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Is Remote Instruction the Future of College?

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the sitting-in-a-room-with-people-is-so-20th-century dept.

Education 81

An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic reports on a new online learning venture called Project Minerva. Its goal is to blend the most effective parts of online and real-life college education. The problem with most online courses is that the vast majority of people who sign up for them never finish — they aren't engaged enough. Minerva is set up to encourage more interaction between a live professor and other students. Quoting: "[A]t first it reminded me of the opening credits of The Brady Bunch: a grid of images of the professor and eight "students" (the others were all Minerva employees) appeared on the screen before me, and we introduced ourselves. ... Within a few minutes, though, the experience got more intense.

Bonabeau began by polling us on our understanding of the reading, a Nature article about the sudden depletion of North Atlantic cod in the early 1990s. He asked us which of four possible interpretations of the article was the most accurate. In an ordinary undergraduate seminar, this might have been an occasion for timid silence, until the class's biggest loudmouth or most caffeinated student ventured a guess. But the Minerva class extended no refuge for the timid, nor privilege for the garrulous. Within seconds, every student had to provide an answer, and Bonabeau displayed our choices so that we could be called upon to defend them." The professor has fine-grained control over the class, and can easily divide students into groups, or link up directly for one-on-one advice. The project hopes that having a professor directly involved (and using modern tools) will bring the online learning experience up to speed with more traditional methods.

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For given values of education (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47677809)

The future of mass instruction for people who aren't wealthy enough for an Ivy League school but need a BA/BS because it's the new high school diploma? Sure.

The future of tomorrow's entrepreneurs and inventors? Nope.

we need to move away from the old Degrees system (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#47678021)

It's time to replace the old Degrees systems with some kind of badges systems.

  future of tomorrow's entrepreneurs and inventors need a place to learn the skills that they need in a way that costs less and is faster then the old Degrees system.

we don't need no stinkin' badges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678137)

You have a valid point, but it's not the degrees themselves, it's the bullshit classes that universities are offering. That being said, half (or more) of all the degrees are probably worthless when you get them.

Re:we don't need no stinkin' badges (4, Informative)

sabri (584428) | about 5 months ago | (#47678581)

it's the bullshit classes that universities are offering.

So you go somewhere where you don't have that. I recently earned my MSc at Western Governors University (wgu.edu) which is competency based. There is no need to take classes, they are strictly optional. If you think you already have the competency to pass, go ahead and take the test. If you're not sure or need to fresh up, take the class, part of it, or just read the material. All online and distance learning with dedicated course and program mentors. It took me 18 months to complete a 24 month program.

So, it can be done right. As to the question whether or not my degree is worth anything in the market: only time will tell.

artificial scarcity (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47678193)

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement:

The future of tomorrow's entrepreneurs and inventors? Nope.

the problems in academia are all eminently fixable...we have the money...we're the richest country in the history of the earth

there is a concerted effort to reduce availability of analytical-minded teaching

Re:artificial scarcity (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47678585)

we're the richest country in the history of the earth

No, we're in deeper debt than any society in history.

there is a concerted effort to reduce availability of analytical-minded teaching

If you also think we're the richest country in the history of earth, you might want to reconsider what you think of as "analytical-minded teaching".

debt myth debunked already (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47679727)

No, we're in deeper debt than any society in history.

this whole ontology has been debunked: WE ARE NOT IN DEBT

we haven't sold our souls to China...the fact that they buy T-bonds means they are **dependent** on us staying strong...not the reverse...they are nothing more than minority shareholders...random investors in the US

the 'national debt' is a real thing, so is budget deficits, but it's not equivalent in any way to the debt of an individual

the US dollar is the world currency, *we print the money & run the world economy*

international finance 'debt' is wholly different than the 'debt' of some random suburbanite household

Re:debt myth debunked already (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47680663)

Nope. Debt is debt. There's something like $220 trillion unfunded liabilities we will have to pay out for Social Security and Medicare over the next several decades (I forget exactly how long that time frame is). And other countries are switching away from the dollar for reserves and for energy purchases. You can say I'm wrong, but if you look at the various realities, I'm not actually wrong.

debt != debt & you know it (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47682023)

I explained, simply, why "debt is not debt" when comparing the USA & individual debt

the lone national superpower and world's reserve currency maker is different than a suburbanite w/ two mortgages

you make vague claims but no real evidence or logic...just the same Fox News noise...

anyone making decisions about US policy based on the notion that our 'national debt' is in any way related to personal 'debt' has no credibility in discussions like this

Re:debt != debt & you know it (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47685489)

I'm always happy to provide citations.

China/Russia dropping the dollar: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7c79... [ft.com]

China/Russia dropping the dollar: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/... [zerohedge.com]

Unfunded liabilities (conservative), with a nod to the horribly underfunded private and municipal pensions: http://www.forbes.com/sites/re... [forbes.com]

Keep in mind that once the dollar is effectively an also-ran currency, interest rates will go up on US treasuries. This will make the current debt interest payments unsustainable once the old debt is rolled into newer, higher-interest debt.

What do you have to say when presented with this information?

irrelevant (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47685973)

China/Russia were never what made the dollar the world's reserve currency (and during the Cold War they were much more aligned globally), and those links...from 'ft.com' and 'zerohedge.com' are not what they purport to be...there is no threat to the dollar as the world's reserve currency

Here's how to falsify my claim: present evidence that the World Bank is dissolving, that China is selling it's T-bonds at a loss, and no countries are buying T-bills, and the major indexes in the world are listing another currency as the world reserve

You presented some random google search results...it's not counterevidence to my claim *at all*

seriously...China and Russian monetary policy have never been part of this discussion and they do not affect the truth of what I said, which you did not contradict:

anyone making decisions about US policy based on the notion that our 'national debt' is in any way related to personal 'debt' has no credibility in discussions like this

Re:irrelevant (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47686043)

You didn't address unfunded liabilities at all.

