# Have you got a more cost effective solution in education and learning?

I got this from an unknown source, and found it very interesting.

Engineering 101

A toothpaste factory had a problem. They sometimes shipped empty boxes without the tube inside. This challenged their perceived quality with the buyers and distributors. Understanding how important the relationship with them was, the CEO of the company assembled his top people. They decided to hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem. The project followed the usual process: budget allocated, RFP, and third-parties selected.

Six months (and \$8 million) later they had a fantastic solution – on time, on budget, and high quality. Everyone in the project was pleased.
Engineers solved the problem by using a high-tech precision scale that would sound a bell whenever a toothpaste box weighed less than it should. The line would stop, someone would walk over, remove the defective box, and then press a button to re-start the line. As a result of the new package monitoring process, no empty boxes were being shipped out of the factory.

With no more customer complaints, the CEO felt the \$8 million was well spent. He then reviewed the line statistics report and discovered the number of empty boxes picked up by the scale in the first week was consistent with projections, however, the next three weeks it was zero! The estimated rate should have been at least a dozen boxes a day. He had the engineers check the equipment. They verified the report as accurate.

Puzzled, the CEO traveled down to the factory, viewed the part of the line where the precision scale was installed, and observed just ahead of the new \$8 million dollar solution sat a \$20 desk fan blowing the empty boxes off the belt and into a bin. He asked the line supervisor what that was about.

“Oh, that,” the supervisor replied, “Bert, the kid from maintenance, put it there because he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang.”

Isn’t that desk fan an ingenious solution to the problem?

I wonder if we might have similar situations in education and learning, where a simple solution costing very little might have provided a superior solution to one costing lots of money.

Another example: The space pencil.

You might come up with a more cost effective solution to my previous post on what makes a good education system and a good teacher.

What do you see are some possible cost-effective solutions to education and learning?

# What makes a good education system and a good teacher?

This post on Gates Foundation study: We’ve figured out what makes a good teacher:

What’s the best way to identify an effective educator?

After a three-year, \$45 million research project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes it has some answers.

The most reliable way to evaluate teachers is to use a three-pronged approach built on student test scores, classroom observations by multiple reviewers and teacher evaluations from students themselves, the foundation found.

Benjamin Stewart

I would agree with this critique (http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/05/i-am-puzzled-by-the-gates-foundation/), but admit that the foundation at least asks the difficult questions that need to be addressed in today’s educational system.
My response:

Glad to learn your views, and I shared and agreed with the critique.  My concerns about those studies are:

1. Equating a good pass or score in the test to quality education is a misunderstanding about learning at this digital age. If that is what education is all about, then every effective teacher would be teaching to the TEST, to ensure the students pass the tests at the end, through repeated exercises, quizzes.  Does it sound no difference to our traditional education (or where most of us have been educated)? What are the relevance of the test to the life skills required in society?  What does it mean to have 100% correct, matching the answers to the model answers?  Is that how a great teacher is defined?

2. Have we learnt through a Taylorist approach towards scientific management (or Taylorism), by applying it straight into education – based on the best teacher and best teaching approach?
Have we defined scientific education, where education is standardized with lesson plans, with deep down to earth “quality instruction” where the teachers are expected to carry out?  What is the assumption with such an approach?  Students learn best with the best instruction, by the best instructors?  May be, you could train up such an instructor by having more supervision, leading them to follow a routine instruction in a classroom learning situation.

3. Have the studies explored why the students were not improving their performance in class?  Was it due to the “poor performance of the teachers” only?  How about the actual needs of the students, and the reasons why these students don’t perform well?

4. The best teachers are those who could support the learners to learn, based on these learners’ needs and abilities. However, I don’t think the learners would improve their performance solely because of those “best teachers”.  Learners would improve their performance if they have the “how to, chance to, and want to” improve.

5. So, this requires a significant paradigm shift in education, where the learners grow their knowledge and skills in a supportive and open learning environment.  This would apply to the teachers too, where teachers need to “LEARN” together with their learners in order to enhance and enrich their learning experience.

