|By amd on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 07:35 am: Edit|
Applying to College Circa 2025
Each prospective student would have all his information on HIS computer. Likewise, schools and teachers would have recos for their students on their computers.
If a student is interested in applying to Penn (US News Tier 1.0007013) say, he would e-mail Penn and give them access codes for his computer, the GC's, the school's, and College Board's. Penn will pull all the info it wants from the various sources (instead of the student pushing the information out to Penn).
Oh, just for old time's sake, essays alone will be written by pen on paper and mailed snail-mail (smudges and all).
|By Theparents (Theparents) on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 12:12 pm: Edit|
people won't go to college in the traditional sense. Online and video conference learning will dominate. There will be "seamless" transitions between elementary, secondary, college, grad. schools etc with one giant student database! Harvard should be accessible online to everyone who wants it. There will be some other way to separate the wheat from the chaff.
|By amd on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 12:51 pm: Edit|
While we are dreaming, why should there be any chaff? Why can't Harvard make (most) anybody wheat?
|By Roger (Roger) on Saturday, January 19, 2002 - 09:05 am: Edit|
amd: Why can't Harvard make (most) anybody wheat?
That's a good question, amd, and cuts to the core of how a college defines its purpose. Just about any college can educate a student who is focused and motivated to learn. Indeed, a student who is highly motivated and takes advatage of the rich trove of resources at Harvard (or any other elite school, or large state school, etc.) can receive an outstanding education.
The real test is, perhaps, how schools deal with students who are lacking in one or more areas: motivation, academic preparation, self-discipline, etc. Should schools go to great lengths to assist those students and retain them until graduation, or should we expect an inevitable winnowing process even at schools that admit only well-qualified applicants?
Technical schools in particular have expected attrition to occur, and often load up freshman year with daunting intro courses to eliminate those that probably won't succeed over four years. To some degree, this goes with the territory. A lousy English paper can be graded C-, but there's no disguising that a 26 out of 100 on an Orgo test is an F.
I think this remains a conflicted area. Certainly, many profs have no interest in coddling students who lack motivation or preparation. (Many profs have little interest in students, period!) Administrations, on the other hand, with one eye on the US News rankings and the other on their income statement, would like to maximize student retention.
I think it's also a situation that varies between institutions. Non-selective colleges that depend on the "chaff" for much of their enrollment are no doubt better adapted to dealing with these issues than schools that accept only students who are expected to excel. If there has been any positive outcome from the U.S. News rankings it is that the elite schools have installed extensive counseling systems to maximize retention rates and graduation rates. Counseling and advising won't solve every problem, but I'm sure they catch a few talented but problematic kids who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.
Maybe this is part of the "colleges that change lives" issue, used in a broader, generic sense. Some schools are better at "changing lives" and turning chaff into wheat than others. Perhaps each school should define its mission and gear itself to carrying that out. For example, MIT's mission may not be to turn chaff into wheat, but to turn good wheat into outstanding wheat. Other schools would define themselves quite differently. (Sorry to overuse the harvest metaphor, I couldn't help myself!) If colleges have a clear mission, gear their actions and methods to that mission, and publicize it to students and parents, it would make the college search and selection process more likely to succeed.
|By Dadster on Sunday, January 20, 2002 - 09:32 pm: Edit|
I expect a "star" system to develop, where really great profs reach much larger audiences through distance learning. Smaller campuses may have more classes where the prof is remote and the local section is lead by a TA or similar.
More learning may take place at home or via PC at local facilities like libraries, too. I'd hate to see residential education go away in favor of distance learning from home, though.
The application process might change, too - college selectivity may become less important if people feel they can get the benefit of great classes in lots of places.
|By amd on Sunday, January 20, 2002 - 11:03 pm: Edit|
The materials (for instance, programmed learning stuff and the like) may turn out to be far more important than the 'performance' (i.e., show) of the professor in class. Students don't need the (somewhat emotional) show acted out by the professor. The professor does is work in preparing the material and not in its delivery. In fact, lectures are an anachronism, I think (a holdover from pre-Gutenburg days).
Techniques have been developed and tried out to teach students at their own pace. Alas, they have not caught on.
As I write, my son is working on his AP Calculus BC that he is taking on the net. He works on it when he feels like it (and not when the class period occurs). He has not had unusually strong preparation in math. However, this 'work at your own pace' has worked OK (if not well) for him. He is a night owl. He just gets warmed up when the rest of the family goes to sleep. This type of course allows it. By no means has this particular course been developed by people with learning theory savviness. (Undoubtedly, they are calculus savvy.)
|By Dadster on Monday, January 21, 2002 - 09:05 am: Edit|
I agree, amd, about the distance learning materials being important. I think this is an evolving area, and we probably are nowhere near the ultimate in education software. As bandwidth, storage, and processing power get cheaper, it's easy to imagine some pretty impressive tools being developed. Calculus is a good example of a subject which would be a natural for a sophisticated program that allowed a student to learn different ways or to seek in-depth explanations if needed.