As to the international move away from the dollar, it's already been discussed at length. The World Bank and IMF don't have total power over what other players want to do. Like, for example, the BRICS:

We support the reform and improvement of the international monetary system, with a broad-based international reserve currency system providing stability and certainty. We welcome the discussion about the role of the SDR in the existing international monetary system including the composition of SDR's basket of currencies.


You speak of US hegemony as though it's a constant. It isn't.

Re:irrelevant (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47686291)

Further, since *all* purchases of US bonds directly impact the interest rate, and hence cost of carrying debt, it's not necessary to prove China is selling them at a loss. Even just a reduced purchase rate will increase our debt costs.

about academia remember (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47686627)

still arguing at shadows...you have no more ground to give...this point is the main point of this whole thread:

anyone making decisions about US policy based on the notion that our 'national debt' is in any way related to personal 'debt' has no credibility in discussions like this

and it's about how people perceive problems in academia

we don't have to starve research/university budgets b/c of some budgets b/c of some imagined "budget crisis"

TFA and you are way off kilter

understand this: your notions of how economics works are foolish and disproven...you're a dupe...

Re:about academia remember (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47689585)

anyone making decisions about US policy based on the notion that our 'national debt' is in any way related to personal 'debt' has no credibility in discussions like this

I've tried several times to explain that all debt involves a borrower and one or more lenders, and that cost of borrowing affect the solvency of the borrower (in this case the USA), and that there are real risks to even reduced purchasing of US bonds by just SOME of the lenders. That's the dynamic I see as identical in all debt/borrowing/lending.

You haven't made even a token effort to address the substance of those arguments. I checked out your blog and you seem like a smart enough guy, so it's a little disappointing to me that you simply define me as someone with no credibility, instead of show me why my statements are wrong. I'm guessing you could make an effort at it that would at least be interesting. Maybe you could try explaining why borrowing costs are irrelevant in sovereign debt. I don't know why that would be the case. Maybe you have another insight. But simply dismissing me isn't going to convince me of anything you're saying.

academia & not like a suburban family's financ (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47692217)

all debt involves a borrower and one or more lenders

not true...not in macroeconomics

did you learn nothing from the financial crisis?

debt can be a commodity...the US is not "in debt" to China b/c they bought our T-bills

you're taking the economics of a **suburban family** and applying them to a post-specie, fiat currency anachic economic system with one hegemon (USA)

academia needs funding...***funding to educate idiots like you past 10th grade social-studies level understandings of economics***

you're trolling (ignoring the TFA aspect of the convo), being facile, reductionist, and wholly factually inaccurate

Re:academia & not like a suburban family's fin (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47696089)

I could do without the insults. You do know that T-bills are supposed to be paid back, right?

China: **crosses fingers** (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47696669)

China had better hope we pay them huh? And they better hope our money is worth something too...which makes ***China dependent on our stability*** China isn't a threat...they're a non-voting shareholder crossing their fingers that their investment makes money

I have proven your reductionist, trolling ideas about macroeconomics wrong every way that this comment thread would demand.

I could do without trolls like you on slashdot forever.

Just stop commenting. Slashdot will not suffer at all from the absence of your trolling.

You really are totally wrong and you'll either realize it and change or you wont. Either way stop commenting here.

not like a suburban family's finances (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47696695)

just to be clear for you, so you can learn, here is your problem:

you're taking the economics of a **suburban family** and applying them to a post-specie, fiat currency anachic economic system with one hegemon (USA)

sovereign debt is not equivalent to personal finance debt...learn it

Re:not like a suburban family's finances (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47696883)

Clearly I'm not getting my point across. The costs of carrying debt are going to force the USA into default, either directly, or through inflation. If you were truly an Austrian, as you claim on your homepage, you'd understand that. Continuing to say the same thing over and over without addressing the carrying costs of debt makes me suspect you really don't understand this topic, and choose to call yourself an Austrian for reasons other than it being true.

Re:not like a suburban family's finances (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47696947)


Just as in the private sector, when the government needs to borrow it issues bonds to lenders.


Pretty sure that word "borrow", and the word "lenders", indicates a need to pay back the lender for the bonds.

Probably as good a place as any to get a handle on where I'm coming from. Murphy is no bozo, and is writing for Mises there; I cannot imagine you have any basis to flippantly dismiss his statements while maintaining your self-identification of Austrian.

throw another shrimp on the barbie (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47698103)

maintaining your self-identification of Austrian.

i never claimed that I followed the Austrian School or the writings of Ludwig Von Mises...at all

does this mean you're trolling is successful? that I keep responding to you? good lord...

just in case you're being real underneath all this trolling...if you want to keep conversing, let's do it in another format...we are waaaaaaay off-topic and i feel bad /. has to process this text...

also...i'm still right...you have a lot to learn...maybe you are too dependent on philosophers to do your thinking for you?

Re:throw another shrimp on the barbie (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47699831)

Did I misunderstand this post on your homepage, where you self-identify as "Austrian"?


I'm not a troll. I've tried to maintain a fair bit more decorum than you have; I've tried to explain my arguments instead of being flippant and just repeating the same thing over and over. I think I'm probably the one being trolled. Whatever.

reclaiming Hayek & the Austrians (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47701001)

hey thanks for having a look

so that post, which was written long ago but I still hold to i figure, was did indeed mention Hayek (what did you think of my graphic?)

I mentioned Hayek because I felt that it would be a good way to find common ground between self-professed "libertarians" and the more liberal types I know.

I believe people are **too tied to quoting economics philosophers** when discussing economics in a context of a policy. I felt that I could write a post that would bridge an unnecessary and divisive ideological gap between two groups who, by policy, are virtually in lockstep..."libertarians" and progressive democrats

not all democrats, progressive democrats...and the other liberal groups...I like "libertarians" and indeed had my own "libertarian" phase

so that's why I mentioned the Austrian school...as an Occupy protester trying to break false ideological distinctions by "reclaiming" an influential philosopher

again thanks for reading and any feedback is appreciated...maybe post on my page or contact me another way?

Re:reclaiming Hayek & the Austrians (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47704075)

hey thanks for having a look

You're welcome.

again thanks for reading and any feedback is appreciated...maybe post on my page or contact me another way?

