Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bill Gates Says Tech Is The Key to Driving Down College Costs

Bill Gates says tech is the key to bring college costs down as it lessens the importance of “place-based” learning. He shares that “Five years from now, on the Web for free, you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.” I don't think we have to wait five years. A lot of the content already exists as I shared in my post Stop Reinventing the Wheel with OER.


  1. But are lectures - whether live or online - the best way to learn?

  2. @Jeff Branzburg, certainly universities think the answer is yes. The reality is it is just a piece of the puzzle and technology makes it much easier to put the other pieces in place...almost without thinking about it for the person who has a passion to learn that topic. Case in point is the student I featured in this post http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/01/profile-of-passion-driven-student.html

    He loves transportation. He watched videos, lectures, articles, participated in discussion boards, went to museums, hung out at the places where these employees worked, went on their trips, etc. etc. etc. He also participated in discussions, wrote blog posts, made videos, took pictures, etc. etc. etc.

    Our job as educators is not to force students to learn and constantly assess them, but rather ensure options are available to them for learning and perhaps show examples of ways they can make meaning...but, if they are interested, they can often figure that out on their own.

  3. Universities do think the answer is yes (as do many high school teachers as well). The model is that of pouring content into the students' heads.

  4. I'm a university teacher … and this is a discussion I keep getting into!

    I'm teaching a full-time, campus-based course module in Sociolinguistics in May, and I'm going to do it like this:

    Firstly, I'm not going to actually appear on the students' campus at all. It's 100 kms away (that's 62 miles in the US) and I'd have to be commuting in my own time … unless I deduct that time from the students' contact time. So … I've decided that the students would rather have more time with me on-line than less face-to-face (this is a bit unilateral, but it's not the first time I've done it this way, so I'm basing the decision on what students have always gone for in the past).

    A typical, full-time week for them is going to look like this:

    Monday: read the chapters from the course textbook and watch the pre-recorded lectures (on Adobe Connect).
    Tuesday/Wednesday: carry out a fieldwork task, posting the results firstly as an audio input to a VoiceThread page and then to their group's wiki (on Moodle).
    Thursday afternoon: participate in a 2-hour live session on Adobe Connect with me, where reporting back from this week's fieldwork task and preparing for next week's will be part of the activities.
    Friday: listen to a podcast about next week's activities.

    The first fieldwork task is to find someone who uses a language other than their mother tongue on a regular basis and interview them, using the criteria in the textbook to judge what kinds of functions, etc they perform in each language.

    The lectures will be important inputs … but each of them will be more like a 'mini-lecture' (since we know that people have problems focussing for longer than about 15 minutes).

    I've been working like this for quite a long time (I've just taught my 6,000th student on-line on a university course here in Sweden). One great comment I got a few years ago from a survey I did about this way of working (using podcasts and pre-recorded lectures) was:

    "It's wonderful to be able to press the Pause button on the teacher"!


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