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2015 December 24

Glut of postdoc researchers

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I’ve read a number or articles recently about a big problem in academia, particularly in biomedical research—the overproduction of PhDs and resulting pool of underemployed researchers.  Here are excerpts from two of them:

Source: Glut of postdoc researchers stirs a quiet crisis in science – The Boston Globe

Postdocs fill an essential, but little-known niche in the scientific pipeline. After spending 6 to 7 years on average earning a PhD, they invest more years of training in a senior scientist’s laboratory as the final precursor to starting labs where they can explore their own scientific ideas.

In the Boston area, where more than 8,000 postdocs — largely in the biosciences — are estimated to work, tough job prospects are more than just an issue of academic interest. Postdocs are a critical part of the scientific landscape that in many ways distinguishes the region — they are both future leaders and the workers who carry out experiments crucial for science to advance.

The plight of postdocs has become a point of national discussion among senior scientists, as their struggles have come to be seen as symptoms of broader problems plaguing biomedical research. After years of rapid growth, federal funding abruptly leveled off and even contracted over the last decade, leaving a glut of postdocs vying for a limited number of faculty jobs. Paradoxically, as they’ve gotten stuck, the pursuit of research breakthroughs has also become reliant on them as a cheap source of labor for senior scientists.

Biomedical research training traditionally has followed a well-worn path. After college, people who want to pursue an advanced degree enroll in graduate school. The vast majority of biology graduate students then go on to do one or more postdoc positions, where they continue their training, often well into their 30s.

Their progress is very poorly tracked; the leader of a national report on the state of postdocs has called them “invisible people.” The National Institutes of Health estimates there are somewhere between 37,000 and 68,000 postdocs in the country. Salaries vary, but rarely reflect their level of education. The NIH stipend ranges from $42,000 a year for a starting postdoc, up to $55,272 for a seventh year.

The problem is that any researcher running a lab today is training far more people than there will ever be labs to run. Often these supremely well-educated trainees are simply cheap laborers, not learning skills for the careers where they are more likely to find jobs — teaching, industry, government or nonprofit jobs, or consulting.

This wasn’t such an issue decades ago, but universities have expanded the number of PhD students they train — there were about 30,000 biomedical graduate students in 1979 and 56,800 in 2009. That has had the effect of flooding the system with trainees and drawing out the training period.

In 1970, scientists typically received their first major federal funding when they were 34. In 2011, those lucky enough to get a coveted tenure-track faculty position and run their own labs, at an average age of 37, don’t get the equivalent grant until nearly a decade later, at age 42.

From How to build a better PhD:

Not all of these students want to pursue academic careers — but many do, and they find it tough because there has been no equivalent growth in secure academic positions. The growing gap between the numbers of PhD graduates and available jobs has attracted particular attention in the United States, where students increasingly end up stuck in lengthy, insecure postdoctoral research positions. Although the unemployment rate for people with science doctorates is relatively low, in 2013 some 42% of US life-sciences PhD students graduated without a job commitment of any kind, up from 28% a decade earlier. “But still students continue to enroll in PhD programmes,” Stephan wrote in her 2012 book How Economics Shapes Science. “Why? Why, given such bleak job prospects, do people continue to come to graduate school?”

There may be too many PhD graduates for academia, but there is plenty of demand for highly educated, scientifically minded workers elsewhere. So some scientists propose that the PhD should be split into two: one for future academics and a second to train those who would like in-depth science education for use in other careers.

Biologist Anthony Hyman, director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, is one of those who thinks that a split PhD might work. Students in the academic-track PhD would focus on blue-skies research and discovery, he says. A vocational PhD would be more structured and directed towards specific careers in areas such as radiography, machine learning or mouse-model development.

Some scientists call for more drastic measures — cutting down the number of people who pursue a PhD.

Siphoning off more students into master’s programmes is one way to reduce PhD numbers, says Bruce Alberts, professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the department of medicine at UCSF. A master’s can offer advanced scientific training that is sufficient for many careers, as well as a taste of research, in one or two years rather than the four or five eaten up by a typical PhD. “In an ideal world, everyone would go in for a master’s,” Alberts says.

Engineering fields have not suffered the postdoc-holding-tank problem that bio fields and, to a lesser extent physical sciences) have had.  I believe that this has been because of several inter-related phenomena:

  • The PhD in engineering is only for academics and a few blue-sky researchers.  The degree needed for a top-notch industrial job is an MS (or, sometime, an MBA).  Most grad programs in engineering produce far more MS students than PhD students.
  • Engineering students can get good entry-level jobs with just a BS, so there is little pressure to go on immediately to grad school, unlike biology, where there are huge numbers of BS students chasing relatively few (and not very good) jobs. Many bio students, seeing that almost all the interesting jobs are advertised for PhD holders, feel compelled to go on to grad schools.
  • Undergraduate engineering programs are less subject to grade inflation than other fields—engineering faculty see passing a student in a course as certifying that they are at least marginally competent in the subject, not just that they’ve spent time in the presence of people who knew what they were doing.

Because a BS in engineering still certifies a reasonable level of competence, the BS degree is still recognized as suitable for entry-level jobs, and an MS reflects a higher level of specialization and competence. This allows the engineering PhD to be reserved for research and teaching, rather than becoming the entry-level degree it has become in bio research.

It will be very difficult for biology departments to undo the damage they have done to the academic system—draining the postdoc holding tank into real jobs will take a decade or more, even if bio departments reduced their PhD production to sustainable levels.  The huge glut of PhD-trained biologists will keep salaries low and discourage biotech companies from hiring BS-level bio students for any but blue-collar technician positions.  Perhaps the best thing university biology departments could do is to undo the grade and credit inflation that has been happening over the past three decades and start failing significant numbers of students, rather than being the STEM major of last resort for those barely capable of doing science.  This would reduce the glut of biology students and raise the quality of those who do finish BS degrees.  In a decade or so, biology departments could make the BS become the working degree for biotech industry, reducing the training time for biotech workers by over a decade.

Quite frankly, I don’t expect biology departments to raise their standards and choke off the flow of cheap postdocs.  NIH funding is arranged to make postdocs be the preferred researcher (cheaper and more productive than either grad students or faculty), and biology research labs have become structured around the postdocs.  Universities (particular ones with med schools) have made the “soft-money” researcher, whose job exists only as long as there is a grant to pay it standard. The disposable researcher has become the norm, just like disposable plasticware has replaced glassware in the labs.

