Too many options

I’m finding a lot interesting to think about in this discussion of the Guided Pathways to Success conference and it’s investigation of the benefit to students of guidance/constraints in their educational paths: “Schwartz emphasized that even though it may seem counterintuitive and even paternalistic, students are actually much more empowered by choosing among fewer and more carefully constructed options.” My first thoughts are about the curriculum we just instituted, which I have thought of as giving students more flexibility and choice about how they put together sets of courses to complete a major or minor. We try to make clear … Continue reading Too many options

Using MOOCs to raise the bar

A recent article about how MOOCs might, in fact, increase and not decrease costs on college campuses has been getting a fair bit of attention for its argument that the large lecture classes that it replaces were already the cost-saving venues of higher education and many of the proposals for integrating MOOCs well involve replacing these cost-efficient large classes with free MOOCs and then expensive associated mentoring. Additionally, it observes that even if a college doesn’t choose to incorporate MOOCs, the fact that they exist may make students less tolerant of paying tuition for large lecture courses. The quote that … Continue reading Using MOOCs to raise the bar

Discourses

I’m helping organize a panel of faculty at my school who have been using a range of different technologies to support student interaction in and out of class. With so many options out there, we want to focus on what has worked for us, what hasn’t worked, and start some conversations around how to make the jump from looking at your course, with its content, outcomes, and pedagogy, and draw on others experience with these tools on the ground with our systems and our students to have some idea what options might be appropriate. Independently of this, I’ve got a … Continue reading Discourses

What are you getting credit for?

A colleague sent me an article about a U.S. university accepting transfer credit for a Udacity course – something described in the headline and the first few paragraphs as being a breakthrough in a school accepting a free, online course for full transfer credit. The article gets interested when you dig into it though. The course in question is a intro level “Introduction to Computer Science” course. And, in order to get the transfer credit, students have to not only get a certificate of completion from Udacity showing that they completed the course, but also pass an exam administered at … Continue reading What are you getting credit for?

Let’s read some books!

An article on how reading is important for leadership feels appropriate for the start of the semester, particularly with it’s mention in the second paragraph of the difference between literacy and the ability for deep reading. A fun exercise is applying a bit of that “deep reading” to this article. You’ll probably notice that there’s lots of fine anecdotal accounts of great leaders also being great readers. When the evidence starts coming out, things get shakier. The supporting link for the claim that reading offers the best stress-reduction is to a newspaper article about the study that doesn’t make clear … Continue reading Let’s read some books!

Brick-and-mortar college

For some reason, this article about Best Buy as a showroom (from earlier this year but I only just read it) made me think about the conversation going on about MOOCs. I had to ask myself if my willingness to turn to online stores for a deal rather than spending more for a more robust experience (being able to try out products, get advice, have it immediately) revealed my feeling that small, in-person classes are still worth the money hypocritical or, at least, motivated by self-interest. So I thought about what I do buy in-person, rather than online. Clothes, obviously … Continue reading Brick-and-mortar college

Rethinking courses

I recommend both this article about plagiarism in Coursera’s courses but also the comment thread, which makes a few interesting connections between the specific issue of plagiarism happening in these courses, and the broader discussion about MOOCs and their role in the higher education universe. The obvious question, posed but not answered in any of this, is why would students plagiarize in a free, non-credit course that they are taking entirely voluntarily? If you want to just watch the lectures, or just do the reading, there’s absolutely nothing in the structure of these courses to prevent it. And, completing the … Continue reading Rethinking courses

Playing games about making games

While Gamestar Mechanic isn’t really a fit as a development tool for my course, it’s an excellent example of a teaching game, and I would highly recommend it for anybody with a middle-school aged kid (I think that is the right age range for it). The game is structured as a quest to learn to be a game developer, but what surprised me was how much of the focus was on good design, not just how to place blocks and enemies and make things go. You start out by just playing the various types of games that might get built … Continue reading Playing games about making games

Blocky coding

One of my projects this month is looking into tools I might use in a very-introductory course organized around the theme of games. I’m still circling in on the exact set of capabilities I’m looking for, but since one goal of the course is to warm people up for a more intense Java programming course, exposing them to simple programming in a visual manner is appealing. One possibility is Blocky from Google. Web-based drag-and-drop programming where constructs are puzzle pieces. The maze demo gives a nice starting point for thinking about solving problems, using ifs and loops, debugging, etc. You … Continue reading Blocky coding

To Code or Not To Code

There is an interesting pair of essays about how universal “learning to code” ought to be over at Coding Horror: Please Don’t Learn to Code and a follow-up So You Want to be a Programmer. The first essay questions whether we really need more programmers, and whether learning some basic programming is that valuable a skill as compared to learning how to understand a problem and its solutions. The followup clarifies that what is being criticized is learning to code for the sake of knowing how to code, as compared to learning to code in order to solve a problem … Continue reading To Code or Not To Code