The Higher Education Bubble

What is Higher Education bubble?

Photo: Google

Is the Higher Education bubble as big as they say?

Colleges used to worry about the character and moral fiber of their students, and so they had a lot of in loco parentis social regulations and demerits and so forth.  Now they worry that students aren’t happy or too stressed or lonely or short on self-esteem.  Colleges are paranoid about retention—that if the consumers aren’t happy they’ll just choose another brand of college.

Aren’t these the concerns of many colleges nowadays? Here George comments:

The students were happy: Who complains about courses with high grades but little work? The professors were happy, and the administrators were happy because students getting good grades typically don’t gripe or, more important, drop out. But courses in which students just go through the motions without learning anything are a waste of time and money.

I think this is one of the concerns of administrators, educators and learners, especially when education is evaluated and measured against “customer – or learners’ satisfaction”, via the surveys, with the “happy faces” rather than the added value of learning, from an educational and learning point of view. Aren’t we at the cross road of trying to satisfying the learners’ needs and expectation, together with the compliance to standards set by institutions, industry, business and education authorities.  Whose needs are most important? What are some of the issues of Higher Education bubble and Higher education?  Standardization?

A focus on standardization narrows the curriculum and creates a teaching culture where creativity, exploration, and critical thinking are scarce or non-existent. It creates a culture that students do not want to be a part of and one that can only be sustained with the use of “if-then” rewards or “carrots and sticks.” Is this the direction we want to go? Do we want schools to squash creativity and reinforce a model that worked well in the 20th century but will not prepare our students for their future?

How could we solve these problems?  We should create a teaching culture where creativity and creative and critical thinking is encouraged and supported.  This would also create a culture that students would like to be part of, rather than being forced to attend, under the tyranny. In this connection, would Higher Education Bubble be solved by the MOOCs (see here on MOOCs too)?  Here George thinks that MOOCs  are really a platform.  I think MOOCs could both be a platform and a springboard (despite an experimental one) in fulfilling the educational needs of global  learners. In the c MOOCs, as Stephen says: it is the learners who decide what success means, in terms of their achievement of personal goals.

So not only do they not depend on us for learning, but also, their learning is not subject to our value-judgements and prejudices. We (those of working in MOOCs) have also been clear about the influences of people like Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire. And it’s not just about ‘flipping’ courses. It’s about reducing and eventually eliminating the learned dependence on the expert and the elite – not as a celebration of anti-intellectualism, but as a result of widespread and equitable access to expertise.

To me, that is also the ideology of post-modernist and post-traditionist education, where learner independence and inter-dependence would not be judged merely from the traditional educational teaching in schools.

Postscript: Refer to this post on Higher Education Bubble.

Photo: Google


How to improve teaching and learning?

How to improve teaching? Can poor teachers learn to be good ones? Yes, as Ray says in this post

But if it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll ever discover a pedagogical silver bullet that makes a great teacher, it may be possible, guided by insights from social psychology, to find individual interventions that do have outsize effects on student learning at relatively modest cost.

Improving teaching is just part of the solution to improved learning. Developing autonomous and self-directing and organizing learners, even at a young age, requires more than those traditional learning approaches. It takes time, efforts and patience to grow and develop people, and test scores are only indication of the “growth” index, or the performance level, but not always that of an enriched learning experience. It’s the enjoyable, social and knowledge-rich learning experience that would add value to young learners, so they could develop their cognitive abilities throughout their early stages of development.

There are also too many assumptions and myths – by relating good or excellent teachers, and teaching to good learning. That’s not always the case, as each student is different, in terms of their learning style, maturity in cognitive and social abilities and different levels of motivation. Trying to teach students with a one-size suits all way of “best practice” would likely lead people to believe that lecture, tests, and examination is the most economical and efficient way of teaching, at a “massive” scale.

What have the students learnt? Are these based on rote learning? What level of learning have these students achieved? What sort of learning is it based on? Surface learning (rote learning, basic content understanding etc.), or strategic learning (to have good study habits, to get good score in tests, assignment, and/or examinations), or deep learning (able to transfer skills and knowledge to different situations, problem solving, creative solutions finding, creative and critical thinking, innovative approaches in learning – with self-paced, self organised and directed learning through PLE/PLN (with or without the guidance by the teachers), peer-to-peer instruction and learning, small group collaborative learning etc.)

Photo: from Google

Photo: Robotic teacher from news post.

Online Learning

Can online learning enhance productivity?  Here is an opportunity to enhance in a consultancy project relating to the literature review on online learning and productivity, as referred by Tony Bates.

My view is: informal and formal online learning is now becoming the most disruptive innovation ever in history, posting a “serious challenge if not threat” to the formal traditional face-to-face and lecture type of Higher Education.  This seems evidently the case with the introduction of numerous initiatives, like x MOOCs – Udacity, MITx, edX, Coursera, where huge number of students were attracted and registered in the courses.   Literature review would uncover some of the aspects many of us in the c MOOC have found, through researches on the value and power of networked learning, both in a formal and informal context.  I have posted some of the papers in my publication.

I hope I could contribute more on this consultancy project.