I think that there will need to be some shakeups in the federal funding of research to break up the postdoc factories and encourage universities to return to the days of small labs with faculty actually running their own experiments with just a handful of students.  A few things that might help are

  • limiting PIs to no more than 2 federal grants at a time,
  • limiting the size of grants to no more than is needed to support a technician and a handful of postdocs or grad students,
  • greatly increasing the number of grants (not necessarily the total $), by breaking up the current scheme of big grants into many little ones, and
  • requiring that grant-seeking institutions pay at least half the salaries of any non-student researchers from non-federal sources.

Changes like that would force universities to convert a lot of soft-money positions into permanent faculty positions (in order to have enough PIs to submit grant requests), and would force the funding agencies to spread the grant money out over a much larger pool of researchers (rather than focusing it all on a handful of golden boys).  There would no longer be an incentive to have huge numbers of inferior “hands in the lab” as grad students or postdocs, and students and postdocs would get more attention from faculty as labs shrunk and faculty became focussed on research and teaching instead of grant writing and administration.

Of course, it will never happen—those who run the funding agencies like having a postdoc holding tank full of cheap labor and think that grant writing and grant administration is far more important than research or teaching.  They’d rather be responsible for a pointless but huge “moon shot” project than for hundreds of small projects, some of which actually advance science.

It has become my belief that the real purpose of federal funding for science is to slow down the progress of science and engineering so that politicians can keep the world from changing too fast—they might lose power if things change too quickly.

2015 November 11

Not applying for that grant after all

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As long-time readers of my blog may know, I’ve given up on chasing grants (see Sabbatical Plans 2 and Sabbatical Leave Report), but I got sucked into planning to apply for NSF Engineering Education Program and Improving Undergraduate STEM Education/Professional Formation of Engineers’ RED Solicitation NSF 15-607, which would provide a minimum of $1,000,000 spread over 5 years to the lucky winner of the grant lottery for improving engineering education.  Because I have refocused my effort since my last sabbatical on improving education, this grant seemed like something worth some effort.

I was a little worried about it not being a lottery, but having an already targeted program that someone at NSF wanted to fund, as it had a very short timeline for putting together a rather complex grant, and somewhat bizarre requirements for the composition of the group applying for it:

The Principal Investigator(s) must be a department chair/head (or equivalent) to establish institutional accountability. Additionally, there must be a RED team that includes (at a minimum) an expert in engineering education or computer science education research, who can ground the research plan in the literature, and a social science expert who can evaluate department dynamics and monitor change processes. The social scientist must have expertise to advise on strategies for developing a culture of change and on strategies for creating meaningful collective ownership of the effort among faculty, students, and staff.

I was first informed of the existence of this program on 2015 Oct 7, by the engineering associate dean for undergraduates.  Apparently the deans of engineering schools had been informed of the program on 2015 Oct 5 by NSF, with letters of intent due on 2015 Nov 10, with each institution limited to 2 proposals.  I responded with cautious enthusiasm within an hour and a half, outlining what I’d like to see improved in the engineering program generally and why I thought that our Hispanic-Serving Institution was a good fit for the goals of the program to “educate inclusive communities of engineering and computer science students prepared to solve 21st-century challenges.”

I was willing to help write the grant, but I did not want to be the PI—not that I could anyway, as I’m a “Program Chair” but not a “Department Chair”—that means that I have to do all the catalog editing, curriculum revision, and responding to the administration about every bone-headed idea they come up with for education, but I have no resources and no carrots or sticks to get any other faculty to help me.

In my message to the faculty expressing interest, I detailed what I saw as the problems to address in the bioengineering program, some of which I felt were shared by other programs.

Another engineering faculty member (in a different department from mine) was in agreement with me, particularly on one point: “Students spend too much time getting book learning, and not enough time applying their knowledge to design problems.”  Our engineering programs have excellent senior capstone courses, but there is not enough design work in the first two years.  (Incidentally, this resonates well with a post that just came out today from a community college on the other side of the country.)

So within 2 hours of the associate dean asking if anyone was interested, the two of us agreed to work on it and see what we could come up with.  We both have heavy teaching loads this quarter, and he was working on several research proposals, so we did not manage to get together to talk for another nine days (Oct 16). We’d both done a fair amount of thinking independently before then, so we had a very productive meeting for an hour or two, finding that we had very similar ideas about the goals and complementary ideas about how to achieve them.

I got a couple of pages of notes out of that meeting: which courses needed to be expanded, which freshman and sophomore courses could feasibly have a greater design component, and how we could create and push courses back into the high schools to raise awareness of engineering among applicants (the other faculty member had already taught and recorded a summer course on robotics for high-school students that could be improved and adapted to be a “course-in-a-box” that could be taught by interested but not expert high-school teachers, and I would like to push my applied electronics course down to advanced high school level, though that would require some massive book rewrites).

The basic theme of our ideas was pretty straightforward (quoting from my notes on the Friday meeting):

The theme of the proposal is expanding hands-on project-based learning particularly in the majors Robotics Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering (bioelectronics and assistive technology:motor concentrations).  Project-based learning has a good track record for increasing participation by women and under-represented minorities [citation needed].
The key concepts for the course and curriculum design are the following
  • System thinking: breaking into subproblems and well-defined interfaces
  • Trade-offs: most design decisions involve trading off one desirable feature for another
  • Documentation: the design needs to be thoroughly described in order to be maintainable or duplicable.

We concentrated on a part of the engineering program that already had a pretty good design component, trying to build from strength rather than trying to foment a revolution in programs that had very little design until the senior year.  Given the very short timeline (3.5 weeks to get a team together for the letter of intent), we did not think it wise to go for something unachievable, but rather to make a pretty good program exemplary.

Our next step was to see whether we could get a team together by the Nov 10 deadline for the letter of intent, so I started cold-calling (well, e-mailing) social scientists and education researchers on campus, trying to find people who would be suitable and interested. I’m not naturally a networker—I don’t remember people’s names or faces, and I don’t often go to social events where I run into new people, so I was having to rely on what I could find on the UCSC web pages and asking everyone for recommendations of whom to ask. I put in a fair amount of time looking through web pages and sending e-mail to strangers, asking for help.

