Monday, October 15, 2012

cfhe12 - week 2: when world colide!

After a tittle like that, I feel like this blog ought to have a theme song ;-) Is this too dorky? Not dorky enough?  Chime in through the comments :-)

In any case, it's Week 2 of #cfhe12 and the topic of the week is New Pedagogies: New models for teaching and learning. I find it interesting (and ironic) that Blended Learning and Online Learning are considered "new pedagogies" and "new models."  Even though I am currently undertaking 2 Blended Learning workshops (one MOOC #blendkit and one workshop through Sloan-C), I have known about blended learning for a while.  As far as Online Learning goes...I've known about it, and been active in it for much longer!  How can these models be considered new?  To me MOOCs are new because we are still exploring them.  There is no "one MOOC format", just as there is no one Online Course format. MOOCs are a subset of Online Courses, and MOOCs have many other courses that are a subset of a MOOC.

That being said, I am drawn back to "rigor" and what it means to be "rigorous" and "effective." Granted, the InsideHigherEd article was from 2009, but it amazes me that a method of delivery can be seen as less rigorous simply because of the method of delivery. By the same token, I was reading another article on InsideHigherEd (Bitter Reality of MOOConomics) from this past summer where there is a catch-22 for Universities.  Universities, in the past, have had their cachet was in limited spots, and therefore selectivity and limited amount of accredited individuals; and of course the social network you developed. With MOOCs that goes out the window because you have potentially a massive amount of people being "accredited." In some fashion.

The second IHE article talks about getting jobs as the primary motive for people going to college, something we tackled last week on #cfhe12, and something we will most likely see, and talk about, again before this MOOC is over. If people are coming to school for credentialing purposes only, then we have an issue, because the goals and expectations of students are at odds with the goals and expectations of the institution and its representatives: faculty and staff.

[setup] I had an interesting discussion with colleagues last week over the length of courses: again form and versus what needs to be covered and evaluated.  My feeling was that one can have a 13 week on-campus course and a 6 week (intensive) on-campus course, and (more or less) get a comparable educational experience. Sure, it may feel like you're under pressure and you're running to get things done, but with a few modification to assessments you can do it.

In an online space this doesn't work.  You still have the same amount of time, but psychologically (I argue) nothing else changes.  The online classroom is the same whether you have a 4, 6, 8, 10, or 14 week semester.  You can pack in "more materials" but that's about it. In an on-campus class, from a psychological perspective, things change, you meet, in person, twice as often, which signals to the learner that the expectations that the shorter-length course is the same(ish) as a regular semester but you still are expected to cover the same materials, and be assessed on the knowledge you've gained.  In an online course, without other external stimuli, it's easy for learners to "forget" that they are in a shortened-length course, but they are still required to cover the same bases as the "regular" length course. This can breed discontent among students.

[punchline] OK, so what does my little anecdote have to do with the future of higher education.  After this very invigorating debate, some of my fellow faculty members said (or claimed) that (from a student perspective?) the reason to take shorter length courses is to "easily" get 3 credits and move closer to graduation in a shorter time frame.  While I understand that this may be in the minds of students - given that they think that the purpose of education is purely utilitarian (i.e. get a job), but I felt a little uncomfortable with the prospect that faculty (who self-govern their programs) may be starting to think this way too!  It's  up to the faculty to keep the spirit of Higher Education (inquiry) alive, to  find the right blend of inquiry of inquity's sake and relatedness of knowledge to "real" life; and when I hear that maybe we ought to capitulate to the need of the moment (i.e. get a job), I feel that academia has betrayed me. Where is academia headed?

Your thoughts?

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