Thanks, but I'm not particularly interested. I have enough to keep me busy. FYI I navigated into Austrian economics as a result of really just believing that "The US Government will always be able to issue new debt to pay its old debt" was a defense of a ponzi scheme rather than a sustainable model. I found my way into full-blown libertarianism as a result of seeing the awful failures of Bush II's policies. Both these processes started in my 30s.

Re:reclaiming Hayek & the Austrians (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47705343)

right on...glad we could close the debate w/ some kind of mutual acknowledgement...usually when i get into a back/forth debate w/ someone on a deepthread it ends badly...

i like to think we were somewhat on topic

Re:artificial scarcity (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 5 months ago | (#47684923)

we're the richest country in the history of the earth

No, we're in deeper debt than any society in history.

As I understand it, every great empire that ever was, was deeply in debt. After you get past that hand to mouth thing, how deep your are able to go into debt becomes the measure of your wealth. Another way of putting it: what would you rather have, the money or the stuff? Can you eat money? Sail on it? Marry it?

Re:artificial scarcity (1)

digsbo (1292334) | about 5 months ago | (#47685649)

As I understand it, every great empire that ever was, was deeply in debt.

And the debt would get to a certain point, and the empire would fall. See Rome, Britain, Spain, the Byzantines (who lasted a REALLY long time, their problem was legitimate external pressure, they went about 1000 years on the gold standard, more or less). The financial center of the world was London before WWI. There will be another financial center of the world to take over from NYC. My money's on Beijing, for a while. Not sure when it will happen, but I'm guessing in my lifetime.

Re:For given values of education (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 5 months ago | (#47678231)

This will still only work for middle class as long as the colleges are tied to video/teleconference systems running with the Polycom tax. There will need to be at least a moderate quality system with high reliability/usability for the lower class to be able to access from public libraries and such. Also, you might want to check you assumptions about entrepreneurs and inventors. In those cases the success of ivy league educations is probably more associated with the ability to afford ivy league education (i.e. initial capital resources) than anything else.

Classes are for employees. Entrepreneurs motivated (3, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about 5 months ago | (#47678467)

> The future of mass instruction ... because it's the new high school diploma? Sure.
> The future of tomorrow's entrepreneurs and inventors? Nope.

I'd say the exact opposite. I've started a few businesses, and sold a couple, working for myself full-time for many years, so I suppose I qualify as an entrepreneur. Two of those companies are based on things I "invented", or at least "innovated", so I suppose I qualify as "entrepreneurs and inventors". I'd take online learning over sitting in a class room any day. In fact, I've gone back to school, and my classes are 100% online.

I'd think that people who wish come in, to sit at a desk and have their employer tell them what to do are the same people who want to come in, sit at a desk, and have their instructor tell them what to do. Many people like an arrangement where if they show up 40 hours a week and make a reasonable effort, their paycheck is pretty well guaranteed. Wouldn't they also like an arrangement where if they show up to class and make a reasonable effort, their degree is pretty well guaranteed? Online learning tends to be the opposite - it requires self-discipline, it requires deciding for yourself how much you need to study each topic. Much like being an entrepreneur.

Also, the "entrepreneurs and inventors" I know primarily want to learn a skill they need, as opposed to getting a piece of paper. They (I, certainly) prefer to be able to log in, learn what I need to learn, and move on to the next thing. Sitting in class after class can be maddening for an entrepreneur. For those who prefer being employed, the piece of paper, the degree, is the primary goal, so sitting in class to get the degree is fine. They can sit in class now so they can sit in their office later.

  * Being employed or being an entrepreneur is personal preference, I don't mean to imply that either is "better" than the other.
      If you're young and single, doing your own thing can be fun and exciting. If you have three kids, a steady paycheck and good insurance is the more responsible option.

Failure isn't bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47677847)

This idea that a high proportion of students drop out is a bad thing needs to be questioned. Why did they drop out? Was it because they disliked the quality of instruction and would have preferred a "real" course? Or was it simply that they realized that the subject matter didn't appeal to them? Maybe it was a good thing they dropped out, and could use their time for something more productive then doing the bare minimum required to pass.

Getting it very wrong (5, Interesting)

sinij (911942) | about 5 months ago | (#47677869)

I had to endure 4 years of theoretical and very occasionally practical training that has nothing to do with my job, and only tangentially related to my field. I believe the same is true for most IT-related professionals. Despite course load irrelevance, I would not be able to do what I do without such education.
Getting education is not about mastering subjects, they are frequently irrelevant to what you end up doing. It is about developing ability to independently study abstract problem outside your knowledge domain and providing you with just enough bare-minimum knowledge that it is possible to self-educate yourself. It is also about ability to cooperate with others to reach a common goal, but that is unfortunately less emphasized aspect. Last but not least, it is about introducing notions that you could fail at something and that you can't be good at everything no matter how hard you try, something our trophies and gold stars grade system miserably fails at.

Re:Getting it very wrong (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47678071)

All of that shit about independent study and problem solving could be taught much more efficiently. I learned those things outside college by studying Project Management, learning about Operational Risk Management, and reading up on various Problem Analysis and Decision Analysis strategies.

Project Management brings a lot of useful base skills, such as hierarchical decomposition: you can decompose work, risks, and organizations into complete sets of components, which each further decompose. Building a computer: Parts, Hardware, Software; you can decompose each of these as deliverable objects (i.e. Orders, not Ordering; Operating System, not Install OS). Running a business: Business breaks down to Marketing, Finance, and IT, which further break down (IT contains Networking, Security, Systems). At each level, everything that makes up the above node must exist.

Problem solving strategies such as Kepner-Tregoe Problem Analysis are invaluable. These allow you to not only systematically categorize and approach problems, but also recognize when you have too little information and what information you need. Guess, test, scratch your head, ask abstract questions, and try again is not a strategy.