Two weeks later (Oct 30), I managed to present the ideas of the proposal to a group consisting of one psychologist, three education researchers (one via a Skype connection that kept failing), and an EE teaching professor (who happened to be in the process of trying to improve the core EE course in the direction we were trying to move things).  The presentation must have seemed a bit bizarre to them, as it was the closest class day to Halloween, and I was dressed in a 15th-century houppelande, having just come from teaching my class.

After describing what we were trying to do and some lively discussion where the education researchers tried to figure out what NSF meant by their rather unusual team composition (not like any of the education research grants that they had ever participated in), I left with the EE professor eager to join the grant and the others saying they’d let me know.  By the next week, the psychologist (Nov 2) and the two best-fit education researchers (Nov 6) had agreed to join the team.

I had also had asked the dean’s office about the administrative support that had been promised in the original call for faculty interest, and got a rather minimal response (amounting to no more than the usual budget-writing support that tiniest research grants get—no grant writing support at all).

In the meantime (Nov. 5), another hurdle had arisen: the relevant department chair was not willing to be PI. Since we now had faculty from three different departments leading the grant, we tried convincing the dean to be the PI, but he’s stepping down at the end of the year, and did not feel that he could commit the incoming dean to whatever we were planning (Nov 9).  We made one more last-minute appeal to the department chair to let us file the letter of intent by the end of the day Nov 10, with the department chair still having veto power on submitting the final grant proposal, but were turned down.

So we’re not even getting a shot at the $1–2M lottery.  I suspect that many places that could have put together reasonable proposals will have had similar unsuccessful flurries of activity leading to not even being able to submit a letter of intent—the NSF request for proposals seemed deliberately structured to suppress applicants, leading me to suspect that there was a favored program somewhere that this whole charade had been set up to fund, or perhaps a few institutions with grant-writing machines already cranked up and ready to spew out whatever boilerplate NSF wanted.

The three of us faculty will go ahead and do what we can (without resources) to improve pedagogy in the engineering school, but the whole process has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I’m feeling that not only did NSF not want proposals from us, but that the engineering administration didn’t want us applying for funding (which seems completely out of character for this university’s administration).

I think it is unlikely that I’ll go through that much effort again, just to be told that we can’t even file a letter of intent.  I’ve always hated grant writing, and I’d sworn off of research-grant writing a couple years ago as a completely unproductive use of my time.  Now it looks like I might swear off writing grant proposals for improving teaching also, as it seems to be even more painful and even less productive.

I would have been better off putting in the time revising another chapter of my book—at least there I can see progress when I can the time to work on it.

2014 December 28

Public univerisities as mass quality

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Chris Newfield, in Trends we can work with: Higher Ed in 2015 ~ Remaking the University, wrote

I never tire of pointing out that the only reason for the existence of public universities is mass quality—mass access to top-quality teaching and cutting-edge research—that puts regular folks on the level where they can genuinely match elites. It’s not too soon for faculty to join students in putting the quality back in mass quality, while creating new kinds of quality to reflect on current conditions. The success students had this year in holding off major politicians like Jerry Brown—and in getting cited in revenue arguments by governing boards—signaled to at least some faculty that it’s time to step up.

Chris Newfield, like me, teaches at the University of California (though he is on a different campus). I think we both see the University of California as having a combined mission: teaching and research at a very high level of quality and at a low price to the students. Unfortunately, high quality does not come at low cost, so the only way to achieve a low price is through subsidies. Because the public universities do not have the massive endowments and enormous philanthropic contributions that schools like Stanford get, the subsidies have to come from the state.

Unfortunately, our state politicians have been fooled into thinking that the University of California can be simultaneously controlled by the legislature and paid for by the students—thanks in large part to Regents who sincerely believe that unregulated markets are the best way to achieve everything.  As a result, the University of California has become much more expensive for students while having a lot less money for instructional purposes.  It’s been a slow process, played out over the past 20 years, but the UC educational experience has gradually been cheapened while becoming pricier.

The problem is not inefficiency on the part of the University or spiraling costs (see Cost of college remarkably stable), but simple cost shifting from public funding to student loans.  The legislature and the governors have given up education as a public good and decided to slowly privatize higher education in California. This is not a popular position with the people of California, so they disguise the moves and find ways to make the University look like the bad guys in raising tuition.

The University administration has been aiding and abetting this political movement to privatize the University, by raising tuition every opportunity they get and by paying their top executives ridiculously large salaries, while simultaneously treating the faculty and unionized workers worse and worse (health benefits are much worse now than when I joined UC 28 years ago; salaries are about the same, after correcting for inflation; and workloads are higher).  I think the UCOP (University of California Office of the President) made a particularly bad mis-step this year in the way that they raised tuition right after giving top executives pay raises—it made it look like they were just interested in lining their own pockets.  It would have been better to come out with a plan for lowering tuition while raising state contributions—then the legislature would be properly seen as the ones causing the problem, rather than offering the legislature an opportunity to look virtuous while cutting funding for the University.

Quite frankly, I’m not convinced that the UCOP executives have any interest in the University as a university—they certainly seem to pay much more attention to ways that they can extract money from it (like using the retirement funds for speculation on UC venture capital projects) than on education or research.  Neither UCOP nor the Regents listen to the faculty or the students, and I think that they have no idea what damage their self-centered decisions have already done to the University, much less what damage their most recent decisions will do.

2014 March 13

Suggestions for changes to biomed training

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Yesterday I attended a a discussion lead by Henry Bourne (retired from UCSF) about problems in the training system for biologists in the US.  His points are summarized fairly well in his article A fair deal for PhD students and postdocs and the two articles it cites that preceded it:

In a recent essay I drew attention to five axioms that have helped to make the biomedical research enterprise unsustainable in the US (Bourne, 2013a). This essay tackles, in detail, the dangerous consequences of one of these axioms: that the biomedical laboratory workforce should be largely made up of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, mostly supported by research project grants, with a relatively small number of principal investigators leading ever larger research groups. This axiom—trainees equal research workforce—drives a powerful feedback loop that undermines the sustainability of both training and research. Indeed, unless biomedical scientists, research institutions and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) act boldly to reform the biomedical research enterprise in the US, it is likely to destroy itself (Bourne, 2013b).

I’m basically in agreement with him that very long PhD+postdoc training current in biology in the US is fundamentally broken, and that the postdoc “holding tank” is not a sustainable system.

