Pop Quiz Hotshot: What Do You Do?

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I’m still thinking through the implications of this:


So Pop Quiz Hotshot! True or False?

1. Clayton Christensen’s “moment of clarity” when the public recognizes the technology based learning as superior is indeed in the pipeline.

2. This digital stuff is all over-hyped and will fade like previous education fads. Public school staffing will not be much different 20 years from now than it is today.

3. Most parents will desire to send their children to a physical school, but parental demand for the superior methods and the ability to earn college-level certificates will require a substantial update to the standard school model.

4. Fewer in-person staff will be required and their role will change to a “guide on the side” model focusing on applied learning, group projects and individualized coaching/instruction.

5. Universities that want people to pay for these services had better be able to demonstrate that they add value pronto because Massive Online Open Courses collect data on a rolling thunder basis. If institutions fail at adding value to MOOCs it will be known very quickly. Transparency comes to higher education at last in a form that few could have imagined a few years ago.

6. The “super universities” with huge endowments will use technology to substitute for the TAs they had been using to teach classes and will rejoice in their ability to ignore undergraduates to an even greater extent than in the past. Universities with weak cultures and which are heavily depedent on tuition to finance their operations will be in for a rough ride.

7. Hedge funds are dreaming up ways to invest in a long short of online for-profit online university stocks as you read this.

Please provide your answers/rationales in the comments.

9 Responses to Pop Quiz Hotshot: What Do You Do?

  1. Mike McShane says:

    1. True
    2. False
    4. True
    5. True
    6. Meh-not as sure on how that one will play out
    7. True

    I think #3 really nails the crux of the issue. K-12 parents are still going to want (and need) to send their kids to school every day. Kids are still going to want to go to college (b/c lets be real, college is awesome).

    I think in the short term we’ll see online resources for remediation and enrichment really start to get some traction, but it will take longer before there is any serious replacement of technology for human labor in K-12 (unless some kind of computer union forms, and at that point they will simply become our overlords and this whole conversation will be moot).

    In higher ed, the incentives are aligned for profs to publish more than teach. Replacing their teaching labor with technology frees them up to do just that, so I think there will be less resistance there. Similarly, there is more choice in higher ed, and at some point folks are going to figure out measures of ROI and start to demand better. My guess is that it’ll take a heckuva lot less than 20 years.

  2. Parry says:

    1) False—I think technology-based learning is still far away from being considered “superior”, and even farther away from being considered superior by the public, but I think the recognition by the public of technology-based learning as a viable way for teaching and learning to happen is in the pipeline or here.

    2) False

    3) True on the first phrase, and I would quibble with the assumptions built into the rest of the statement (the “superior methods” piece).

    4) True in some organizations and settings, but likely false for most K-12 educational institutions for a while (and some for a long while).

    5) Don’t know enough about this to have an opinion.

    6) I wouldn’t bet against this being true, but don’t know enough to have a real opinion.

    7) Don’t know enough about the economics of it to have an opinion.


  3. allen says:

    1. False. The public already recognizes technology-based learning is superior/cheaper or both. It’s the political class that has to work through its fear and myopia to achieve that moment of clarity that’s important.

    2. True. And the lunar landing was filmed on a sound stage in an Air Force hanger in Utah.

    3. True but. Parents will want to send their kids to a physical school but as the centrality of the school district dissovles all sorts of other possibilities will emerge and mobility between schools will be facilitated and justified by that technology-based learning which, it should be always remembered, makes technology-based *testing* a snap. So, Uncle Al’s Neighborhood Storefront Academy is where little Jemima spends the morning working on academics before catching the autonomously-driven shuttle to the Detroit Academy of the Arts satellite school and Brandon heads out to Troy Tech in the morning after waiting for his shuttle at Uncle Al’s. He’s an alum and we’re all just tickled pink with pride at a twelve year-old from our little school working on the quantum gravity telescope.

    4. True. The information aggregating and filtering functions that become easy once all the data’s accessible mean that the “trust me, of course it’s worth it” approach to higher education will collapse in the face of hard data and with it, staffing requirements.

    5. True with the caveat that universities will probably lose control of where students take their courses. What’s the justification for forcing your students to take your inferior chem series if Uncle Al’s University has a proveably better chem series? There is none, other then “cuz” and that won’t fly for very long.

