Nikiforos Philyppis questions whether assessment statistics are actually a realistic view of Brazilian education or whether schools are just passing students to improve their UNESCO statistics. Brazilian higher education is mostly private education. He explores the relationships between markets, students as consumers and education as a commodity.
Educational laws and rules are tough for educational organizations. A student does not pay in advance, he can stop paying his installments in a current year and the school cannot stop giving him the education for that year. After that, he has the legal right to ask for his report and transfer the credits to other institution, and so on. That creates a vicious circle, treating the student as customer and creating all the possible means to maintain him in your client portfolio. In that scenario, passing the student is a rather plausible (although unethical and, I should dare, illegal) strategy.
Brian M Lucey critiques an article in the Irish Times about education and academic research practices in Ireland, reflecting that students as consumers and the notion of value chains are outdated.
The notion of students as a consumer is a flawed metaphor : it is at best incomplete as the ‘consumption’ of higher education gives utility for decades. Asking students partway through their degree to critically evaluate its benefits is akin to asking someone if they enjoyed their meal after the bread rolls have arrived. There are much much richer metaphors for education : the one we like is that of an orchestra, where together the students and lecturers co-create a work which reverberates then and later. The world of music is full of examples where new work is rapturously approved on first iteration but thereafter is seen as shallow, derivative, and falls into disuse. It is also full of slow burners where audiences and critics react with a ‘huh’ or worse a “WHAT” but over time the beauty and utility of the work is seen by the community. Note that in either case the orchestra etc needs to be technically proficient and willing to work hard and the conductor know where they all are going…
In a paper for The Heritage Foundation, Karen McKeown compares online education with traditional college education. She looks at different reasons why students choose higher education and which institution, noting that whilst a large percentage of college graduates think it was a worthwhile investment, a large percentage of the public think it is unaffordable.
She looks at the educational, social and extracurricular components of online education, noting that there is an increase in studies which are providing evidence of effectiveness:
There will always be students who are pursuing a higher degree solely or primarily to achieve specific career goals and who have comparatively little interest in achieving a full college experience. Many of these students are older or already working and have been early adopters of online education, which has offered them the flexibility they need in achieving their ultimate goals.
At the other end of the spectrum will always be students who, for various reasons, want only the traditional on-campus college experience. For some of these students, the campus appeal may consist in the opportunities to interact in person with professors and classmates. Others may be pursuing majors, such as science or performing arts, that are less easily adapted to the online environment. Still others may be seeking aspects of the traditional social or extracurricular experience that they do not believe can ever be replicated or replaced by online education.
Between these two ends of the spectrum are students who are increasingly willing to consider online education as it gains wider visibility, acceptance, and sophistication and as traditional institutions of higher learning become less accessible financially. For these students, a key factor in their choice will be the ability of online programs to provide a college experience that not only matches the academic content of a traditional college, but also includes an adequate level of the social and extracurricular components that the students desire.
In this article, Bob Adelmann looks at the potential impact of MITx and how with an open learning platform that is free and online including MITx credentials, other educational institutions may follow suit with MIT offering the platform to other universities who offer massive open online courses.
In this article, Sean reports on MITx which is a free open online course available with assessment and MIT certification.
“This is not a “watered down” version of the campus course or “any less intense”, says a university spokesman.
The main difference is that the MITx version has been designed for online students, with a virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions and videos that are the equivalent of a lecture. It is expected to take 10 hours per week and will run until June”
Tables always need to face the front. Learning an individual activity. Classrooms need to look the same each day. Learning always happen at fixed times. These are just a few of the traditional assumptions that are examined in the article Challenging Traditional Assumptions and Rethinking Learning Spaces written by Nancy Van Note Chism and published in Educause. Having looked at the barriers and opportunities to creating different learning spaces Nancy then provides some fascinating examples of intentionally created spaces and how they better reflect the learning needs of students today.
By the way what do you think about the informal seating at City Campus in East Northumbria University in the featured photograph? It shows a multipurpose area for independent study in which students can choose from a variety of settings using different seats and table tops. They can opt for different views and locations depending on their needs. The room is fully wireless enabled and the colour palette is fresh and cool, with heaps of natural light. Makes you want to go there!
In an interesting post on the changing landscape in Higher Education, David Staley and Dennis Trinkle identify 10 fault lines which have the potential to create dramatic change in the university sector in the US. These fault lines look not only at technological trends but at the wider context and environment. As the writers say ‘consider this article advanced warning of the potentially tectonic shift’…. Although this post focuses on the US higher education sector the comments have implications for higher educational institutions worldwide.