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Thread: Future college

  1. #1

    Default Future college

    Last weekend, during a nice conversation, I got an interesting idea concerning college classes.

    Imagine that for certain classes like mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. which are pretty fixed in the material they teach, all the lectures on that material would be available on youtube. And not only by one professor, but by several different professors, each taking his own approach.

    This would mean:

    Students can pick and choose the professors and the lectures they find the clearest and the best to convey the material to them, not necessarily one who teaches at their college;

    Students could repeat lectures they have difficulties with;

    Students could follow these lectures as fast or as slow as they would want/ are able to.

    The professor doesn't have to give the same lecture year in year out and gets more time to:

    Answer questions of enrolled students (he might even make some FAQ videos)

    Work on newer developments in his field of study

    Give extra attention to those who think they need it in a form of question time, in person.

    Of course, I can see that there are some problems with this, although they aren't insurmountable. The universities would still get tuitions from enrolled students (not enrolled => no examns or thesis => no diploma)

    Even with newer, more advanced material, a video could be made from lecture one.

    There's enough entertainment and commerce on the internet. Why not use it for what it was intended for?

    What are your ideas on this? Do you see problems with it or can you think of some improvements?

    (btw, I think this is the second thread I've started or something :s )
    "When I think I might die without seeing a hundredth of all there is to see it makes me feel," he paused, then added, "well, humble, I suppose."
    " And very angry, of course."

  2. #2
    Quick! To the Volcano! High House Moon Eyreplenh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Future college

    Well, at my last university, they started a couple of years back with some trials. They shot a series of lectures live in the auditoriums, and for the coming years these were available to students taking these subjects. (I had one, called introduction to medicine for non-practitioners). I never saw the tapes, but as I understand it quite a lot of people did. The usual lectures were still running though, so whether you chose to go to a live one or see the videoed one or both was up to you.

    At my current university there is no such thing yet, but most lecturers link to a few taped lectures on the topic they are doing, many from Academic Earth (I would recommend everyone to watch Blooms introduction to psychology. He is one funny and brilliant man!) as well as podcast from iTunes university or whatever that gizmothing is called.

    We recently had a bit of controversy at my northern university as to what methods lecturers should use when doling out their wisdom. Mainly it was started by a student organization that had trouble understanding how little lectures had changed since the sixties. Still the bearded men and their chalkboards. I think that roughly eighty percent would prefer to have a taped or podcasted alternative, and almost fifty percent thought the student orgs should demand such change.

    To make a local disgression; I am not one of them. Don't get me wrong though, in the future I'm sure this will happen, but I think it will happen organically. Forcing pofessors well into their sixties to devote energy and time into understanding and applying technology they're not used to instead of delving into their fields is just wrong in my book. What I care about is the lecturers passion and knowledge of their field. Whether they choose the chalkboard, the powerpoints or simply shouting it out -I don't care.

    Back on topic though, I am a little bit sceptic. On the pro side are the things you list, and I'll also add that with this liberty of choice a student at a university with a poor lecturer in, say, maths, could jump on the tube and "attend" someone better. Herein lies the trouble too, if you ask me.

    For instance, say ten universities puts out a series of introductory maths lessons, and the students at these universities are free to choose whatever lectures they like. It is fair to assume some of them would be better than others, so that the number of views (to use the youtube way of measuring) would likely be scewed. How long does it take before one of the series of lectures becomes completely forgotten? On one side, that might be just as good, as the lectures obviously where inferior, but how long does it go then before the university starts to think why they have this saggypants of a lecturer on the boat. I realize the introductory lessons is not all that he does, but what about guidance and questions? Most professors I have met have pretty big egos, and I'm not sure if any of them could handle to ease students through "someone elses" ways.

    Or another twist -what changes do the loosing professor in this example do to his lectures to move up the list?

    A professor I had last year touched upon the subject, and she asked herself how long it would take for smaller, peripheral universities to offer courses based solely on filmed lectures, and what impact that would have on local academic and research milieus.

    Umm, I had some more doubts, but my mind is starting to melt. I'll be back tomorrow.

