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Category Archives: Teaching

University rankings a flawed tool

The manipulative game of comparison and quantification turns institutions into players.

By  SEÁN MULLER

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How should we assess the quality and development of higher education ­institutions in South Africa? What is it that these institutions do that is socially valuable enough to justify receiving large sums of public money?

Is it the economic contribution of graduates, the societal importance of the research, other forms of contribution to society – providing a home for “public intellectuals” – or some particular combination of these?

With such considerations in mind, it is interesting to interrogate the increasing popularity of international university rankings as a means of either assessing university progress (“university x has done fantastically well in the past few years, climbing 20 places in the rankings”) or setting a milestone for achievement (“our university mission is to be a top 50-ranked institution”).

Although seductive in their ability to summarise institutional achievement in a single number, the many flaws of this approach suggest that it should, at best, be consigned a peripheral role in our determinations of institutional success.

To illustrate some of the problems, consider the Times Higher Education rankings, perhaps the most prominent of the growing number of published rankings.

This approach constructs a measure of institutional quality based on the two core academic activities of teaching and research. Teaching quality is measured by asking a sample of international academics what their impression is of the teaching quality at a given institution (15% of the overall institution score) and by using institutional information on the number of undergraduates per academic (4.5%), PhD awards per academic (6%) and the ratio of PhD graduates to bachelor degree graduates (2.25%).

Reputation survey
Peer perceptions, from what the Times ranking calls its “reputation survey”, are also used to assess research quality, comprising 18% of the total score of an institution. In addition, a “research influence” measure, counting a whopping 30%, is constructed based on the number of citations the research of academics at the institution has received. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Africa, Education, Teaching, World

 

Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education

By Eric Hellweg 

The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. First, for the enormously transformative impact MOOCs can have on literally billions of people in the world. Second, for the equally disruptive effect MOOCs will inevitably have on the global education industry.

While at Davos, I was fortunate to attend an amazing panel — my favorite of the conference — with a murderer’s row of speakers. Moderated by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, the list of speakers: Larry Summers, former president of Harvard; Bill Gates; Peter Theil, a partner at Founder’s Fund; Rafael Reif, president of MIT; Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity; Daphne Koller, CEO of Coursera, and a 12-year-old Pakistani girl who has taken a number of Stanford physics classes through Udacity. Below is a collection of some of the highlighted comments from this remarkable panel as well as a couple from audience members who were given an opportunity to comment.

Why this disruption is happening:

Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund
“In the United States, students don’t get their money’s worth. There’s a bubble in education as out of control as the housing bubble and the tech bubble in the 1990s. Education costs have gone up 400% since 1980. That’s the highest escalation of costs–higher than health care. There’s now a trillion dollars in student debt. And thanks to the way bankruptcy laws were restructured under George W Bush, you can’t get out of the college loan even if you become bankrupt. This is deeply broken.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What is the nature of education as a good?’ Ideally you want it to be learning. But it also functions as insurance. Parents will pay a lot of money for insurance against cracks in our society. Education as insurance has something to be said because it connects to the economy. You know computer science, you can get a job. But education also functions as a tournament. You do well if you go to a top school but for everyone else the diploma is a dunce hat in disguise. People need to understand what they’re trying to do? Is it insurance? A tournament? Learning?”

Where we are in the evolution of this change:

Larry Summers, former President of Harvard
“It’s important to remember this really wise quote when thinking about the transition to online education: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Education, Learning, Teaching, Technology

 

One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy is Reinventing Education

Salman Khan the founder of Khan Academy as seen on the cover of Forbes Magazine

By  Michael Noer of Forbes

The headquarters of what has rapidly become the largest school in the world, at 10 million students strong, is stuffed into a few large communal rooms in a decaying 1960s office building hard by the commuter rail tracks in Mountain View, Calif. Despite the cramped, dowdy circumstances, youthful optimism at the Khan Academy abounds. At the weekly organization-wide meeting, discussion about translating their offerings into dozens of languages is sandwiched between a video of staffers doing weird dances with their hands and plans for upcoming camping and ski trips.