I also agree with him that one of the biggest problems in the system is paying for education through research grants. Grad student support should be provided directly, either as fellowships or training grants (I prefer individual fellowships like the NSF fellowships, he prefers training grants). By separating support for PhD training from research support, we can effectively eliminate the conflict of interest in which students are kept as cheap labor rather than being properly trained to become independent scientists (or encouraged to find a field that better fits their talents). By limiting the number of PhD students we can stop pumping more people into the postdoc holding tank faster than we can drain the tank by finding the postdocs real jobs.

I disagreed with one of his suggestions, though. He wants to see the PhD shrunk to an average of 4.5 years, followed by a 2–4-year postdoc. I’d rather keep the PhD at 6.5 years and eliminate the postdoc holding tank entirely. In engineering fields, researchers are hired into permanent positions immediately after their PhDs—postdoc positions are rare.  It is mainly because NIH makes hiring postdocs so very, very “cost-effective” that the huge postdoc holding tank has grown. If NIH changed their policies to eliminate support for postdocs on research grants, allowing only permanent staff to be paid, that would help quite a bit.

Draining the postdoc holding tank would probably take a decade or more even with rational policies, but current policies of universities and industry (only hiring people in bio after 6 years or more of postdoc) and of the NIH (providing generous funding for postdocs but little for permanent researchers) make the postdoc holding tank likely to grow rather than shrink.

He pointed out that NIH used to spend a much larger fraction of their funding on training students than they do now—they’ve practically abandoned education, in favor of a low-pay, no-job-security research workforce (grad students and postdocs).

A big part of the problem is that research groups have changed from being a professor working with a handful of students to huge groups with one PI and dozens of postdocs and grad students. Under the huge-group model, one PI needs to have many grants to keep the group going, so competition for research grant money is much fiercer, and there is much less diversity of research than under a small-group model.

The large-group model necessitates few PIs and many underlings, making it difficult for postdocs to move up to becoming independent scientists (there are few PI positions around), as well as making it difficult for new faculty to compete with grant-writing machines maintained by the large groups.

A simple solution would be for NIH to institute a policy that they will not fund any PI with more than 3 grants at time, and study sections should be told how much funding each PI has from grants, so that they can compare productivity to cost (they should also be told when grants expire, so that they can help PIs avoid gaps in funding that can shut down research).  The large groups would dissolve in a few years, as universities raced to create more PIs to keep the overhead money coming in.  The new positions would help drain the postdoc holding tank and increase the diversity of research being pursued.

Of course, the new positions would have to be real ones, not “soft-money” positions that have no more job security than a postdoc. NIH could help there too, by refusing to pay more than 30% of a PI’s salary out of Federal funds.

Of course, any rational way of spending the no-longer-growing NIH budget will result in some of the bloated research groups collapsing (mainly in med schools, which have become addicted to easy money and have built empires on “soft-money” positions).

I think that biology has been over-producing PhDs for decades—more than there are permanent positions for in industry and academia combined. That combined with the dubious quality of much of the PhD training (which has often been just indentured servitude in one lab, with no training in teaching or in subjects outside a very narrow focus on the needs of the PhD adviser’s lab), has resulted in a situation where a PhD in biology is not worth much—necessitating further training before the scientist is employable and providing a huge pool of postdoc “trainees”, many of whom will never become independent scientists.

Tightening the standards for admission to PhD programs and providing more rigorous coursework in the first two years of PhD training (rather than immediately shoving them into some PI’s lab) would help a lot in increasing the value of the PhD.

Unfortunately, I see our department going in the opposite direction—moving away from the engineering model of training people to be independent immediately after the PhD and towards a model where they are little more than hands in the PI’s labs (decreasing the required coursework, shrinking the lab rotations, and getting people into PI labs after only 2 quarters). I gave up being grad director for our department, because I was not willing to supervise this damage to the program, nor could I explain to students policies that I did not agree with.

One thing we are trying to do that I think is good is increasing the MS program, so that there is a pool of trained individuals able to take on important research tasks as permanent employees, rather than as long-term PhDs or postdocs. Again, the engineering fields have developed a much better model than the biomedical fields, with the working degree for most positions being the BS or MS, with only a few PhDs needed for academic positions and cutting-edge industrial research. Note that a PhD often has less actual coursework than an MS—PhD students have been expected to learn by floundering around in someone’s lab for an extra 5 years taking no courses and often not even going to research seminars, which is a rather slow way of developing skills and deadly to gaining a breadth of knowledge. Biotech companies would probably do well to stop hiring PhDs and postdocs for routine positions, and start hiring those with an MS in bioengineering instead.

2013 July 28

MOOC roundup

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I’ve been collecting Massively Online Open Cours (MOOC) blog posts for a while now, with the intent of doing a careful response to each.  There have gotten to be so many that I can’t do a careful response to each. At best, I’ll do a short summary or critique of each one.  If the number of links here is overwhelming (as it was for me in writing this post), read the summaries to pick out a few that seem likely to be worth your time.  But do try to read the ones I’ve marked with a green check.  I think that those were unusually valuable.

From the Becker-Posner Blog:

  1. http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2012/11/moocsimplications-for-higher-educationposner.html This is basically a factual description of MOOCs saying who they think the students will be and the difficulty of making MOOCs pay, but without much thought on the consequences of MOOCs for education.
  2. http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2012/11/online-courses-and-the-future-of-higher-education-becker.html Predictions that MOOCs, because they are cheaper than building classrooms, will become a major part of the higher education landscape worldwide.  This is the standard wishful thinking of people who want to defund education.

From the Academe blog, which is published by the American Association of University Professors, but which does not reflect official AAUP positions (in fact, it has published some posts from harsh critics of the AAUP). Most of the posts here are not the MOOC boosterism we see from administrators and non-matriculated students, but the faculty skepticism about the value of MOOCs both pedagogically and for the future of the universities.

