Unfair at Any Speed

Faster students are smarter students. So declared Edward Thorndike of Columbia University’s Teachers College a century ago.

You would think we are more enlightened today. Unless you looked at Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, Ariz., where students are required to wear a red badge that “publicly identifies and shames underperforming students.” (The policy has since been dropped.)

It is patently true that “Society rewards rapid thinkers!” as my high school humanities teacher, Mr. Sabo, said many times, usually as I searched my suddenly blank mind for an answer. But faster is not always right, and it is rarely an equitable measure of performance — or potential. Like racism and sexism, speedism (the belief that faster is better) is a contemptuous conceit that eviscerates our colleges and the souls of our most needy students.

Read Myk Garn‘s piece in full at Inside Higher Ed.

Online Learning 2.0

A wise humanities faculty member once said to me, “Please no more talk about academic innovation. Instead, let’s talk about good maintenance and upkeep.”

I think the next iteration of online and hybrid education should follow such an approach. It’s time to move away from the debate about whether it’s worse or better than x or y or it is/was/will be an over-hyped failure or a massive sea change. It’s here. It’s staying. Let’s make the most of it.

Thus far, online learning has largely appealed to innovators and early adopters who enjoy experimentation and view these classes as an act of love. As a result, many online courses are at least equivalent and often superior to face-to-face classes. However, there is the danger that as online learning becomes more pervasive, average quality will decline, mimicking the unevenness we see in face-to-face classrooms.

We can do better, and should.

Online learning offers an opportunity to reinvent our classes more intentionally, incorporating what we have learned from the learning sciences. We can make learning outcomes more explicit, design activities aligned with our learning goals, and create assessments that truly measure student achievement.

Higher education is undergoing a paradigm shift. Let’s seize this chance to bring our courses to a higher level.

Read Steven Mintz‘s piece in full at Inside Higher Ed.