Pivoting, Salman Khan, the 36-year-old founder, cracks a sports joke appropriate for someone who holds multiple degrees from MIT and Harvard.

It involves LeBron James (a Khan Academy fan), three-point shots and sophisticated algorithms called Monte Carlo simulations. The company’s 37 employees, mostly software developers with stints at places like Google and Facebook, are the types who know when to laugh. And they do.

It’s a prototypical Silicon Valley ethos, with one exception: The Khan Academy, which features 3,400 short instructional videos along with interactive quizzes and tools for teachers to chart student progress, is a nonprofit, boasting a mission of “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” There is no employee equity; there will be no IPO; funding comes from philanthropists, not venture capitalists.

“I could have started a for-profit, venture-backed business that has a good spirit, and I think there are many of them–Google for instance,” says Khan, his eyes dancing below his self-described unibrow. “Maybe I could reach a billion people. That is high impact, but what happens in 50 years?”.

It’s a fair question, with an increasingly sure answer: The next half-century of education innovation is being shaped right now. After decades of yammering about “reform,” with more and more money spent on declining results, technology is finally poised to disrupt how people learn. And that creates immense opportunities for both for-profit entrepreneurs and nonprofit agitators like Khan.

How immense? According to a report from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, global spending on education is $3.9 trillion, or 5.6% of planetary GDP. America spends the most–about $1.3 trillion a year–yet the U.S. ranks 25th out of the 34 OECD countries in mathematics, 17th in science and 14th in reading. And, as in so many other areas of American life, those averages obscure a deeper divide: The U.S. is the only developed country to have high proportions of both top and bottom performers. About a fifth of American 15-year-olds do not have basic competence in science; 23% can’t use math in daily life.

It’s those latter statistics that motivate Khan. The site covers a staggering array of topics–from basic arithmetic and algebra to the electoral college and the French Revolution. The videos are quirky affairs where you never see the instructor (usually SalmanKhan himself, who personally has created nearly 3,000 of them). Instead, students are confronted with a blank digital blackboard, which, over the course of a ten-minute lesson narrated in Khan’s soothing baritone, is gradually filled up with neon-colored scrawls illustrating key concepts. The intended effect is working through homework at the kitchen table with your favorite uncle looking over your shoulder.

Or make that the planet’s favorite uncle. Over the past two years Khan Academy videos have been viewed more than 200 million times. The site is used by 6 million unique students each month (about 45 million total over the last 12 months), who have collectively solved more than 750 million problems (about 2 million a day), and the material, which is provided at no cost, is (formally or informally) part of the curriculum in 20,000 classrooms around the world. Volunteers have translated Khan’s videos into 24 different languages, including Urdu, Swahili and Chinese.

“Sal is the world’s first superstar teacher,” says Yuri Milner, the Russian physicist turned venture capitalist who was an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Groupon.

Beyond admirers like Milner, Khan’s meteoric success has attracted the financial support of a bevy of high-profile, socially minded backers, including Ann Doerr, the wife of billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr; Bill Gates; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; NewSchools Venture Fund, whose CEO is the former president of the California State Board of Education; and Google, whose chairman, Eric Schmidt, serves on the academy’s board. In total Khan has raised $16.5 million, with assurances of more to come.

“The numbers get really crazy when you look at the impact per dollar,” says Khan. “We have a $7 million operating budget, and we are reaching, over the course of a year, about 10 million students in a meaningful way. If you put any reasonable value on it, say $10 a year–and keep in mind we serve most students better than tutoring–and you are looking at, what, a 1,000% return?”

Even in Internet terms that’s impressive for an organization that 24 months ago consisted of one man working alone in a walk-in closet and 12 months prior to that was the oddball hobby of an intellectually hyper-active hedge fund analyst. But Salman Khan’s ambitions go much further. “Now that there are these tools, where students can learn at their own pace and master the concepts before moving on, can we rethink this educational model that has been standard practice for hundreds of years?”

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Internet-based technology long ago figured out how to revolutionize and democratize everything from retail to auctions to maps. So what took so long to disrupt perhaps the largest, most dysfunctional field of all? …Continue reading

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Economy, Education, Learning, Teaching, Technology

 

Quote of the day

In today’s digital world, there is no longer any reason to use class time to transfer notes of the instructor to the notes of the student (without passing through the brain of either).

