by Stephen Downes
Aug 29, 2016
This post links to a new podcast from Michael Wesch (which I've already added to Ed Radio). Wesch is quoted: "we have to help them achieve all this within a bureaucratic structure that demands that we frame our goals in a few neat bullet points at the top of our syllabus in a section called: Student Learning Outcomes, often called SLOs." Here are the SLOs Wesch really wants to write:
Stripped of the adjectives, this is actually a pretty good set of outcomes: ask questions, be open to new experiences, and conquer one's fears. Fisch comments, 'I wonder why it is that we shy away from discussions around outcomes such as these, and obsess over measuring how our students do on discrete, isolated skills that very few of them will ever need to actually use."
'Tis the season to dissect the "failure" of MOOCs - or, to be specific, the rarefied Silicon Valley version of MOOCs, which is all anyone ever talks about. That narrative was that "MOOC startups Udacity, Coursera, and edX all promised that their free online courses with massive enrollment figures would 'democratize education.'" Of course that didn't happen. More interesting is what these MOOCs identified as the core value proposition. "“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment,” Thrun told Fast Company... This new narrative, according to George Siemens, one of the originators of the MOOC concept, casts education as simply skills training." But of course that's not democratization at all. The objective of education is and ought to be personal empowerment, to help people become less dependent on, say, a job, and more able to build networks, innovate, create value, and achieve purpose in life. But it takes more than just free content to support that. It takes a community, a network.
Jonathan Rees citing Alex Usher is a bit like Bernie Sanders citing Ronald Reagan. There's an incongruity there. Usher's point is that MOOCs never made money. I don't think Rees lost any sleep over that (quite the contrary; I think he would have been worried were MOOCs hauling in the cash). Rees defends the traditional approach. "Traditional education with its inefficiency derived from the close proximity between professors and their students has proved more resilient than its wannabe disruptors ever imagined." Why? "Online courses without a live crew manning them can be very lonely experiences." But the Silicon Valley MOOCs were always an outlier, despite the hype they got from the Silicon Valley press. Conviviality and sociability have been the hallmarks of online learning since the beginning, and Silicon Valley ignored that history at its own expense.
John Oliver examines the performance of charter schools in the United States and finds enough wrong with them to fill an 18 minute comedy video. As we can see from this report, while government may be less efficient, businesses are much less likely to behave responsibly or obey the law, which means the private sector cannot be trusted with high-stakes enterprises like education. Actually, as we see in this report, government is not less efficient either, with charter schools accounting for some of the worst outcomes in the school system. There are ways to promote choice, but privatizing the school system isn't among them.
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