by Stephen Downes
Aug 09, 2016
Good series from the University of Cambridge Office of Scholarly Communications on the challenges facing contemoporary scientific research. Here's the list of articles:
The last is the least interesting, as it mostly surveys the preceding five, and then takes a self-centered look at the issues. But the rest are well-written and well-researched. And they lead to the inescapable conclusion that the existing system is functioning poorly. "As long as the current reward system remains, the crucial nodes will not change and we are stuck." But the current reward system won't change, because the people who would change it are those who were successful in it. It's like asking rich people to manage income redistribution: it's just not going to happen. The only reform can come from outside the system (which is why I don't care one whit whether reforms would "benefit Cambridge University researchers).
The important part of this study isn't that companies are hiring the wrong people - it has been pretty obvious for some time now that people graduating from 'good schools' aren't any better than the rest of us. Rather, as companies turn more and more to analytics to support the hiring process, this will increase the importance of the other side of the equation - the data about individuals being used to feed these analytics. When they stop asking what school people went to (because it's irrelevant) and start asking about actual accomplishments, the need for credentials (and the monopoly over distributing them) suddenly becomes less acute. As I said in some of my talks, in the future the reward for completing courses and programs won't come in the form of badges, certificates and degrees granted by learning institutions, it will come in the form of contracts and job offers issued by prospective employers.
I'm generally sympathetic with the objectives of this post but less so with how it is presented. The main point, that "Teaching at the university level is not a practice of communicating or transferring information but awakening in students a desire to think by revealing to them the questionability of things," is the least well supported assertion in the piece, though it is probably the most contentious. Nonetheless, I agree with it. The move to make "a desire to think" over into a "love of thinking" is to me a bit questionable. But we agree that "this result is very different from mastering a certain body of knowledge or learning to apply certain rules to well-defined situations." As Noonan begins to trace the consequences of this position we finally encounter a series of references supporting his point. Alas, too little too late. Don't skip the comments, a good discussion dating from last March. Also there's an annotated version on hypothes.is, a defense of learning outcomes against Noonan here, and a good (though very critical) discussion here.
This newsletter is sent only at the request of subscribers. If you would like to unsubscribe, Click here.
Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter? Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list. Click here to subscribe.