By Harry Lewis, Harvard University

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Education, Quote, Teaching, Technology

 

The Crisis in Higher Education

Online versions of college courses are attracting hundreds of thousands of students, millions of dollars in funding, and accolades from university administrators.Is this a fad, or is higher education about to get the overhaul it needs?

By Nicholas Carr

A hundred years ago, higher education seemed on the verge of a technological revolution. The spread of a powerful new communication network—the modern postal system—had made it possible for universities to distribute their lessons beyond the bounds of their campuses. Anyone with a mailbox could enroll in a class. Frederick Jackson Turner, the famed University of Wisconsin historian, wrote that the “machinery” of distance learning would carry “irrigating streams of education into the arid regions” of the country. Sensing a historic opportunity to reach new students and garner new revenues, schools rushed to set up correspondence divisions. By the 1920s, postal courses had become a full-blown mania. Four times as many people were taking them as were enrolled in all the nation’s colleges and universities combined.

The hopes for this early form of distance learning went well beyond broader access. Many educators believed that correspondence courses would be better than traditional on-campus instruction because assignments and assessments could be tailored specifically to each student. The University of Chicago’s Home-Study Department, one of the nation’s largest, told prospective enrollees that they would “receive individual personal attention,” delivered “according to any personal schedule and in any place where postal service is available.” The department’s director claimed that correspondence study offered students an intimate “tutorial relationship” that “takes into account individual differences in learning.” The education, he said, would prove superior to that delivered in “the crowded classroom of the ordinary American University.”

We’ve been hearing strikingly similar claims today. Another powerful communication network—the Internet—is again raising hopes of a revolution in higher education. …Continue reading

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Education, Learning, Teaching, Technology

 

The African Paradox: Plenty “Intellectuals”, Yet No Physical Solutions

By Honourable Saka

Africa, our beloved continent, is currently becoming dominated by a generation of noise makers: a people who can talk, talk and talk almost all the time, yet with no physical action. In fact, it is very annoying when you tune into your radio or television set in the morning and all you can hear are some “experts” giving speeches to the audience, whiles reserving the real action to some inexperienced folks out there.

There are many scholars with PhDs and master’s degrees in Agricultural Science. Yet many of them will never set foot on the farm. Many of our scientists are probably very good at teaching but never good at inventions and innovations. I have always wondered where our mechanical engineers have been hiding, as we continue to import motorbikes and even bicycles from abroad every year.

The taxpayer is often told: “plans are far-advanced for the implementation of this project”; the other project is “in the pipeline”, the implementation phase comes “in 4 years”, and so on. Many of such proposals have always remained a pipedream. Yet every year such slogans are shamefully echoed to the masses.

From the scientific researchers, through the religious leaders, the academicians, our scholars and most annoyingly, the politicians- when in opposition, Read more…

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Africa, Education, Learning, Teaching

 

Teaching Smart People How to Learn.

By Chris Argyris

Any company that aspires to succeed in the tougher business environment of the 1990s must first resolve a basic dilemma: success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn. What’s more, those members of the organization that many assume to be the best at learning are, in fact, not very good at it. I am talking about the well-educated, high-powered, high-commitment professionals who occupy key leadership positions in the modern corporation.

Most companies not only have tremendous difficulty addressing this learning dilemma; they aren’t even aware that it exists. The reason: they misunderstand what learning is and how to bring it about. As a result, they tend to make two mistakes in their efforts to become a learning organization.

First, most people define learning too narrowly as mere “problem solving,” so they focus on identifying and correcting errors in the external environment. Solving problems is important. But if learning is to persist, managers and employees must also look inward. They need to reflect critically on their own behavior, identify the ways they often inadvertently contribute to the organization’s problems, and then change how they act. In particular, they must learn how the very way they go about defining and solving problems can be a source of problems in its own right. Read more…

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Learning, Teaching

 
 
Politics, Society & Things

We all posses just enough to be our greatest self

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We all posses just enough to be our greatest self