Decision analysis strategies come in two large groups. I personally dislike Comparative Advantage: it's a satisficer strategy that lists the advantages (no disadvantages) of various alternatives, then selects whichever has the bigger list; without a structured decision, it amounts to "select the shiny without considering the need". Kepner-Tregoe Decision Analysis is a maximizing strategy evolved from the weighted Pugh matrix, which evolved from the standard Pugh matrix: it provides a qualifying "MUST" and "WANT" criteria, rejecting anything not hitting 100% of "MUST" criteria before weighting and comparing the relative degree to which alternative satisfies the "WANT" criteria.

You didn't learn this by jacking off in the back of Math class while your hot Asian teacher talked about multi-variable integration.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 5 months ago | (#47678477)

The problem is that isn't taught as part of most project management courses - sure, the theory is, but the actual HOW is something you have to learn on your own. And that's the hard part.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47678823)

Experience is just more information. Every situation contains piles of information; every recording of that situation cuts out piles of information. Even a POV recording with explained though paths and feelings would cut off the actual sensations a project manager has when dealing with his team--his knowledge and understanding of their feelings, his prior experience understanding human behavior, his gut feelings and what that tingle actually felt like at the time, and so on.

Of course you have to learn some of it on your own. You also never stop learning it, unless you start not caring about how shitty your work is. Theory to a fresh mind is the biggest return-on-investment; the compound theory-and-demonstration teaching method lays out theory, then shows a demonstration (anecdotes, etc.); theory-and-simulation teaches theory and then puts the student in simulation. These increase your information base and convert some data into information; they are real-world-experience substitute.

These advanced teaching methods are pretty close to the real world: if you had been in a real-world situation exactly like the anecdote or simulation, you would take away something similar, and it would help you in the next real-world situation almost exactly as much. The real world is like that: it never lets you coast.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about 5 months ago | (#47678551)

Since we're on personal anecdotes, that's great that it worked for you, but if you want to guarantee that N people learn some baseline

independent study and problem solving

skills, then the OP's observation is move valid IMHO.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47678773)

No, it's not.

The OP's observation is this: Sit through a bunch of boring classes that have nothing to do with anything of note, try to get a passing grade, and you'll learn how to solve problems.

What you'll learn is how to memorize facts long enough to pass a test. You don't face real-world problems, you face nothing on a large scale. All you do is muddle. I've been through the REAL WORLD, and all I learned was how to muddle; I also learned nobody else knows what the fuck they're doing.

Kepner and Tregoe published a book, "The New Rational Manager." It goes through a bunch of sanitized examples from clients of theirs--they teach their own brand of problem analysis and decision making. They cite everyone from mining companies up to and including NASA. It's a nice book: the selected passages are very entertaining, they transfer real-world lessons learned, and it's overall a fun read. I would, in fact, enjoy a periodical published in the same style. Another book, "No Excuses" by Dickstein, tells similar anecdotes--very familiar ones: Barings, Enron, Arthur Anderson, and Exxon-Valdez.

We don't teach engineering students to build airplanes by showing them a pile of wood and metal and giving them tools to try to build something that can fly; we teach them math, we teach them fluid dynamics, we teach them how engines are constructed, how lift works, and so on. What form of brain damage would lead you to believe we're effectively teaching effective problem solving by throwing students into college and telling them to write papers and pass tests?

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

the phantom (107624) | about 5 months ago | (#47679419)

I assure you that I am neither hot nor Asian. Perhaps that would have helped you to get over the priaprism and pay attention.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47679731)

Doesn't change the fact that math isn't problem solving; it's simple computation. Often lots of it, i.e. statistics or calculus.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

the phantom (107624) | about 5 months ago | (#47682001)

You clearly took very poor math classes. The only time I ever teach calculus as "simple computation" is when I am teaching business calculus for business majors. Mathematics is about logic and, as such, should be almost nothing but problem solving (generally in the form of proofs and model construction).

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47694263)

Formal proofs are simply analytical. Every application of technical analytical skills is not "problem solving". Building a bridge is not "problem solving"; identifying why a bridge is not meeting performance requirements (i.e. why does it sway or resonate too much in the wind?) is problem solving.

It's not problem solving until there's a performance deviation from an established baseline, either a quality guideline or a prior performance measurement.

Trophies and gold stars are not what is wrong with (3, Interesting)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#47678291)

Trophies and gold stars are not what is wrong with college.

In the past company's used to do in house training and some of the tech / trades schools where spinned off of that.

And we did not have the college for all push even in the 80's tech / trades schools did not have the as bad of a rap that they have now and they where not trying to be colleges as much as they are now as well.

We have Community Colleges as well maybe it's time to have the same K-12 cost levels for at least 2 years at them and or offer non degrees classes at the same costs as well.

The big 4+ year colleges have been picky about college transfer credits and some seem to have profit driven ways of saying you have to retake classes. In some states they have laws saying that they MUST TAKE Community Colleges credits.

Aso the big Colleges are trying and doing a poor job of trying to be more like tech / trades school to fill the gap from the lack of company's doing in house training.

At some of the big colleges are loaded with filler and fluff classes as well in the past when costs where lower they where nice to have and well rounded was good but today the costs are to high and the time is to long. At some schools due to way the classes fall and fill up it's hard to get a 4 year degree in 4 years. Some of the filler / fluff is old departments that are useing that keep them relevant.

There is to much theory and to much put on climbing the Ivory tower at some of the Colleges at the cost of more relevant / hands on skills. At least some of the big colleges do have more relevant / hands on skills with less theory.

The tech schools do have some theory with more hands on skills and just about no filler / fluff. (other then gen edu)

Re:Trophies and gold stars are not what is wrong w (2)

supercrisp (936036) | about 5 months ago | (#47684011)

YES! I am a university professor, and I can tell you that books are written saying this same thing. They go back to the early 1900s. The basic argument, from the academic side in the early days (like 1930s), runs like this: "University is for theory and cultural polish, community college is theory/polish for poorer or less-prepared people. Sure, industry wants us to do their training for them in junior colleges, but they should do it themselves. Besides, professors aren't good at professional training because we'll always be trailing the innovations of industry." To a degree that's a true statement. Sure, you can pull in engineers to do some teaching. But you won't get cutting-edge engineers at the junior college, and not many engineers (or other professionals) will give up the salary to be a professional. I, personally, differ in that I believe the "soft skills" and the theory and even education in the humanities all make better engineers. But I know that is not a widely-shared opinion on /.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 5 months ago | (#47681599)

Ergo, homeschooling is the way to go.

