider of testing services. Students may still complete a Udacity class on our website as they always have. And now, students wishing to pursue our official credential and be part of our job placement program should also take an additional final exam in a Pearson testing center. There are over 4000 centers in more than 170 countries.

I came across this news via George Siemens’ elearnspace.  Siemens, who is a Canadian researcher/teacher about technology in education and who has been a pioneer of Massive Online Open Courses, is critical of this move.  He sees Udacity as essentially “selling out:”

Udacity is recognized as an innovative model of learning in the future, but, in order to gain legitimacy, decides that a connection to the established testing system is more important than blazing a new trail. This connection serves to reinforce the existing educational model rather than to continue the path of creating a new one. As Udacity creates similar connections to other education companies and organization, it quickly becomes apparent that the network being created is one of validation and lockin, rather than innovation and a new vision for learning. You can’t do much innovation if your point of departure is blocked by existing testing and assessment models.

True enough, but I guess I’m more cynical than that.  I see Udacity as merely “buying in:”  that is, I think the unspoken goal of Udacity, Coursera, and other comparable projects has always been to leverage the assessment industry and generate “cheap credit” that might be applicable at less picky colleges and universities.

Now, I do appreciate the fact that entities like Udacity do extend some opportunity to education to the rest of the world and that comes across in Udacity’s press release.  Still, if you follow the money, I don’t think Udacity and Pearson are in this to extend opportunity to people in Sri Lanka.  No, I think the goal of these entities is to compete in the higher education market in the U.S., Canada, and maybe some of Europe, and specifically, to compete with the “lower half” of that market:  for-profit universities, community colleges, and (probably) opportunity-granting regional universities and colleges.

Incidentally, Siemens also has a really good post on his (and his colleagues) vision(s) of MOOCs, one that I would argue is at odds with corporate model that is all the rage as of late.  Go read it, but basically, Siemens’ vision of a MOOC strikes me as about community and connection, with an emphasis on student-centered learning and on the value of making things and student contributions to the learning process, as opposed to the “sage on a stage knowledge delivered from the elite leaders to the unwashed masses” model of the Coursera/EdX/Udacity/et al of the world.

I still don’t think MOOCs are the future of education, at least on this continent and as long as the credential of the college degree is so important.  Or let me put it this way:  I will believe in the viability of MOOCs and open education when that young person applying for an entry-level job in the Federal government or for the Bank of America or “insert your major employer here” with a “non-degree” series of badges and certificates from various free/low-price online entities wins that position over a young person with a bachelors degree from a traditional university.

That said, I’m all for the MOOC model that Siemens is talking about.  I don’t know if they are educational per se, but they are certainly great opportunities for learning and teaching, and maybe someday we can figure out a way to make them legitimately “count” for something.

One last Bonk post for the road

I’ve pretty much reached the end of my MOOC experience in Curt Bonk’s “Empowering Learning Through Community.”  As my previous posts suggest, I haven’t exactly been wowed by the possibilities of MOOCs based on this experience.

I don’t really blame Bonk, at least not much.  His course and materials were introductory/basic, so I didn’t really get a whole out of the class.  But that’s more my own fault regarding expectations about what I might have been able to get out it.  Bonk provided some solid advice and materials that I think would be a useful place to start for someone who has never taught online before who wanted to know a bit about “best practices” and the like, and if we ever pull together a graduate course/program about teaching writing online at EMU, I can easily imagine returning to this stuff.

None of Bonk’s materials are particularly earth-shattering or innovative though.  And interestingly, as I think is pretty clear with the videos on his YouTube channel, the “production values” of these lecturers are pretty poor.  That strikes me as a bit of a problem or at least weirdly ironic.

As for the whole MOOC thing:  forget it.  Sure, it’s possible for someone to learn something from a MOOC like this or the efforts from Harvard, MIT, U of Michigan, etc., etc., but you can learn a lot from the history channel or even the food network.  Heck, I learn a lot about cooking from FoodTV– and maybe I can even earn badges for it!  And then there are these things called books.  It seems to me that those are the original massively open tool for potential learning, tools that allow “students” to interact with the material in any way they see fit and at the time of their choosing.  When you factor in the costs and technical restraints of online courses, massive and otherwise, seems to me that books are still a better deal.

It’s weird that MOOCs are getting as much press and attention as they are right now, frankly.  Just over five years ago, there was a controversy here at EMU about a faculty member in my department teaching these online classes with 100 or so students.  I blogged about it here; the problem of this made national news because the idea that you could actually have an online class worth anything with that many students was back then considered ridiculous.  Most of the best practice studies I saw back then said that online classes functioned best when enrollment was capped at around 15-20– not unlike face to face classes, by the way.  So why is it that now anyone thinks that a “class” with 1000 students– even a free class– would all of a sudden be a good idea?

Some random thoughts on the supposed collapse of the university as we know it

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but as I head into what (I think?) is the end of the Bonk MOOC and after collecting a bunch of links on this, I thought I’d offer some random thoughts on the end of higher education as we know it.

Throw a brick out a window and you’re liable to hit an article like these:

I could go on, but you see the point.  Now to my random thoughts:

  • In a global way, I think Aaron Barlow says a lot of what I would say in this post and this post on his blog One Flew East.  As far as I can tell, education has been in a state of revolution that potentially eliminates the teacher since Socrates and Phaedrus talked about the dangers of literacy.  Books, print, cheap publishing, etc. have been available for learning without teachers or interaction with others for a long time, but as Barlow points out, “Only the rare person is a true autodidact.”
  • The fact that most of us (including me) lack the ability to intensely self-direct our learning (and I for one lack the crazily internal motivations for doing almost anything) is the key in understanding why both Thiel’s foundation and these various no credit MOOCs are basically a waste of time and/or a PR stunt.  Sure, if you hold a national contest attracting the best and brightest young people in the country and offer them $100K to develop those ideas, those folks can probably get away without having a college degree.  Sure, there are people– especially in the IT world– who are more or less self-taught and could be where they are without a college degree.  Sure, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out of college.  But the fact is most of us aren’t like that, and most of us are not Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or (insert your other anomaly genius name here).  Most of us need something a lot closer to a classroom and degree experience to succeed.
  • Wasn’t it just a few years ago that the popular press was running a bunch of articles about how it turns out that lecture hall discussions were bad and it was the interaction between students and teachers that fostered learning?  Wasn’t the whole “reversed classroom” thing the main topic of discussion just a few months ago?  So why on earth is an online version of a sage on the stage now seen as the solution?
  • Show me anyone writing for mainstream media that college is a waste of time and money and I’ll show you someone– that same writer– who has a college degree, and usually a college degree from a fancy-pants institution.  It’s the same argument I have about the coming revolution in digital scholarship:   I’ll agree that publishing in fixed manuscript form is over as soon as these folks publishing books about digital scholarship and the end of print start getting recognition for their actual digital scholarship and that work alone.  I think the days of printing on paper are numbered, sure.  But words in a row– even when those words in a row are about multimodality or digital rhetoric or what have you– aren’t going anywhere.
  • A few years ago, I did a project on correspondence schools in the late 19th and early 20th century, and a number of years before that and as part of one of the last classes I took in my PhD program, I did some research on elocution and the “home learning” movements of the 19th century.  Classes conducted via the postal service were a particularly big deal in the midwest.  William Rainey Harper, who has a community college named after him in the Chicago area, said in 1885 “the day is coming when the work done by correspondence will be greater than that done in the classrooms of our academies and colleges.”  Makes me think I should go back to those scholarly projects.