Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Demagoguery About

On Line Learning At

the University of Minnesota

From ABC News - August 6 (2008)

"Why would you drive from Stillwater, Minnesota, in January an hour in rush hour to get over to the University of Minnesota campus, park in a remote parking lot, strap on your back pack, haul across campus in challenging weather conditions, get into a lecture hall, unpack, sit in a chair and have a sometimes gifted -- sometimes not -- assistant professor, lecture you on Economics 101 when you can’t even pay for it?"

"Why would you not get out of bed, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit on your sofa, and dial it up on digital storage from any university in the world?" he asked.

Governor T. Pawlenty

"And to think, I could be home right now watching an econ lecture from Harvard and drinking Peace Coffee. But I am jogging over from Stillwater to the U because the econ department has hired a record number of new faculty members and they are awesome lecturers. I am Driven to Discover. (TM)"

From the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education Site:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

iCollege: The governor's solution

for the problems of higher ed

Among other things, he shared his analysis of the problems facing higher ed in Minnesota, which he compared to Blockbuster Video stores (read: out of date, behind the times). His prescription: become like an iTunes store (iCollege) and offer basic courses online. This will work, he presumes, because online courses are cheaper than brick and mortar classes, and because they don't have to be taught by tenured faculty (who apparently aren't very good at lecturing anyhow). He also claims that studies show that student learning is as good, or better, than the traditional classroom. I wonder which studies he is reading, because what I've read in the minutes from University Senate committees suggests a far more complicated picture in terms of cost and quality. Perhaps the real agenda is to get rid of all of the pesky tenured professors, since most of them probably don't vote for him anyhow.

My comments on the site were:

The governor's spewing of nonsense about online education is not new.

For an earlier example of his demagoguery,
please see my post of August 7, 2008, "How to cut the cost of higher education by 70, 80 or 90 percent..." [sic]

Some simple - rhetorical - questions:

Why are Carleton and St. Olaf not terribly concerned about distance education?

Who is going to PAY for the set-up of these distance education courses?

Please note that I am not totally against distance education and have in fact taught (excellent, from evaluations) courses over the very useful university UNITE system. This system allows students at Medtronic, 3M, Surmodics, etc. to "attend" on campus lectures and take the same exams, etc. as in person attendees.

For large lecture courses some departments, e.g. chemistry, have done an excellent job of providing on line courses in lieu of large lecture introductory courses. However, the naive tea bag sound bites of our governor on these matters are less than helpful.

It is time for faculty to step up to the plate and engage the community in a realistic discussion about online education.

Bill Gleason, U of M faculty and alum

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