Re:Getting it very wrong (1)

PJ6 (1151747) | about 5 months ago | (#47688953)

Getting education is not about mastering subjects, they are frequently irrelevant to what you end up doing. It is about developing ability to independently study abstract problem outside your knowledge domain and providing you with just enough bare-minimum knowledge that it is possible to self-educate yourself.

I'm going to have to disagree with you there. Maybe other colleges are different, but I learned nothing of the sort at MIT - I didn't learn how to learn, I didn't learn how to work hard. I got in (and graduated) because I already had these traits. And when I successfully went on to very technical work, it became clear almost immediately that I could have gone there strait from of high school, save for the fact that most employers expect you to first trade a large amount of money, and years of your life, for a small piece of paper.

I think the idea of college being able to add anything beyond practical skill (if you're lucky enough to get it) is a myth.

Of course it's the future (4, Insightful)

penguinoid (724646) | about 5 months ago | (#47677877)

Every college already uses remote instruction in the form of textbooks written by someone not at the college. Now computers are allowing for even more interesting things to be done from far away. I expect the future will have computers playing a greater role in education, allowing for students to self-pace and improving the education of both gifted and special needs students. Though some will be happy enough not to have a physically present instructors, others will still want one and more traditional classes will be around for a long time. However, more choices are a good thing, and in this case will also allow for a great increase in part-time students.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47677991)

No it is not

Not cheap, won't happen (1)

ArgumentBoy (669152) | about 5 months ago | (#47677993)

If the prof has to interact in real time with actual humans this won't save the universities any money. Their only interest in all this is figuring out how to automate millions of student credit hours while using cheap labor. This approach isn't going to be the future of anything except servicing home bound students in remote areas, which some responsible universities have been quietly doing for a century.

Re:Not cheap, won't happen (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 5 months ago | (#47678517)

It also ignores the real reason many students opt for online only classes, which is asynchronous learning. Prof answers emails in the morning, goes to a committee meeting. One student eats lunch at work and does the homework during the rbeak. Another student starts during the afternoon while her baby is asleep. Yet another one doesn't get to dig into the assignment until after he's returned from working in an area with no Internet access. Prof can answer all their emails and questions in the evening, grades assignments, and the cycle repeats day after day.

Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678031)

Eight years of chemistry with most of my time in the organic lab (undergrad and grad). Kinda hard to do that remotely.

What online courses give college credit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678033)

My nieces are in high school and my sister is interested in lowering the cost of their upcoming college education, so she has asked me about online courses. What I'm finding is that there are plenty of online courses out there but they don't provide college credit, so they don't do much for her budget issues. So I turn to you for the collective wisdom of Slashdot: What online educational service provides courses that my nieces can take (1) while in high school to get college credit, and (2) after HS graduation to get college credit? Thanks!

Why not community college rather than online? (2)

edremy (36408) | about 5 months ago | (#47678395)

Speaking as a guy who works in educational technology, send her to a CC instead of trying to find stuff online. The local CC will be dirt cheap, will have classes at odd hours if she needs to work, will have in-person instruction and will most likely have transfer agreements with lots of schools as well as a process for vetting with ones that don't automatically accept their credits. They also have to meet standards of teaching that are certified by accreditors with long histories in evaluating schools.

Online education has a lot of promise in various areas, but don't always assume it's the best tool

Re:Why not community college rather than online? (1)

wbo (1172247) | about 5 months ago | (#47679293)

Speaking as a guy who works in educational technology, send her to a CC instead of trying to find stuff online

I also recommend looking community colleges. Most are accredited by the college accreditation agency in their region of the country and their courses will easily transfer to most other institutions should she wish to pursue a 4 year (or higher) degree later on.

Also, some community colleges have an extensive distance learning program, many of which offer classes that are either entirely online or require a handful of on-campus sessions (usually for things like lab time for certain classes.) The community college where I work offers about half of their classes online.

Re:Why not community college rather than online? (2)

the phantom (107624) | about 5 months ago | (#47681255)

Speaking as a guy who adjuncts at a big university, I have to second the guy who works in ed tech. In addition to the comments above, you also stand a better chance of getting more qualified instructors at a community college. I taught lower-division math classes as a graduate student. Indeed, much of the teaching load in many departments is handed over to TAs at big universities. Community colleges often teach exactly the same classes out of the same books, but the instructors will hopefully have (a) better credentials (a masters in their field, though there are a disturbing number of people at community colleges who have masters in ed) and (b) more experience teaching.

Another point in favor of community colleges is class size. At a big university, classes can be huge. A calculus class that I TAed for had over two hundred students in a lecture hall. Yes, they broke apart into smaller recitation sections once a week, but recitation time with a TA is not the same as face time with a professor. Community college classes tend to be much smaller.

Unless you are trying to finish your degree in a top-tier, private institution (Stanford, University of Chicago, Harvard, &c) or a small, residential liberal arts college, there is no reason not to finish an associates degree at a local community college then transfer to a local university (or apply to an out-of-state institution, where you probably have a pretty good chance of being accepted).

The points of college (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678055)

There are three main reasons to go to college:

Learning to study and work within fields related to your interest.
Getting a piece of paper that tells HR to get out of the way, you know what you're doing.
Establishing social skills and ties that help you in life, professionally and not.

Having gone to an institution that heavily focused on the first two, I only later learned just how important that last point is. College is also important for all of the things /outside/ of classes.

Might work for adult education (3, Insightful)

ErichTheRed (39327) | about 5 months ago | (#47678057)

I think one of the things they're missing about college is the overall experience. Adults going back for a degree might want a stripped down experience like this, but I think that students going through their first post-high school education experience benefit from "being somewhere." I graduated about 15 years ago, but even with all the change in the world, there's still no shortage of immature, directionless high school seniors.