I disagree about lectures being an anachronism, though. College is more than accumulation of facts and knowledge. An enthusiastic and inspiring prof can create interest in topics that students might otherwise find dry and dull. One interesting model for education is Covey leadership training. It features locally facilitated classes, but draws heavily on video presentations by the "star", Stephen Covey. Covey is charismatic and riveting, but clearly could be only in one place at one time. To grow his empire, he used electronic technology ranging from satellite broadcasts to recordings to extend his reach. The approach I saw was pretty low tech - a VCR and start/stop buttons - but I think the idea of blending a star performance with an interactive classroom environment makes sense.
|By amd on Monday, January 21, 2002 - 09:42 am: Edit|
The technique I had in mind was the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) described by its inventor in:
I read somewhere that, in the seventies, the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Florida attempted to teach all of its classes using this technique. Obviously, it didn't take hold. (The technique, developed in pre-computer days, does not necessarily require computers, though can benefit from it.)
If there is a truism, it is that, in any lecture, within the first five minutes, the professor loses say 20% of the students, assuming that the material has any kind of difficulty or rigor. The problem is one of having to keep up in lockstep with the professor (and being a captive audience) - these interfere with the learning. (Compare a student in class and while he is taking a test. He will be easily distracted during the former situation and hardly during the latter. The difference: he is under control.)
Professors are experts in their fields and CAN excite students about the subject matter. This does not mean that every little thing has to come out of the mouth of the professor. Frequent chats initiated at the student's convenience will go a long way. Also, a human providing immediate feedback can be beneficial. This need not be the high-priced prof but a student mentor who took the course (and mastered it) recently. This does not mean that TA's are teaching the course (though this could be misinterpreted that way). The professors best value is in preparing the material and being in charge overall. To give an example, let's say the subject is slope fields in calculus. The professor surveys the books available, decides that Book A and Book B do a great job of dsecribing this topic while the normally reliable Book C does not. He also realizes that additional handout materials may be beneficial and creates them. These may descibe a couple of alternate things for the student to do - review Chapter 4 in Book D, if you can answer questions 11 to 17, go straight to Book B, otherwise start with Chapter 9 in Book A, etc. What happens is active teaching. After students have mastered (or attempted to do so), an occasional lecture or two may be more valuable. (Individual one on one chats are always valuable.)
You may also want to read 'A Technology of Teaching'.
|By amd on Monday, January 21, 2002 - 09:48 am: Edit|
A quotation from the article referenced in the previous post:
'that instruction in such a center was highly individualized, in spite of large classes, sometimes permitting students to advance at their own speed throughout a course of study. I could have seen the clear specification of terminal skills for each course, together with the carefully graded steps leading to this end. I could have seen the demand for perfection at every level of training and for every student; the employment of classroom instructors who were little more than the successful graduates of earlier classes; the minimizing of the lecture as a teaching device and the maximizing of student participation. I could have seen, especially, an interesting division of labor in the educational process, wherein the non-commissioned, classroom teacher was restricted to duties of guiding, clarifying, demonstrating, testing, grading, and the like, while the commissioned teacher, the training officer, dealt with matters of course logistics, the interpretation of training manuals, the construction of lesson plans and guides, the evaluation of student progress, the selection of non-commissioned cadre, and the writing of reports for his superiors.'
|By amd on Monday, January 21, 2002 - 11:31 am: Edit|
From memory, I think that the following is a reference to the U of Florida attempt that I mentioned a couple of postings above:
Pennypacker, H. S., Heckler, J. B., & Pennypacker, S. F. (1977). The personalized learning center: A university wide system of personalized instruction. In T. A. Brigham & A. C. Catania (Eds.), Handbook of applied behavioral research (pp. 591-617). New York: Irvington Press.
|By Dadster on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - 11:01 am: Edit|
Amd, I think the application of personalized learning is potentially a big benefit. I remember way back when I was in high school using a few books that purported to provide "proceed at your own pace" learning. They used a branching system - explain something, ask questions, and if you got the question right or wrong you went to a different page for new topics or remedial work. Sort of a "Pick your path" textbook. With computers, of course, the ability to evaluate learning and deliver new content seamlessly is vastly greater, and really offers a lot of promise. Plus, higher bandwidth availability and ever-cheaper storage suggest that incorporating rich media, like full-screen video, will be standard. You could even customize a lecture on your personal screen, with the lecturer asking, "are you with me? you look puzzled" and branching to more in-depth explanations as needed. (With facial expression recognition software, that process could even be automated. Or, the lecturer might be prompted to say, "Hey, pay attention, this is important!" if the student appeared to be distracted. )
I continue to believe in the importance of face-to-face interaction... This may become more costly and more of a luxury in the future, though.
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