    6. False. Assumes too much about the viability of the current model of higher education.

    For the more generic, lower-level classes technology will simply squeeze out any but the best two or three offerings with insistence on face-to-face courses being seen as the academic equivalent of a Rolex. What justification is there for paying people to do what a computer can do just as well, or more likely, better? There is none so undergrad programs will undergo drastic changes. Where the dividing line might fall between on-line and human-led courses is hard to say but it’ll be a moving target since the benefits of moving a class on-line are significant.

    7. Maybe I need a nap but “7” is a bit confusing. It looks like it might mean that hedge funds are trying to come up with ways to invest in on-line universities but not invest in for-profit universities. I suppose it could easily be true but good luck with that. For the more generic classes, as Sal Khan has proven, any schmoe with a computer and an internet connection can hammer ’em out and put ’em up. More problematical is testing but it’s not a huge problem. It’s an obvious enough necessity that generic solutions will emerge.

    Maybe high intensity classes with personal coaches in the same fashion as the rich and the fabulous have fitness coaches – someone to objectively and continuously rate progress and provide a little forceful encouragement when personal initiative flags? Don’t know. We’re all going where no man has gone before so hang on, it’s liable to be a bumpy ride.

  4. Alsadius says:

    1) Who?
    2) First half false, second half true.
    3) True.
    4) True, but only to a very limited extent.
    5) This will only be true when HR departments start taking MOOCs to be a sign of the same sort of value in employees that a degree has(because really, who goes to university for the education?). Eventually true, but not soon.
    6) True.
    7) True, except for the phrase “long short” not actually making any sense.

  5. Cal says:

    1. False.
    2. Mostly true.
    3. First dozen words, true. The rest is false.
    4. False.
    5. Irrelevant one way or another. Online education as people currently see it is probably going to fail before it gets to that point.
    6. False, because if this is true, the super universities with huge endowments will drive all other schools out of business, and thus they will be accepting everyone–thus losing their cachet. MIT and the rest are doing online ed right now because of a flush of enthusiasm. It’s trendy, and they like to pretend they’re giving back to the little people. It will fade.
    7. Who cares? I mean, apart from people who pretend to care about education and still treat it as some sort of bizarre investment.

    To the extent that motivated people can bypass college to get educated on their own, it’s going to be the test, not the course delivery, that makes the difference. While universities can control access to diplomas, they aren’t going to be allowed to control access to the test. There will have to be competition. If we ever do disconnect credential from course work, then the test will either have to be independent of the coursework, or there will have to be multiple tests that provide the credential.

    Since only highly motivated and highly intelligent people will self-study, any such system would probably reduce the number of people getting the credentials overall. That might be a good thing, but since it’s not in the interest of anyone yammering about online ed, I’m pretty sure it’s never going to happen.

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  7. Joy Pullmann says:

    1. Mmm…false. The public opinion polls I’ve seen show people are generally highly skeptical and/or ignorant of digital learning. “In the pipeline” could mean anything time-wise, so I’m choosing to answer as things stand now.
    2. False. Digital or not digital, the teacher union monopoly over staff structure and compensation is crumbling.
    3. True. I don’t think this necessarily requires piles of digital learning or tech tools. Perhaps a few, like paperwork time-savers and remedial or testing devices.
    4. I hope this is false, given that research generally points away from the progressive “guide on the side” approach. (Lectures are better than “group projects,” and Direct Instruction far superior to “discovery learning” or whatever.)
    5. True. University-level learning already is, or should be, more self-directed than K-12, and most university classes were not adding much value beyond what an internet course can, anyway.
    6. Not sure. That sounds rather cynical. I would put “true” on the latter half.
    7. Depending on how the feds continue to treat for-profits, both by regulation and unstable “student aid” federal funding streams.

    My general take on digital learning–and this is because I had fantastic, in-person classes at Hillsdale that could not possibly be replicated online–is that it’s so “great” because it is better than the current calcified, bloated system. That’s not much of a distinction. Of course a digital class is better than a freshman “you didn’t learn basic Algebra so you’re stuck here” remedial class with 400 students taught by a TA. Not much of a bar.

    So if we’re talking about creating a national or statewide system of education, I support technology disruption and its creative, differing use throughout many different schools, but I would send my own children to a classical school that emphasizes in-person and text-based interaction. Perhaps they might test and quiz online and use iPads for IEPs and such, but I wouldn’t put my kids in Rocketship, even if I had to pay three times as much. Hell, I can teach them myself better than that.

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