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.

Dialogue and conversation in Online Education and Learning

Here it comes, what I have once also liked to express:

“AH, you’re a professor. You must learn so much from your students.”

This line, which I’ve heard in various forms, always makes me cringe. Do people think that lawyers learn a lot about the law from their clients? That patients teach doctors much of what they know about medicine?

Yet latent in the sentiment that our students are our teachers is an important truth. We do in fact need to learn from them, but not about the history of the Roman Empire or the politics of “Paradise Lost.”

There were many good stories illustrating how people teach doctors how to cure diseases, or lawyers learning a lot from the cases they dealt with the clients.  Here in my previous posts on story telling – story telling.

It makes good headlines to claim that MOOCs and their ilk signal “the beginning of the end” for higher education. But that’s mostly blustery rhetoric. As Siva Vaidhyanathan put it, “I wish pundits would stop declaring that MOOC’s are revolutionary when they are merely interesting (not that there is anything wrong with that).” What’s a more measured reaction to the MOOC trend, then?

As I have shared in my previous posts, the x MOOC has decimated the connectivist MOOC but not the LEARNING associated with the connectivist MOOCs.  Cathy says in her post:

 True learning is a dialogue,” it is clear to me that he has never taken an online course.  Lots are dialogues. Extremely effective ones. At the same time, he romanticizes a bit too much about the dialogical nature of traditional higher education.  Lots of what profs do in the classroom is so monologic as to be narcissistic.   There are bad versions of MOOCs, and bad versions of traditional education, or Massively Outdated Traditional Education (MOTEs).   We have to make distinctions.

I am “tired” of the debates between the two, mainly because there are many pros and cons with each approaches. When MOOC really scaled to a huge scale – say tens of thousands, the learning is surely machine or tool gauged, as no institutions could afford the time and money to have any human doing the assessment. Such forms of assessment could be perfectly matched with the public examinations, where MC, T/F, and short answers could be matched with standard answers. What does a 100% mean? A perfect match with the answers the questioners (professors, educators) have set. To what extent would that count as education? 100%. How about when people are out there at work? What are the questions? What are the problems? Are there 100% perfect right answers? So, the issues with MOOC include: What does learning mean, when we just focus on examinations, or even the mere “right or wrong” answers matching with the “learning outcomes”?

There are no “right” or “wrong” MOOCs, as any one could argue that these MOOCs are absolutely revolutionary, and right for having them open to the world, for free. Aren’t these MOOCs satisfying the urge for free open education? Why people are still not happy when they are free? Aren’t the professors doing a great job of educating the world?

Jesse argues in this post: “MOOCs are like books, good when they’re good and bad when they’re bad. There is evil they can help do and evil they can help undo. Emerson writes in“The American Scholar,” “Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst” (56).”

Finally, education and learning is not merely giving out the content, testing the students to see if they have got the right answers in assignments or examinations, though they may be important for course validation and institution accreditation.  It is about engaging people (both professors, educators, learners) to interact with each others, in the form of conversation, discourse, and to dialogue about the content, information, and learn about the implications and applications in study, at work, or in life.

Technology could be a powerful tool in the course of education and learning, in particular in MOOC, especially in the mediation of communication, or the facilitation of cooperation and collaboration, through wiki, Google Doc, or social media.

The current affordance of media and tools that are tailored to the learners need to be more effectively applied in the x MOOC, together with the “teaching, cognitive and social presence” for a transformation of education and learning.  Tools and media alone won’t change the world.  It’s the people, the leaders, the learners who work and learn, and converse together, that would change the world.

Photo: Google

My reflection of Leadership in a networked world

If people haven’t heard a word from the leader and could still achieve the goals, then he/she could be the greatest leader. Why? Because, his or her actions speak out what he or she wants to communicate, not by words. It’s what people act (and serve) in the community/network that makes good leadership. And great leadership must come from people who shared the vision, when everyone becomes a leader, and at the end of the journey said: “We did it ourselves” (a quote from Lao Tze on leaders). The greatest leaders do not seek for fame or honor, like Jesus, but do require people to think, reflect and act, so we live our lives in full, despite obstacles and challenges.