Going somewhere to college and dealing with all that this entails gives a student that bridge into the real world. Especially if a student was helicoptered over by their parents and wasn't challenged by K-12 education, gaining experience with failure, stress and dealing with people is very important so you don't get fired from your first job. Some of the things a student has to do during their college career that an online classroom can't provide are:
- Dealing with dorm living and roommates (interpersonal skills, uncomfortable situations, etc.)
- Working to hard deadlines that don't get extended just because you ask
- Getting that first awful set of exam results that makes you realize you actually have to study for the first time in your life
- Getting exposed to classes outside their comfort zone
- Dealing with bad professors, toxic classmates, etc (perfect prep for a real world job)
- Navigating social situations, drinking, partying, drugs, all that stuff
- Learning basic self-care if they live away from home (laundry, cooking)
- Most likely, learning how to hold down a job while balancing all your other responsibilities
- Living on an incredibly limited budget (I remember thinking I was the richest man alive when I got my first real world job after school.)
- Especially if you're at a large state university like I was, learning how to work within a system. (Everything outside the classroom is similar to dealing with a state agency...if you approach it like that it becomes a lot less frustrating.)

So, yes college is incredibly expensive, tuition has to come down, etc. etc. -- but other than the military, how does a high school student make the transition from being a dumb kid to being a responsible adult?

Re:Might work for adult education (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 5 months ago | (#47678571)

So, yes college is incredibly expensive, tuition has to come down, etc. etc. -- but other than the military, how does a high school student make the transition from being a dumb kid to being a responsible adult?

Getting a job and an apartment?

Re:Might work for adult education (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 5 months ago | (#47688073)

Eh all of that stuff you'll pick up when you move out whether or not you physically go to college. Even learning how to work within a system is something you've been doing all your life.

Short answer: No. (1)

pla (258480) | about 5 months ago | (#47678073)

The first thing to keep in mind here, "online instruction" doesn't mean the same thing as "MOOC". MOOCs may have an insanely high dropout rate, but that doesn't hold true for "normal" scale classes hosted through an online learning management system.

Second, not everyone likes or does well in online courses. I would use myself as an example of that - I count as exactly the sort of person you would expect to like and do well in online courses, as someone both tech-savvy and educationally self-motivated (not to mention rather introverted). Yet, I hate hate hate them, with great passion. As someone with multiple college degrees, I can say with absolute certainty that I would have dropped out if my alma mater had forced me to take any significant fraction of my courses online.

And I know for certain that I don't count as unique, or even uncommon, in that opinion.

So to answer your question, no, remote instruction will necessarily remain an option but not a requirement, at least until "remote" means holodeck-level telepresence.

Time allocation (1)

Falos (2905315) | about 5 months ago | (#47678079)

> eight students
> one-on-one advice
If THIS is the future of college, then yeah, it totally is. I'll have high hopes for the results, and expect the feedback to blaze inquiry-based learning, the most productive kind by far.

If it's just a stream of someone talking with time maybe for a lucky winner or two (questions), they're posturing for spotlight using old "tech" that ain't shit.
If it's video recordings, they can fuck themselves with a rake.

Distance Learning is old hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678127)

Been around for years. I did an MBA with the Open University (UK) nearly 20 years ago. We only met for a few seminars in the year. I even did one of the exams abroad when I was working in Singapore.

It's the interaction, stupid! (4, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 5 months ago | (#47678217)

People sign up and never finish because the courses are downright awful. And there's no mind nor incentive for them to get better. Instructors think that just recording a lecture and putting it online is good education, but it isn't.

Watch Daphne Koller [coursera.org] droning on about graphical models as the video shows her standing at a lectern talking, or showing a powerpoint-style frame while she reads the text on the frame to us.

Watch Anant Agarwal [mit.edu] go through a *hugely* dense and boring derivation, only to stop before the end and say "but this derivation is too hard, there's an easier way". Twice. For the same result.

Try to figure out how many degrees of freedom a soccer ball has, then argue with Sebastian Thrun [udacity.com] because the answer he thought you should have entered is not the mathematically correct one. (Also, see if you can figure out what this has to do with AI.)

For a breath of fresh air, watch Donald Sadoway [mit.edu] take you through a delightful and satisfying explanation of chemistry. (Ignore the 1st lecture which is about class scheduling.) It's wonderful.

I could cite two dozen *major* problems with selected online courses - things that go counter to the fundamental goal of learning that would be obvious to someone familiar with human learning mechanisms or a testing group or even a member of Toastmasters. When I point these out to the chief scientist at edX, he responds with "we can't change the way we do things because of X".

Let me repeat that: the *chief scientist* at edX has no control over teaching techniques or video methods or course quality.

Some people (ie - Dr. Sadoway in the link above) have figured out how to do it right, but the vast majority aren't interested in quality. It's unfortunate that edX got all those millions in seed money, because we'll have to wait until they burn through it before they get hungry enough to worry about quality and effectiveness.

It's insane.

Re:It's the interaction, stupid! (1)

gnordli (4863) | about 5 months ago | (#47678471)

When I read the artlicle the biggest change I see there is how they use fear to increase interaction. Students are expected to write their answers to questions which everyone can see. Students can also be called on to expand on their thoughts. There is no hiding in this type of setup.

Re:It's the interaction, stupid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678885)

Thank you for mentioning edX. I suffered through an electrical engineering course using edX, and it was incredibly worthless. At the end of the semester our grades were so poor that the instructor went back to a traditional teaching format, the way subjects have always been taught. Performance increased dramatically as a result.

The people in charge kept talking about money and international noteriety, and had very little to say about how effective edX really was. They just wanted to get their name on the map and felt edX was a leap towards that goal.

It's a terrible system, and while I think Agarwal means well, it is wholly ineffective as a learning tool.

Re:It's the interaction, stupid! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678889)

There's also the interaction amongst students. If you want to grow up to be an amazing basketball player, pretty much everyone agrees you need to play with the best basketball players you can find as a kid. Why does it seem so few people value being amongst intelligent people in a social, yet academic environment?