6. Relying the improvement based solely on the examination scores is really missing the point in education.  Isn’t it time to empower both the teachers and learners in such an education system to flourish, instead of telling the teachers that they are not good enough in teaching, or privatizing the education to the “better provider or teachers” who could raise the score of the students.

7. Is it why there aren’t enough progress in education?

# What is missing in Higher Education? Is it the human interaction?

Here is a response relating to MOOC and Higher Education.

In our view, the central philosophical flaw in the MOOC paradigm is that proponents believe that there is nothing to be lost in turning professors into glorified tutors, parts of a larger information delivery system. What this misses is the key fact that the heart of what we do as college educators has to do with the immeasurable human interaction that we have with our students and the vital social experience of the face-to-face classrooms. This is something that simply can never be reproduced by a new technology, no matter how advanced.

Inside Higher Ed

There are more concerns here:

With MOOCs offered by the most renowned professors in their respective fields, students have less incentive to relocate for postsecondary education. International students could take accredited classes without the hassle of visa applications and the hefty cost of international tuition fees. Local enrolment at second- and third-tier universities could fall drastically as students opted for the top brands with the obstacles to admission standards removed and credit dependent only on performance. Certainly, the vast number of students working 20 to 30 hours a week to help finance their education will not miss what they have never experienced – the bucolic life of an Ivy League education.

The attraction and availability of online classes has been partially propelled by, and will certainly reinforce, the increased reliance on part-time and sessional tutors and the precipitous decline in the percentage of courses taught by full-time tenured faculty. Departments may face significant downsizing or elimination. In the long-term, there will be less demand for the physical infrastructure of a typical university campus.

Here is a post relating to Can Online Courses Ease California’s Education Woes?

The governor is fostering partnerships between online learning programs and higher education, including a newly inked deal between San Jose State University and the startup Udacity. Can low-cost online classes help keep education affordable? Can online classes maintain the quality of a university lecture?

My response to a post shared on FB by Fabian Banga:

Interesting to note that Sebastian Thrun commented http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201301170900 there. Who speaks for cMOOCs? Unless the institutions and professors are going to appreciate the adoption of cMOOCs, most would still believe in the automated didactic instructivist approach, as the best professors are also considered the supreme authority/expert in the domain. It may be true that those best professors could deliver great lectures (short video lectures) as they have been educated with the best gurus.

The challenge is: we have assumed that EVERY STUDENT who is in need of learning (including remedial learning courses) would learn best with online courses. Is this true that ALL PROFESSORS could afford to spare the time and efforts in providing that extra mentoring? Or that a good online tool or tool box with repeated drills, short videos, would help students to pass the tests and examinations more easily? Most of us could pass an examination with more than 80 – 90% with repeated practice, by getting the right answers, if they are all MC or T/F. These are “concept tests” but there is no guarantee that students have really mastered the skills in real life applications, as MC and real life is totally different. Besides, which is better? Helping these students to learn how and why to learn, rather than what to learn only in online courses, as they are expected to apply the learning in real life scenarios, even after graduation.

The connectivist approach towards learning is not about rote learning (to remember the right answer or concepts to MC, T/F or even short questions), but to apply critical thinking skills, together with way finding and sense making to help and support them to grow their own knowledge and be able to learn with autonomy. Besides, as I have shared, there is no free lunch, and this doesn’t seem to treat our best professors in fairness too, as to expect them to teach tens or hundreds of thousand of students without adequate return (in remuneration) and their due respect. They are also educators who want to educate the world, though I think the branding and expectation of some participants of the xMOOCs to really learn from them might be “too high”. These professors are really too busy in preparing their scripted lectures and quizzes and have to bear the criticisms from the open. I suppose they are the only ones who might not have the time to speak about their work, and the implications, as they are committed to do so. Put ourselves into their positions and we would understand that these are all hard work.

Finally, nothing could be free forever, someone has to pay for these, in MOOCs. Even internet is never free, though it appears it is.