    To close off, I like the idea of easily available knowledge, but I think -for now- that I prefer it as an addition to whatever is offered locally. Like the Boss says, it's just a little of that human touch.
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  3. #3
    sans le cafe Arianna's Avatar
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    Default Re: Future college

    Having read through this, I think it is an interesting and even a good idea. couple of questions:

    tuition is different based on the merit of the university (quality of professors/quality of education) so what would stop a person from 'learning' for free or for less money? (I realize that is a terrible thing to condemn) do you think this would lead to a society that cares less about a piece of paper (degree) and where it is from and more about an actual education? what about a collegetube or something that you would need to 'attend' a university (pay tuition, etc) to receive a username to log into the videos offered by your school's professors? does that defeat some purpose of your idea? would there still be 'in person' exams?

    The thing that makes me the most sad about something like this being our future is that a large part of the college experience is the discussion and learning you are given by being exposed to the viewpoints of so many different people. the human interaction. something you just can't replicate by watching lectures online. and, yes, I do realize the humor in discussing this with people I only know because of the internet
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Future college

    Well, the collegetube would defeat the purpose of my idea since I want the lectures to be available to all in the same way as wikipedia is. In my (small) university we had a professor who taught Fluid Mechanics. The only problem was that he didn't understand it himself. Since he had an appointed seat there was little the student body could do about it. Especially since only the small engineering part of the student body had his lectures. The very next year we had some difficulty applying certain principles of fluid mechanics into thermodynamics. Fortunatly the professor who taught thermodynamics was far more capable than the former and explained it to us in 5 minutes.

    Imagine being in a college where the amount of professors is so small that certain lectures just lack in quality. Remember, these are the courses that train the doctors who'll operate on you and the engineers that build the bridges you cross and the cars you drive.

    But I'm getting on a tangent.

    What I mean is that after about ten years, most of the good lectures will have surfaced and no new lectures need to be taped. This eliminates the need for the professors of that day to compete in giving the standard lectures like thermodynamics, fluid mechanics... stuff that sin't really changing over time.

    As for the human interaction int he learning process you have a valid point. And of course the tuition (be it merit based or not) is vital for a university's survival (at the moment). But tuition in my scenario would still have its function since it grants access to suport from a professor (who's quality apparently correlates with the amount of tuition paid), necessary lab work, thesis work and most importantly: examn levels. At the end of the day, the job of a university is to say: "this person has gathered sufficient knowledge and training in the field of XXXX to be a YYYYY". And I think there would still be the difference between the different universities.

    Maybe, for the human interaction part, instead of giving a 2 hour lecture on certain principles of physics a professor could spend 1 hour per week discussing a certain lecture with his students, answering questions (feeding the FAQ).

    The future will need more and more people with sufficient education for us to keep progressing. Education in itself will always remain somewhat elitist, but the overall level needs to be raised.

    B.t.w.: I seem to be lagging behind the truth
    "When I think I might die without seeing a hundredth of all there is to see it makes me feel," he paused, then added, "well, humble, I suppose."
    " And very angry, of course."

  5. #5
    King Sloth High House Chaos sir archely's Avatar
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    Default Re: Future college

    First, I was going to say that a lot of this sort of thing is already happening, and organically to boot. I know quite a few professors who record, either just audio or video too, their lectures currently. The chair of my department has been doing this with a hand-held tape record since before the dinosaurs. Of course, I'm in the department of information science.

    Which leads me to my second comment, which is that I'm all for it. It'll give information professionals like future me something to do. I say that only partially tongue-in-cheek. For any project of this sort to be effective on a large scale, you're going to need someone to organize and monitor the information itself. Otherwise you'll just end up with what it is now, which is primarily individuals putting together videos and giving individual students links to youtube or other places. A suitable information professional could pull that together for a department or school in order to have a coherent plan for the now and the future in terms of their information presentation. This is also a very interesting way to capture knowledge and retain it, instead of losing the expertise of people when they retire. Video is so cheap, things like this could be done for other environments besides colleges and universities in order to make sure valuable knowledge isn't lost.
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