"remote" has never be "the future" (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#47678223)

the idea of having a teacher be somewhere *not* in the physical presence of the student has been around forever

they *always* say it will "revolutionize education"

it never does

at best, it helps extend and improve the experience for people who ****already couldn't attend class****

that's great, but it's absolutely not any kind of revolutionary step in tech

search the Popular Science archives...this stuff has been around since the radio was invented and it's all bunk

sure, working remote using tech is a benefit, but it's never a **substitution for real interaction**

A long time ago in a land not so far away ... (3, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | about 5 months ago | (#47678407)

I recall reading an article in a university rag about 10 years back that was discussing how their campus was designed around telepresence for instruction many decades prior. Unfortunately things didn't go that way because it proved to be ineffective and not what the students wanted. But never fear, it was a great boon in our modern age because TV studios could easily be repurposed to server rooms and the buildings could easily be rewired for computer networks for the age of online learning.

While they were right about it being easy to repurpose that old infrastructure, they also missed the point: people want to learn on campuses and they learn more effectively on campuses. (At least that seems to be the case for programs of study. Learning particular skills is likely a different matter.) In otherwords, university administrators were forgot the lessons of the 60's and 70's while choosing to believe in some technology utopia.

That isn't to say that education should be devoid of technology. Computers and networks are clearly valuable learning tools. They have applications ranging from research to simulation, and from content delivery to content creation. The thing is that they're just a tool in the process, and not the core of the process itself.

Think of it this way: would we go around praising the merits of pencil based learning? Or, to choose something less absurd, textbook based learning? Of course we wouldn't. So why are we going crazy over computer based learning?

Re:A long time ago in a land not so far away ... (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 5 months ago | (#47680263)

Good post, valid points. I do want to comment on "would we go around praising the merits of pencil based learning?" because it's nice turn of phrase.


I remember reading something about the history of pencils, and there were benefactors out there singing the praises of pencils, and producing funding to provide "a pencil for every child", or something about that.

I have to get to work now, else I'd look it up myself for the details in the Font of All Knowledge.

This of course, takes nothing away from your comment, as eventually, every child did have a pencil, and they had to move along to using them effectively.


Re:A long time ago in a land not so far away ... (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 5 months ago | (#47682587)

In otherwords, university administrators were forgot the lessons of the 60's and 70's while choosing to believe in some technology utopia.

Yeah, this is even a MUCH older idea. Technology, and better ways to distribute knowledge, and better more efficient methods for communication, have been argued to be "the future of higher education" for at least a couple centuries [wikipedia.org] . Just about every generation since the mid-1800s has thought that "distance learning" would be a democratizing influence that would change everything. (Correspondence courses go back centuries, and the first distance-learning degrees began to be offered in the 1860s.)

And even then, there were already people who felt moved to defend the need for a centralized campus where people actually come together in person to learn. Listen to John Henry Newman from his essay [bartleby.com] , "The Idea of a University," published in the 1850s:

Considering the prodigious powers of the press, and how they are developed at this time in the never-intermitting issue of periodicals, tracts, pamphlets, works in series, and light literature, we must allow there never was a time which promised fairer for dispensing with every other means of information and instruction. What can we want more, you will say, for the intellectual education of the whole man, and for every man, than so exuberant and diversified and persistent a promulgation of all kinds of knowledge? Why, you will ask, need we go up to knowledge, when knowledge comes down to us?... We have sermons in stones, and books in the running brooks; works larger and more comprehensive than those which have gained for ancients an immortality, issue forth every morning, and are projected onwards to the ends of the earth at the rate of hundreds of miles a day. Our seats are strewed, our pavements are powdered, with swarms of little tracts; and the very bricks of our city walls preach wisdom, by informing us by their placards where we can at once cheaply purchase it.

And yet, despite the fact that we can get all of these things from a distance, Newman says -- we still need to come together at the university, for all sorts of reasons. The essay is long, and you need to read it to get the flavor of it, but a lot of his concerns parallel the very same ones being discussed here right now, over 150 years later.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47678409)

It seems that the submitter didn't, because Minerva has physical dorms that students are required to live in; this isn't remote instruction at all. The classes are online, but students will physically exist in the same building, and have some extracurriculars and such in the SF area.

Doesn't scale anyway (1)

Maxwell (13985) | about 5 months ago | (#47678491)

One of the major drivers of online was for scalability/cost. Do the bulk stuff asynchronously online with some minimal in person or synchronous work. If this is an instructor led , real time course they might as well be 'in the building' anyway. How would 200 people take a course like this? All you need is 23 professors, easy right?

Online education difficult to deliver effectively (1)

blanchae (965013) | about 5 months ago | (#47678507)

"The problem with most online courses is that the vast majority of people who sign up for them never finish — they aren't engaged " - Exactly.

As an educator who pioneered online courses: http://www.cadvision.com/blanc... [cadvision.com] , I see the same issues being repeated over and over again. It is very difficult to deliver online courses effectively. In my 20 years of experience, I have seen only one effective online delivery and that is from The SIP School who provides certification for the Session Information Protocol for VoIP.

People learn using a combination of learning styles: visual, auditory, doing and thinking. Usually one style is predominant over the others. Plus there's the participation factor: if you attended a university lecture where the instructor presented the material and you sat back and just took notes, after 3 days, you would remember about 10%. If you did a laboratory exercise, after 3 days you would remember 80%. Doing things works the best.

The SIP School example uses an animated visual presentation with a voice over. The script is available for reading and reviewing also. Periodic quizzes are provided to re-enforce the material and provide a "doing" portion. I consider The SIP School the bar for online learning over anything the institute that I work at.

You can take a demo of their material to see what excellent online training looks like: http://www.thesipschool.com/co... [thesipschool.com]

The other issue is that online courses focus on those individuals who primarily learn by reading (visually oriented). This makes it difficult for those who learn in one of the other methods.