  1. http://academeblog.org/2012/12/03/courage/ A somewhat optimistic post about using MOOCs to do freshman composition courses—one of the courses for which many faculty feel MOOCs are completely unsuitable. The post seems to think that peer grading might actually work, something I’m very dubious about—the value of a composition class depends mainly on the quality and quantity of feedback from instructors whom you trust enough to accept uncomfortable advice from.
  2. http://academeblog.org/2013/05/18/open-letter-from-robert-meister-cucfa-to-daphne-koller-founder-of-coursera/ A rather long post that focuses mainly on how MOOCs are going to be monetized and the negative effects of MOOCs on public education.
  3. http://academeblog.org/2013/05/20/moocs-skim-milk-masquerades-as-cream/ MOOCs seen as an outgrowth of the “culture of celebrity”:

    The MOOCs are centered around supposed “superteachers” from the most elite universities. It’s no accident that Harvard, MIT and Stanford are among those schools most often mentioned in discussions of MOOCs. These provide, supposedly, the “best” education in the world. Why not take advantage of technology to spread that wealth around?

    First of all, it is the student who makes the education; no teacher or school “gives” it. It’s not that Harvard professors are elite educators, but that Harvard students are elite students. This is what makes the school so successful. Put a Harvard professor in front of most community-college classrooms and that professor will, most likely, fail. The name “Harvard” dresses up the professors, but it does not make them master teachers.

  4. http://academeblog.org/2013/05/20/college-educators-from-across-u-s-take-on-ways-online-classes-can-help-or-wreck-a-students-hopes-for-a-good-education/ The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education points out that online courses are not really cheaper than traditional courses, at least not when they are taught in an effective way.
  5. http://academeblog.org/2013/05/22/the-mooc-and-the-meaning-of-teaching/A response to an interview with Daphne Koller, pointing out that MOOCs don’t address how courses really get created and improved.

    Separating content development, course preparation, grading, and content delivery does, indeed, change teaching, but for the worse. Koller herself recognizes that universities have “played a critical role in the shaping” of “amazingly gifted scholars, researchers, and teachers.” Those scholars, researchers, and teachers are gifted precisely because of their integrated approach to teaching.

    Any good teacher will tell you that the primary work of education happens away from the classroom. MOOCs might be useful for self-enrichment courses, but as long as they deliver education in a piecemeal fashion, they will not be models of good teaching.

U to the rescue: Micheal Meranze and Christopher Newfield  are UC professors (UCLA and UCSB, respectively) who closely follow the politics and (de)funding of the University of California.  They have a lot to say  about MOOCs and administrative tricks to try to divert instructional resources into administrative salaries and private contractors.

  1. http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/01/addressing-austerity-lock-in-at-public.html This post is not primarily about MOOCs, but about the failure of the UC administration to make a strong case for public funding of the University, pointing out that their appeasement policy has resulted in trumpeting as a victory funding levels that are 25% lower per student than in 1990 (counting both state funding and tuition—the per-student funding from the state has dropped much more than that).  Their key point about MOOCs:

    Explain clearly that technological improvements will not close the budgetary gap.  Unfortunately UCOP is a negative example here: it promised $500 M in savings through technology efficiencies that have yielded about a tenth of that (see links halfway down this post on the Regents’ retreat). And it is gearing up a new round of technology promises for this week’s Regents meeting, now in the form of online education.  I defy anyone to find meaningful cost savings in the gradual introduction of quality (blended) online instruction to any of higher ed’s segments. I invite you to scour the full rush transcript of the MOOC meeting at UCLA last week; or to read full scale investigations of online impacts like Taylor Walsh’s pro-tech Unlocking the Gates, which shows for example that simply posting course materials in the case of MIT’s Open Courseware program nets the university negative $4M annually (page 84); or to go to the source of the original analysis of academia’s “cost disease,” William J. Baumol and his new book The Cost Disease; or to contemplate the extent to which online providers expect not to make money by offering newly cheap university curricula but by selling referrals and other ancillary products by competing with universities.  Or picture yourself as a venture capitalist, and ask if a one-time $10M investment has ever in history closed a $2.9B gap. Technology has become a source of budgetary delusion and fake solutions and this has to stop.

  2. http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/01/moocs-and-parking-lots-privatization-on.html This post discusses in detail the privatization goals of many of the MOOC proponents, and the abysmal success rate of privatization of public functions in other fields. A quote from the post:

    If we aren’t careful, privatization history will repeat itself, and UC in its desperation will invite on board a host of outside service providers who will have a seat at the curriculum table and a claim on a piece of UC’s shrinking revenues.  (A figure I have heard is that the provider takes 50% of the first seven years’ revenues on each course it develops.)

  3. http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/01/seven-questions-to-moocfest.html In January 2103, UCLA had a large presentation about MOOCs from various providers.  U to the rescue had a number of questions about how the MOOCs were going to produce enough money to survey past the initial capital burn.

    4. If (3) is true, what share of the development costs and course revenues will you take? One number we have heard is 50% of course tuition for 7 years. The NYT article has an even higher number.  Since you use salaried university faculty to create course content, so far, it appears, without pay, are you going to wind up in the business of selling universities their own courses back to them at a big production markup?
    5. Given substantial costs for quality on-line development and operation, how exactly will you save money for students enrolled in degree courses (who are already paying tuition)? Given enrollment problems with MOOCs that aren’t free, on what basis can you say that you will save universities money? What is your estimate of how much?

  4. http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/01/uses-of-public-university-uc-faculty.html The announcement of the results of an all-UC faculty discussion about the future of the University:

    The report of this all UC-faculty discussion entitled The Uses of the Public University in 2050 can be accessed at http://www.ihc.ucsb.edu/charrette2012/. The report details underlying principles that address the issues of teaching and learning in the twenty-first century, the role of research in a public university, the stewardship of the university and the university’s role in creating an informed, proactive and responsible citizenry.

  5. http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/06/new-waypoints-in-mooc-debate-part-ii.html This post points out that MOOCs have not yet come up with a sustainable business model. One danger for public universities is in neglecting to invest in sustainable education, and being left with nothing when the MOOCs crash and burn. A quote:

    In the ramp-up period, terribly high per-MOOC costs could be justified by mass enrollments, but unfortunately from the VC [venture capital] point of view the masses take these courses for free. These production costs also collide with increasing awareness of large faculty time inputs: Duke’s Dan Ariely and Cathy Davidson report 150 hours of their time per hour of “actual MOOC.”  Prof. Davidson’s phrase in a subsequent post is “insanely labor intensive” —in exchange for a $10,000 stipend that she spent entirely on assistants. Many MOOC watchers are now concluding, as she does, that MOOCs do not have a way of making up for massive public funding cuts.

