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« A First Look at Chinese Philosophy | Main | The Politics of Rain in Beijing »

July 21, 2012


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Hi Sam, I completely agree with Edmunson's op-ed, but I'm not sure I share your optimism about the continued survivability of the liberal arts college ideal. At the Williams and Amherst Colleges of the world, I have no doubt that in-depth human interaction will remain the core of education for a very long time to come. Where I am more worried is when you go below those elite colleges to larger universities, especially those that rank on the second or third tier. Those places have much more limited financial resources--on average, tuition rises hurt their students harder than the average Williams/Amherst student. Is it too implausible to envision public universities and colleges in cash-strapped states outsourcing their teaching to ready-made course materials with videotaped lectures by Ivy League professors and web-based materials produced by the likes of Pearson and McGraw-Hill? By hiring a whole group of relatively inexpensive teaching assistants to grade exams, such institutions might be able to enroll and graduate more students at lower cost. I'd imagine that this might be even more compelling in technical fields than in the humanities and social sciences.

Let me be clear: I'm NOT saying that this is a desirable outcome. In fact, I think it's in many ways a step backward for exactly the reasons that Edmunson lays out. But I also think that as the technology becomes cheaper and easier to implement, and as the cost of higher education continues to outpace inflation, it will become much more tempting for institutions (especially government-funded ones at the second and third tier) to pursue them to their logical conclusions.

But maybe I'm just pessimistic because of this overcast Portland weather! :-)

Some people might learn better in a kind of online environment. There is no one size fits all in terms of education. Maybe a mixed model will evolve. MIT, Stanford and Harvard all have significant online presence in education and their online course are quite popular and effective from what I see. Online interaction is interaction. There are of course both positives and negatives to this.

Anya Kamenetz on online learning at Harvard's Berkman Center:

Very good overview of the issues and the current situation.

Howard Rheingold's new book, _Net Smart_, is an examination of the literacies of online learning. Lots of good information here from a long-time participant in online communities. Howard is also pioneering cooperative learning systems online and something he calls peerogogy.

Education is a two ways process. The student and teacher interaction is where the learning process begins. In some online college, this is also possible through communication over the internet.

Education is a medium of understanding things. The books we read are the points we need to know and implement in our life for particular field. Education makes us think on points. We can think broadly if we are educated but if not then we are not more than a child who just play with his doll without complaining why it sings the same song again and again. He is happy with that. Education is a cement in our life to keep attach the social and natural things

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