Online delivery happens now (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | about 5 months ago | (#47679233)

Online deliver is but one method that nearly every University offers for some number of its classes, and that number and ratio varies by program. Some classes are full classroom delivery, some are full lecture delivery, some are hybrid. I believe that's OK. The future is in whatever combination proves most effective and economical as demonstrated by some metrics that include testing and quality of subsequent work. It is best to avoid extreme positions of all or nothing.

must be nice to have small classes (1)

jsepeta (412566) | about 5 months ago | (#47679493)

i had classes with 60-200 students at a name-brand private university. must be nice to have 9 participants with webcams aimed at their faces, so nobody can get away with reading the newspaper during class.

Statistics about Online courses are BS (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 5 months ago | (#47680295)

I sign up for this and that course on Coursera on a whim; but there are certain courses that I really intend on completing if possible; yet my real life does intrude. But these courses, while extremely good and extremely satisfying to complete, are meaningless to me. I own my own company and am not working toward some sort of degree(not that coursera courses add up to a degree). Nor do I need to impress the HR department.

But if I were a dedicated student who needed these course to complete some sort of degree which would lead to good jobs then I would select only those that I knew I had time to do, I would set aside time to do them, and I would not let a bit of irritation with the course cause me to drop it.

So to predict the future of real online education through coursera is mostly BS. But there are quite a few areas where I think coursera statistics could be interesting. For instance how many high-schoolers are completing fairly advanced University level courses? How many existing university students are taking the courses because their own university doesn't offer them or their local course sucks? And how many people are diligently going through Coursera because they don't have access to a University for whatever reason (money, weren't admitted, family issues, etc)?

Then there are the multi account issues. In many situations I will sign up for something like Coursera using an account like Poopy Von Poopy Pants; then realize that Coursera is cool, and sign up again for a real account while abandoning my "test" account. Lastly many people might have zero interest in interacting with the Coursera system and will sign up, grab the materials, and then complete the assignments on their own.

My first prediction for real courses, that divert from the traditional model substantive way (as in anyone can sign on for a reasonable cost without any complicated administrative crap) is that smarter, motivated kids in junior high and high-school will very quickly accumulate university level credits exceeding those for a first year or even meeting the requirements for a degree. This will eviscerate the high-schools as there is little reason to continue high-school if you are well on your way to completing a university degree. This can become a feedback loop where with many of the smartest most motivated kids gone the high-school experience will be dumbed down driving out the next wave of fairly smart, fairly motivated kids until all that is left will be the worst of worst, which will presumably drive away the better teachers.

This last concept also applies to the lesser universities. I would much prefer to attend a best-of-breed online course than the drivel that I attended years ago.

This all mostly applies to courses that aren't mandatorily hands on such as a chemistry class. Even if excellent simulators and whatnot were developed it would be very odd to have a chemistry degree without ever setting foot in a lab.

The last bit comes from acceptance. Many top universities have things such as SAT requirements and high-school grade requirements along with a somewhat mysterious set of criteria to get in. But where this could also get interesting is if a student is doing very well with a top universities on-line system, yet didn't really meet their other classical requirements could this potentially be another new route to entry?

But it will be at the high school level where the most real change will be happening the soonest; regardless of the wishes of the high school administrators.

Separate Testing and Education (1)

sahuxley (2617397) | about 5 months ago | (#47681035)

Remote education such as the internet is very good at distributing materials and information. However, it is very bad at testing individuals' comprehension and understanding for a variety of reasons. Currently, Universities do both and they bundle the costs together in one large tuition package. I think a good solution going forward would be one that offers these two services separately.

Re:Separate Testing and Education (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about 5 months ago | (#47681581)

Remote education such as the internet is very good at distributing materials and information. However, it is very bad at testing individuals' comprehension and understanding for a variety of reasons. Currently, Universities do both and they bundle the costs together in one large tuition package. I think a good solution going forward would be one that offers these two services separately.

If you mean testing at the end of the semester, then the school will still have to test students during the semester to give them feedback.

If yo mean weekly testing or testing after each lecture, then what is the point of decoupling education with testing at this point? There is no way all universities are going to agree on a weekly or daily course guideline. It makes every curriculum the same.

Of *course* it's the future of college (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 5 months ago | (#47681183)

The decision is driven by economics. Don't want to go into huge debt? Need to live at home? Don't want to pay for a quaint archaic infrastructure of unnecessary buildings and offices for professors and administration? You'll go to digi-school!

It may only be half as good, but if it's 1/10th the cost, this is where students will go. Excellent students will excel anywhere, of course. This structure favors autodidacts.

Education is pricing itself out of the market (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 5 months ago | (#47682065)

...In exactly the same way as medicine. This makes both industries ripe for disruption. Go for it, Silicon Valley!

I can see traditional higher ed being replaced by a series of quantized certifications for 'units' of study (I'll leave it to academe to come up with a more portentous phrase of their choosing), applying in both the STEM and liberal arts realms. Some units can be taken purely online, others might require physical presence on a campus, while still others might take a combination of both. Let each student assemble a curriculum of units appropriate to a particular line of work or field of theoretical investigation.

We also need to get away from the old paradigm of getting an education once and you're done with it. There is so much knowledge out there today that we will all have to keep going back to the eduction system for additional sips of it, as required by your field of interest. Then there's the widening world of career change; now that we are living long enough to do something like starting a business after we turn forty and become too old for the corporate world, there is increasing need to be able to grab the 'units' required to effect such a change.

They've rediscovered web conferencing?!! (1)

matbury (3458347) | about 5 months ago | (#47682651)

Erm, is this news? We've had web conferencing for at least a decade and thousands of colleges and universities around the world are already using it. Perhaps it's news that these people have only just discovered it? Plus there's way more to distance learning than web conferencing and putting up assignments and tests.

And MOOCs, by design, only incorporate a fraction of the elements that make up effective online learning. That's why they've been failing so spectacularly. Fully featured and professionally run online programmes have drop out rates at around 10% higher than face to face programmes, i.e. 60% - 70% for online compared to 50%-60% for face to face, although this can vary greatly from degree programme to degree programme.

You can check out the UK's OU programme retention rates here: http://www.ormondsimpson.com/U... [ormondsimpson.com]

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