Computing Ed: Mark Guzdial is a computer-science education researcher who has been following some of the MOOC and online-degree fervor at Georgia Tech:

  1. http://computinged.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/college-degree-no-class-time-required-just-religious-faith-in-tests/ Here Mark points out that the University of Wisconsin plan to offer a degree almost entirely by testing is doomed to be a second-class degree, because the basic educational premises are flawed.  Here is a quote from the beginning of the post:

    The announcement from U. Wisconsin (that they’ll test students to get a degree, rather than requiring any coursework at all) is showing enormous and unsupported (almost religious) faith in our ability to construct tests, especially online tests.  Building reliable and valid assessments is part of my research, and it’s really hard.

  2. http://computinged.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/sir-john-daniel-making-sense-of-moocs/ This post is just a pointer to White Paper- Making Sense of MOOCs, an analysis of MOOCs by Sir John Daniel, who was vice-chancellor of the UK Open University (one of the most successful online education efforts in the world) and who has written extensively on the economics of making distance education work.
  3. http://computinged.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/georgia-tech-will-offer-a-masters-degree-online-nytimes-com/ A brief reaction to Georgia Tech’s announcement of their Udacity-fueled online Masters degree:

    In case anyone didn’t see the various articles, Georgia Tech’s College of Computing will be offering a Udacity-based MS degree starting.  The faculty did vote on the proposal. I argued against it (based mostly on learning and diversity arguments), but lost (which led to my long winter post). Faculty in the College of Computing have been asked not to talk about the online MS degree (which seems weird to me—asking faculty not to talk about their own degree programs).  Please understand if I don’t answer questions in response to this announcement.

Inside Higher Ed

  1. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/28/carnegie-mellons-online-efforts-include-spinoffs-and-subsidiaries-not-moocs Another post on financial problems with MOOCs—this one reporting on why Carnegie-Mellon in not jumping on the MOOC bandwagon, and what they are doing in online education instead.
  2. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/05/28/documents-shed-light-details-georgia-tech-udacity-deal This article offers another view on the Georgia Tech Udacity-fueled online Masters, looking into some of the details of the contract obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
  3. http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/06/24/essay-sees-missing-savings-georgia-techs-much-discussed-mooc-based-program Chris Newfield does a very close reading of the contract and provides a detailed critique of it.  It does not appear that Georgia Tech faculty had an opportunity to read the contract in detail, nor that the Georgia Tech administrators bothered to, since it appears to have some internal contradictions.  I suspect that in a year or two, only the lawyers will be making any money off of this deal.  This is the most detailed look at MOOC finances I’ve seen in public—and it does not look like they have yet figured out how to make MOOCs sustainable. Note: Sebastian Thrun has responded to this critique—I’ve checkmarked his post near the end of this list of links.

Others

  1. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120920124146236 Some of Moody’s financial prediction of creditworthiness of higher-ed institutions in the face of MOOCs.  It seems to start from the assumption that MOOCs will be financially successful while continuing to offer free courses (an assertion that not all followers of the MOOC phenomenon believe):

    In the end, elite institutions are positioned to capitalise most effectively on the MOOC platform, by increasing their global presence and deriving greater credit benefits from new markets. Those institutions with limited brand identities, however, will have to compete more intensively to retain—or develop—a competitive edge.

  2. http://the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1352 This piece also assumes that MOOCs will be wildly successful and essentially kill off all but the elite institutions (again, ignoring the fact that MOOCs so far have only been shown to work for autodidacts):

    The open-source educational marketplace will give everyone access to the best universities in the world. This will inevitably spell disaster for colleges and universities that are perceived as second rate. Likewise, the most popular professors will enjoy massive influence as they teach vast global courses with registrants numbering in the hundreds of thousands (even though “most popular” may well equate to most entertaining rather than to most rigorous). Meanwhile, professors who are less popular, even if they are better but more demanding instructors, will be squeezed out. Fair or not, a reduction in the number of faculty needed to teach the world’s students will result. For this reason, pursuing a Ph.D. in the liberal arts is one of the riskiest career moves one could make today. Because much of the teaching work can be scaled, automated or even duplicated by recording and replaying the same lecture over and over again on video, demand for instructors will decline.

    Of course, I question the assumption that delivering “the same lecture over and over again” constitutes “much of the teaching work”. Certainly lecturing plays a very small part of the time I dedicate to teaching—feedback on writing, guiding students in the lab, developing and testing design labs, meeting with students one-on-one, … all take far more time than the “lectures”, most of which involve student interaction rather than one-way info dumps in any case.

  3. http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/UC-online-courses-fail-to-lure-outsiders-4173639.php Although the University of California is plunging headlong into MOOC mania (driven by the Regents, the Legislature, and a few administrators), this is not the first time UC has tried to jump on an online bandwagon.  A lot of money was sunk into UC Online, a pitiful attempt to make money at online education in the previous online fad, with UC rolling out their system a couple years after the fad had ended and many other universities had quietly dropped their attempts to make money at it (except CMU, see the Inside Higher Education link above):

    The University of California is spending millions to market an ambitious array of online classes created to “knock people’s socks off” and attract tuition from students around the world. But since classes began a year ago, enrollment outside of UC is not what you’d call robust.

    One person took a class.

  4. http://changinguniversities.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-failure-of-interaction-report-from.html This post contains observations by Bob Samuels after the UCLA panel promoting MOOCs (see the U to the Rescue blog posts mentioned above). He starts with a pointed observation:

    First a few ironies: the faculty presenters had to listen to four hours of non-interactive presentations before they could speak and ask questions. In other words, as the “providers” were lecturing us about how online technology allows for true interactive education to occur, they did not leave space for any interaction. Moreover, the high-tech promoters kept on having a hard time getting their PowerPoint slides to work as they criticized traditional institutions for not turning to new technologies to make education “Faster, Cheaper, and Better.” A final irony was that throughout the lectures, I noticed most of the audience, including myself, constantly checking their iPhones. Once again, as the providers were celebrating the role of new technologies in making us more focused and efficient, most of the audience was half-listening and multi-tasking.

    And he ends with another pointed remark:

    Now UC has spent $5 million on virtually one student, but we shouldn’t laugh because someone is going to have to pay for this failed experiment, and the bigger question is will UC be able to walk away from the table after it has gambled millions away on its high-tech wager?

