Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New and improved

A few nights ago in capoeira, we videotaped a short roda. Afterwards, we watched it while one of our instructors provided feedback.

Of course, I hate watching myself on video (who doesn't?), whether it's footage of me playing capoeira or teaching a graduate class. Every mistake seems magnified, and (as someone at Vanderbilt's Center for Teaching said to me), everyone thinks their butt looks too big. Sure enough, there was plenty to critique in my play.

However, I was pleasantly shocked by the video. Since I had last been captured on either still or moving film, my form had improved remarkably. My entire posture and carriage looked different. Frankly, I was possibly too relieved to fully absorb the critique I received.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's the credential, not the education

Great discussion on whether MOOCs will disrupt higher ed.

Comparing MOOCs to MP3s is a big miss, I think. Why? Downloading and consuming an MP3 is a lot like downloading and consuming a book, right? But reading a book on your own is different than studying it in an English class. Oh, sure, you can go out and also read up on literary criticism and whatnot. But at the end of the day, in an English class the professor gives you a grade and the school (and the accreditor) approves it. No one checks up on the autodidact's reading, even if she blogs about it.

The crucial function of higher education institutions has never been learning - it's credentialing. That's what a lot of the new-model boosters miss.

(It's not that colleges don't provide learning, and typically learning superior to what the autodidact picks up - autodidacts tend to have knowledge gaps and pet theories because they have no one to challenge their thinking. But, frankly, for most workaday applications, dedicated autodidacy is enough.)

In the tech world, the badge system is beginning to have an impact. But it's very different to credential one skill than it is to credential the multifarious outcomes that comprise a baccalaureate degree. Employers aren't going to sort through a long list of MOOCs and non-traditional experiences to decide if they are "enough," not when another candidate has a traditional degree from a known institution.

Traditional colleges aren't going to take on the task of credentialling these students - it would cannibalize one of their core revenue sources. Potentially, a new organization(s) could arise to do so, of course. If MOOCs end up changing higher ed, it would be in this way.

Learning and credentialling don't have to be tied together, but it's important to consider both acts. Discussing traditional education as if its role is only to offer learning strikes me as naive.