Either Change, or We’re Goners

Either Change, or We’re Goners January 16, 2013

From Cathy Davidson:

OK, profs, what say you?

There are at least four reasons why, now, a lot of attention is being paid to replacing profs with computer screens.

(1)  Too many students worldwide want to go to college to be able to accommodate them all.  This is one of the valid and important reasons for Massive Online Open Education.   There is simply no way that existing institutions of higher education are designed to meet the needs of millions of people worldwide who need the advanced skills, training, and complex thinking that higher education offers.

(2)  College in the U.S. costs too much.   There is some truth and then a lot of hype about how MOOCs will “solve” the problem of education in the U.S. costing too much…. College in the U.S. costs too much for many people–and sometimes it is well worth it, and sometimes not: 

(3) Online education promises to be lucrative to nonprofits.  Okay, this really worries me.   One of the prime motivators for the MOOC conversation right now is that a lot of investors are interested in it—and not for valid reasons and not for reasons of quality and experiment and interactivity but because it is seen as the next frontier of high-yield (and often goverment subsidized) investment, the way prisons were in the 1990s.  Really.  Another reason we profs should be worried, very worried, is that, right now, Forbes and lots of other business venues are convinced that online education is the next rich investment area.

(4)  Our current educational system (kindergarten through professional school) is outmoded.  

If we can be replaced by a form of education more suited to the real needs of students in 2013, we should be.

I believe all educational is vocational. It is the responsibility of educators in every field to take seriously their role in supporting students in their quest for their vocation.   A “vocation” is a “call, a summons” and Wikipedia defines it as “an occupation to which a person is specially drawn and to which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified.” It should be my job as an educator to do everything I can to help my students to a satisfying, socially-constructive, and fulfilling vocation.

Unfortunately, the organization of most universities has, traditionally, been about my vocation as a professor, not my students‘.

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