  5. http://augmentedtrader.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/mooc-student-demographics/ A demographic analysis of the students who took “Computational Investing, Part I” as a Coursera MOOC.  It turns out that 93% of those who completed the course already had a bachelor’s degree or more education.  It looks like the MOOCs are fairly effective as continuing education for people who have already completed college—not a bad thing, but not a replacement for college as they are so often touted.  The course completers were also 89% male, which may be normal for that subject matter, but does not suggest that the MOOCs are any good at increasing diversity.
  6. http://mfeldstein.com/the-most-thorough-summary-to-date-of-mooc-completion-rates/ A summary of data collected from MOOCs about completion rates.  The post is an explanation and a pointer to Katy Jordan’s interactive data site: http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html It looks like completion rates in the 2%–12% range are standard for MOOCs.
  7. http://nextbison.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/the-future-of-universities-everything-a-mooc-is-not/ Amy Bruckman wrote a few things that resonated with me:

    Amy’s Conjecture: The future of universities is in excelling at everything a MOOC is not.

    The trend over the last dozen or so years is for people who make money creating intellectual property to be compensated more and more poorly.  Fewer people are making a living as musicians.  Professional journalism is in crisis.  Small newspapers are closing, and major ones are struggling. This hasn’t happened all at once, but like a frog in a pot, raising the temperature/economic pressure a fraction of a degree per year over the long haul has dramatic consequences.  MOOCs turn education into a form of IP.  The same economic pressures are going to apply.

    If you buy that, then what’s next for universities?  There will no doubt be MOOC winners—but I suspect that just as Amazon.com seems to be dominating the e-commerce business, there will be advantages to size that will be hard to fight.  Margins will be tight, with a small number of big winners.

    The future of universities, then, is in everything a MOOC can not do. What is that?

    Amy’s Lemma: There are some things that will never be learned as well online.

    Her arguments, and ones like them, have convinced me that the best thing I can be doing for UC is not creating a huge MOOC course that reaches 1000s of students (I’d probably be terrible at it, anyway), but to create hands-on lab courses (like my new Applied Circuits for Bioengineers course) and high-contact, high-feedback courses (like my Bioinformatics: Tools and Algorithms course or the senior thesis seminar).  These high-contact courses are what the top universities can provide that does not have any online substitute.  If this is the future of the university, I embrace it.

  8. http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2013/04/24/massive-open-online-courses-moocs-have-a-role-in-high-ed/ A surprisingly balanced view of MOOCs from Armando Fox, Academic Director, Berkeley Resource Center for Online Education:

    The experience of Berkeley faculty who have taught them is  that MOOCs work well as a supplement to traditional courses, not a replacement for them.  Courses at Berkeley and other world-class universities have shown that a blend of online and classroom instruction can increase professor and TA leverage and expand course enrollments while maintaining or increasing student satisfaction and learning outcomes.

    But in the absence of systematic research, BRCOE believes it would be a disservice to Berkeley students to consider using a two-year-old technology as a replacement for traditional instruction, which seems to be the thrust of recent media coverage and some current legislative activity. Berkeley will become a leader in online education not by charging prematurely into overzealous use of a new technology, but by doing the research to uncover its potential and position us to do the right thing by our students in the coming years—not just internally but in non-UC settings such as community colleges, high schools, and K-8 that ultimately “feed our pipeline.”We recognize the disconnect between BRCOE’s point of view on this matter and the sentiment of some legislators and spokespersons for the private sector. To that end, both we at Berkeley and our colleagues on other UC campuses are working hard to proactively inform the media, the private sector, and the public servants in Sacramento and elsewhere about both the opportunities and the pitfalls of online education. Our intention is to persuade them that “proceed optimistically but with care” is the right thing to do by our students, who are entrusting us with four or more years of education and career development when they arrive on campus.

  9. http://futureofhighered.org/moocs-pearson-and-profits/ This post points out that the company Pearson is shifting resources from acquiring more textbook publishers (perhaps having gobbled up all the textbook publishers they could) to getting state contracts for delivering tests.  There is an implicit assumption that this near monopoly of both textbooks and testing by one company is too large a concentration of power—particularly given that the company is more interested in profit than in the quality of education.

    Yet, it is hardly coincidental that the major corporate “educational providers” are already seizing on the enormous profit potential in MOOCs. Specifically, having bought up a slew of major textbook publishers, Pearson is now shifting to buying up very specialized technology companies.

    As MOOCs are migrated into general-education or core college-level courses, Pearson and its imitators (such as Academic Partnerships) will make a push to provide the “competency measures” for those courses: that is, they will seek to adapt what has been so profitable on the K-12 level to the post-secondary level.

    A discussion about the social cost of allowing higher education to be pushed down the dreary path K-12 education has already tread is long overdue.

  10. http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2013/03/11/teaching-by-hand-in-a-digital-age/ This post was triggered by San Jose States partnering with Udacity to deliver a few remedial courses through MOOCS. The author praised them for their desire to reach more students, but pointed out that the freshman composition course was not a good target for MOOCS:

    Still, I think something vital is missing from its description of ideal online learning, something I find hard to imagine happening in large online courses. That something involves what occurs when a good teacher responds carefully and closely to the work of a student.

    But I worry that digitized feedback systems can only be a pale version of the focused response that a trained and attentive reader, a teacher, can offer a young writer.The teaching of writing has long been a textbook-driven field precisely because such readers are in short supply. The hope is that a good textbook can give an inexperienced or indifferent teacher something to lean on. But it doesn’t really work. What students need is not someone to walk them through a textbook but someone who can respond to their own work and ideas.

    This post really resonated with me, particularly given the amount of time I spend on providing feedback on student writing. I had a more direct response to the post in my blog post Teaching by hand.

  11. http://mooccampus.org/ This is not a blog post, but the website for an organization that has put together a “college” without faculty—just a residential campus with all “teaching” handled by MOOCs.  It is an administrator’s dream—no faculty at all! It’s very easy to create a “college” this way—rent a large building for housing the “students” (like an old hotel in a no-longer-popular location), hire a couple of cooks and janitors, and put up a website!  No need to bother with expensive things like labs, classrooms, teachers, accreditation, or anything else having to do with education.  Anyone can now start their very own college!
  12. http://blog.sukiwessling.com/2013/05/are-moocs-going-to-destroy-education-as-we-know-it/ Suki Wessling writes about MOOCs from a different perspective—that of a home schooling parent who values online courses as a resource for teaching her children.

