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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

May 04, 1999

Posted to DEOS-L 04 May 1999

John Hibbs wrote: I bet that's true, that it does take "50% more effort". But, in the end, Dan, are you delivering 50% more knowledge?

Well, this is the problem, isn't it? The instructor gets paid the same amount either way. The institution collects the same tuition either way. There is no incentive to adopt a system which delivers 50% more knowledge.

Institutions do not charge students on the basis of the amount of knowledge delivered. Wouldn't it be interesting if students paid tuition only *after* having passed the test or having otherwise demonstrated competence?

Institutions do not pay instructors on the basis of the amount of knowledge delivered. Again, wouldn't it be interesting if instructors were paid a commission for each successful test or assignment delivered by a student?

Now of course I am using 'test-taking' or even 'demonstrated competence' as my unit of measurement. Perhaps we could quibble here. But look at what is in place now. Seat-time. Course hours. Credits.

If institutions charged, and instructors were paid, in terms of the amount of knowledge delivered, as measured by tests or competency, then that measurement would have to be conducted by a third party. Otherwise instructors and institutions would be tempted to offer very simple tests.

I am not proposing that we move to a strictly commission-based system of compensation. But I am proposing that we need to rethink how units of education are measured today. At the very least, we should define education in units of knowledge, not units of time.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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