by Stephen Downes
Feb 01, 2017
Just a day or so after authoring a good article Alex Usher comes out with this piece defending the agreement made between McDonald's and Colleges Ontario to recognize part of the corporation's training program as equivalent to college credit. There are probably good argument that could be made to defend the deal but Usher instead misrepresents the OSPEU response as knee-jerk anti-corporate reaction, which it most certainly is not. Nowhere does the OSPEU even suggest that "McDonald’s is a big evil corporation," as Usher says, though it does criticize the company's business practices, "tax-evasion schemes, anti-union tactics, and a reliance on a precarious low-wage workforce,” all of which are well-substantiated. The OSPEU response is eminently reasonable and boils down to two major points: first, the McDonald's curriculum is not transparent, and second, corporate training is probably not equivalent to a college education. For example, "it is difficult to see how principles of macroeconomics, involving such issues as interest rates and national productivity, are learned hands-on or in two weeks of classes over three years."
Some people say fear is the reason professors don't want to open up classrooms, but I agree with MERLOT's Gerry Hanley: ""I think it's really a workload issue. Open educational resources don't often have the full package of supplemental material that publishers provide, and so it often means faculty have to pull together additional assignments, homework assignments, what might be lecture materials — things along those lines." People forget that many if not most university professors see teaching as a burden, not a profession. They want to do research not recitations. I know we live in the era where fear prevails and everybody's afraid, but I still think fear is cited far too frequently, and that most people are guided by much more pragmatic emotions.
In a paper tht could have used a good edit James G. Derounian identifies factors associated with inspirational teaching in the literature and then validates the findings through a study of actual practice. "Three clear elements of inspirational undergraduate teaching emerge: First and foremost, undergraduates believe it to be motivating; second, and related – inspirational teaching is deemed encouraging and third such teaching flows from teachers’ passion for their subject." Deemed? Like I said, a good edit. In conclusion, "a simple formula: Inspirational teaching → Aspiration → Transformation."
According to this article, the globalization of the education system "creates tepid universities all doing the same thing and producing similar results." This results from the primacy of the market-driven economic model at the core of globalization, which eliminates specialization and favours standardization and commodification. "Streamlining such a complex system means courses need to be compatible both across, as well as up and down the system. Systems need to be simple to achieve vertical and horizontal alignment."
Not to keep harping on this, but I wonder whether the failure of traditional news to come to terms with fake news is a failure to understand what fake news is. I turn to the venerable Columbia Journalism Review, which has just posted this highly questionable study about the amount of time people spend on fake news sites, as compared to 'real news" sites. But you can't judge news as fake or not based on where it was published. Not a week earlier, the same Columbia Journalism review published an "open letter to Trump from the US press corps," and signed at the bottom "The Press Corps" which turns out later to be the work of a single writer. Classic fake news, from the Columbia Journalism Review. Don't suspend disbelief just because the source is authoritative.
D'Arcy Norman is reconsidering academic travel, especially to the United States. I know many other academics are thinking the same thing, and I've been asked a couple of times about my position. I won't be changing any plans nor refusing invitations. This is not because I endorse the current administration. I do not. It's because I'd have to boycott a lot of countries if I applied a similar standard worldwide. And I'm not willing to do that. People aren't perfect, governments aren't perfect, and I'd rather be an activist by setting a good example rather than passing judgement on the bad. As for the carbon footprint - well, I spent years trying to get by with public transit in New Brunswick, and that should buy me a lifetime pass on carbon emissions.
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