    As a homeschooler, however, I do think that MOOCs are a welcome new addition to the options for learning outside of structured environments, and I love the idea that the breadth of human knowledge is being made available to everyone, everywhere.

    But will MOOCs make the whole idea of the university education obsolete?

    She discusses what she sees MOOCs as doing well and what traditional colleges do well and summarizes her points well:

    But I believe that MOOCs will never be able to provide the benefits that an in-person degree at a good university can provide:

    • Working directly with the best thinkers in your field
    • Developing mentoring relationships with professors or more experienced students
    • Learning from, helping, and arguing with your fellow students
    • Creating the sorts of connections that in some fields are absolutely necessary for success
    • Having guidance in honing your analytical skills in ways that can’t be done alone

    What bothers me is not that people are excited about online learning (so am I) or that people think it has some benefits over traditional college (it does), but that everyone is so happily throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Traditional college is still going to be the best choice for people who should have been there to begin with.

  13. http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/?p=10779 A balanced reflection on MOOCs and their possible effects on higher education by Noel Jackson, who is ambivalent about them, rather than strongly pro- or anti-MOOC.  This is a thoughtful piece, but not one that leads to any clear conclusions.  Here is a representative quote:

    While both accounts of MOOCs envision significant future consequences from their implementation, moreover, neither says very much about actually existing MOOCs. The MOOC has become a repository for utopian and dystopian narratives about the present and future directions of higher ed. As a result, this or that fact about MOOCs is often considered (or not) insofar as it confirms the prevailing theory about them.

  14. http://futureofhighered.org/moocs-are-they-about-access-or-money/ For those who believe in “following the money”, this post points to a financial analysis of the future of higher education done by Moody’s.  The bottom line seems to be that MOOCs are primarily a public relations gesture by elite universities, blunting criticism of their non-profit status while gaining positive branding.
  15. http://blog.udacity.com/2013/06/sebastian-thrun-thoughts-and-financial.html This is an answer to Chris Newfield’s analysis of the deal between Georgia Teach and Udacity, provided by Sebastian Thrun (founder of Udacity).  Personally, I don’t find Sebastian Thrun very believable here, but this may reflect my prior beliefs about the motives of Newfield and Thrun. If you read Newfield’s analysis (checkmarked above), then you should probably read Thrun’s reply.
  16. http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2013/07/by-2030-over-50-of-colleges-will-collapse/This futurist confidently predicts that half of US colleges will fail by 2030, giving the following reasoning:
    1. Overhead costs too high – Even if the buildings are paid for and all money-losing athletic programs are dropped, the costs associated with maintaining a college campus are very high. Everything from utilities, to insurance, to phone systems, to security, to maintenance and repair are all expenses that online courses do not have. Some of the less visible expenses involve the bonds and financing instruments used to cover new construction, campus projects, and revenue inconsistencies. The cost of money itself will be a huge factor.
    2. Substandard classes and teachers – Many of the exact same classes are taught in thousands of classroom simultaneously every semester. The law of averages tells us that 49.9% of these will be below average. Yet any college that is able to electronically pipe in a top 1% teacher will suddenly have a better class than 99% of all other colleges.
    3. Increasingly visible rating systems – Online rating systems will begin to torpedo tens of thousands of classes and teachers over the coming years. Bad ratings of one teacher and one class will directly affect the overall rating of the institution.
    4. Inconvenience of time and place – Yes, classrooms help focus our attention and the world runs on deadlines. But our willingness to flex schedules to meet someone else’s time and place requirements is shrinking. Especially when we have a more convenient option.
    5. Pricing competition – Students today have many options for taking free courses without credits vs. expensive classes with credits and very little in between. That, however, is about to change. Colleges focused primarily on course delivery will be facing an increasingly price sensitive consumer base.
    6. Credentialing system competition – Much like a doctor’s ability to write prescriptions, a college’s ability to grant credits has given them an unusual competitive advantage, something every startup entrepreneur is searching for. However, traditional systems for granting credits only work as long as people still have faith in the system. This “faith in the system” is about to be eroded with competing systems. Companies like Coursera, Udacity, and iTunesU are well positioned to start offering an entirely new credentialing system.
    7. Relationships formed in colleges will be replaced with other relationship-building systems – Social structures are changing and the value of relationships built in college, while often quite valuable, are equally often overrated. Just as a dating relationship today is far more likely to begin online, business and social relationships in the future will also happen in far different ways.
    8. Sudden realization that “the emperor has no clothes!” – Education, much like our money supply, is a system built on trust. We are trusting colleges to instill valuable knowledge in our students, and in doing so, create a more valuable workforce and society. But when those who find no tangible value begin to openly proclaim, “the emperor has no clothes!” colleges will find themselves in a hard-to-defend downward spiral.

    Futurists have a terrible track record for these sorts of grandiose predictions, but it is certainly the case that decisions made now about how to fund college education will have an enormous effect over the next 20 years. If states continue to defund public universities, but society still pushes college-for-all, then either colleges will have to reduce costs enormously or go out of business, because the debt load on students is getting close to or has already passed the sustainable limit. (Personally, I don’t see reducing costs without reducing quality as very likely. Although the sticker price of public universities has soared, the underlying costs have been remarkably constant—the price has gone up because students are paying a much larger portion of the cost.)

  17. http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/07/05/Problem-with-MOOCs/ A detailed reaction by Jon Beasley-Murray to two talks, one by Eric Mazur (proponent of peer instruction) and one by Daphne Koller (founder of Coursera).  Basically, Beasley-Murray sees little knowledge of pedagogy and a lot of self-serving hype in both talks.
  18. http://www.angrymath.com/2013/07/san-jose-state-suspends-udacity.html San Jose State Suspends Udacity Experiment. The attempt to teach remedial courses with Udacity at San Jose State turned out to fail miserably, with pass rates lower even than the usual remedial courses. This was a widely predicted result, particularly by people who have taught remedial courses. Fortunately, San Jose State had enough sense to stop the experiment after one round, though I understand that their president still plans to try again.

That’s it for the MOOC roundup.  I’ll try not to collect posts for so long again before summarizing them—the problem was that the list kept growing, and I kept putting off the summary, as it got more daunting with each new link added to the list.

 

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