Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ambiguity of Expectations

Training versus education. Friedman makes some comments in the NY Times today regarding the explosion of on line courses, MIT, Harvard, Stanford. I suspect that he did not take the course and further I suspect he has no point of reference on what is accomplished.

As he states:

These top-quality learning platforms could enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms. That is, download the world’s best lecturers on any subject and let their own professors concentrate on working face-to-face with students. Says Koller: “It will allow people who lack access to world-class learning — because of financial, geographic or time constraints — to have an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.” 

When you consider how many problems around the world are attributable to the lack of education, that is very good news. Let the revolution begin. 

Well I also spent last year taking Organic at the local community college. I also tried my hand at MIT 6.002x, which as I had noted I taught back in the 1960s as a junior faculty at MIT.  Frankly the materials was a bit easier but the software access near impossible, and yes I am somewhat computer literate.

Taking this on line does not make you an MIT student. But. And this is the real but, my community college course was almost identical to the current MIT course, and the instructor was reasonably good. But that was just a little of what MIT offers on campus. There, in Cambridge, you got to understand how a good researcher thinks, not what you get at a community college, a bit too high school like. It is the how to think which results in the true learning process, the Hidden Curriculum. It is not that you can answer the questions but how you answer them, and at MIT it is with insight into fundamentals, you learn to intuit the answers, not work through all the details. That is not what is done at a community college.

The other issue is the ability to ask questions, to eliminate any ambiguity in a real time manner. Missing with 1 million students.

There are dramatic differences. Friedman seems to not have the depth of understanding to see them. Hype is all too often a deadly ally in promoting things. Frankly I would not change a thing at the community college, it works, the people are good, it is cheap, and for many it is the best step. Having another video lecture is just that, more stuff.