MOOC and Open Online Education

What are the implications of MOOCs on Higher Education and University teaching?  In this article on single-most-important-experiment-in-higher-education:

As Koller and Ng acknowledged in our interview, Coursera is still in some ways a work in progress. Its grading technology, they said, is capable of assessing sophisticated assignments in science and math, but the company is still working out the best way to handle longer written work for humanities and social science programs. And as with many Silicon Valley darlings, how it will generate revenue is also a bit of an open question. Ng suggested that some schools may sell branded certificates, or that Coursera could begin offering career placement services, matching employers with students who demonstrate specific skills.

What do these mean?  There are still lots of challenges especially on the assessment and accreditation of the courses based on MOOCs, like how to ensure the peer assessment (as outlined in the pedagogy of Coursera) could be worked out with the humanities and social science programs.

How to ensure assessment is done consistently and reliably in these x MOOCs?  How to ensure that the learners in the MOOCs are really who they claim they are, especially when taking tests or examinations?  How to ensure that the assignments submitted are based on the learners’ own work, and not a copy of others?   How to prevent cheating and plagiarism among learners in MOOCs?  Though it is argued that you can’t cheat in a MOOC, as it is not for University credit as the author suggested, but it has been revealed that the University of Washington said it will give credit for its Coursera classes.

It might soon be a common practice in giving credit based on those x MOOC classes, when identity and assessment issues are solved.

Another huge challenge rests with the economic models that would be adopted  for these x MOOC, and how they could ensure their sustainability in the long run.

How will MOOCs make money?  Various ways of making money though MOOCs are discussed there.

“One of the more provocative potential business models for MOOCs is to bypass credentialing altogether. Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students. Instead of simply selling those students credentials that they can list on their resumes while looking around for jobs, Udacity would offer to match students with companies that have enlisted Udacity as a talent scout. (The company has already hired a full-time jobs counselor to lay groundwork with potential employers.) Udacity would take a commission for each successful match, same as a headhunter.
A sustainable model would need to be based on a fee for service – i.e. requiring a fee for the award of a certificate from the University.  ”So far the only revenue stream that the major new MOOC providers have said they will pursue is charging a fee for a certificate.”
To what extent would institutions be ready for the development of a business model and plan?  What would be the actual running cost per participant who successfully completed in a MOOC?  These are important considerations for any Higher Institutions, before they would embark on MOOC.

There could be a need to “re-bundle higher education” as has been practiced in Colleges and Universities, in response to the x MOOC movement (see this online-learning-and-the-unbundling-of-undergraduate-education).   This means that Universities have to think of something else to sell (this post on when-courses-are-free-online-whats-left-for-universities-to-sell) in order to compete in this global higher education market.  Andrew however states: “While Australian universities have control over the most valuable credentials in the Australian labour market, and while they offer students an attractive broader experience, we can expect their long-term growth to continue.”

In summary, the x MOOCs that were introduced since last year has led to the opening up of new open online education opportunities for free to global learners.  These MOOCs have now attracted more than million students, and more students around the globe would be expected to join soon.  It is unsure how these MOOCs would evolve, even in the coming months.  There are lots of concerns as cited in various posts.  Nevertheless, the current trend of more universities forming alliance or joining the movement in offering MOOCs in the US have opened doors for experimenting new and alternative models of Higher Education.  It seems that these have already “disrupted” the usual offering of HE in the US Universities, and probably more universities in many countries would be developing strategic alliance with the top universities in the offer of new MOOCs.  This lead us to rethink about the challenging question: Can online courses transform Higher Education Industry?

Have the giants responded to the call for transformation of Higher Education?

I have shared it here in my post:

Here George shares his views on Why universities should experiment with open online courses. I think the AI courses, Udacity and Coursera are responses to call from George and Stephen, and I wish that all these initiatives would be successful, rather than a wash-down as industrial treadmill or for profits initiatives.

Postscript: This post on Inside the Coursera Contract: How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses provides some updates on Coursera Contract and its business model.

See this post relating to moocs-neither-the-death-of-the-university-nor-a-panacea-for-learning.

Photo Credit: Google EdTech