Campus Tech 2014: Reinventing Higher Education

Tara E. Buck, Jul 30, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I like data as much as the next person. Probably more. But I'm fussy. And while I'm impressed by 3 billion data points in EdX, I first of all know that this is a relatively small amount of data, only a fraction of the actual reading and learning that happens online, and that it is a terribly unrepresentative sample, coming from only one platform representing only one approach. But based on the Universal Theory of the Social Sciences ("every person is like the students taking my class") we obtain some generalizations. “We know what parts of the learning experience contribute to successful outcomes, and whether that’s tied to certain kinds of students. We are using this to learn how students learn," says edX CEO Anant Agarwal. “Now we can show them the data and say, ‘If you really want to improve the outcomes, keep the video short.’” Wait, did I just read an entire article to find out that? And he adds, “The last time we gave teachers a new tool was 1862: a piece of chalk and a chalkboard.” I guess he missed the 1970s entirely, when they rolled TVs into the classrooms, or the 1990s, with computer labs and Smartboards, and... oh, what's the use?

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