[Humanist] 26.313 brave new world & its institutions

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Sep 17 07:12:19 CEST 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 313.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2012 14:12:53 -0400
        From: "joe raben" <joeraben at fullchannel.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.303 brave new world & its institutions
        In-Reply-To: <20120914053230.BE4612918F2 at woodward.joyent.us>


Dear Willard,

Apropos of online education, one of its stated goals is to foster collaboration. At the same time we are supposed to be distressed that Harvard undergraduates are "collaborating" on their final exams and are being threatened with expulsion for cheating. Somewhere we we will need to draw a line between demanding that students retain a certain quantum of information (at least until the exam is handed in) and educating them to function in a work environment that is increasingly requiring that they interact with a global community in a group endeavor. The humanities, with their minimal demand for factual information and their emphasis on comprehending and synthesizing, may be best positioned to lead a movement away from traditional restrictions on interaction during examinations and toward an environment more resembling the world in which students will spend their working lives.

Joe Raben
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Humanist Discussion Group 
  To: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org 
  Sent: Friday, September 14, 2012 1:32 AM
  Subject: [Humanist] 26.303 brave new world & its institutions

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 303.
              Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                         www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                  Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

          Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2012 11:35:52 -0400
          From: Eric Rabkin <esrabkin at umich.edu>
          Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.258 brave new world & its institutions
          In-Reply-To: <20120829052831.0A2E228A6EA at woodward.joyent.us>

  Dear Willard,

  There has been quite a bit of conversation, both in the public press and on
  this list, about the validity of online education.  I think a great deal of
  the passion arises from a confusion of two functions of our schools:
  educating and credentialing.  If our aim is to educate, surely many sorts
  of experiences can serve, including watching video clips and reading books
  without any teacher or even friend to help at all.  (I, of course, don't
  mean that that is a limit to what sort of experience can educate.  Human
  interactivity is wonderfully useful and enjoyable.  "School," after all,
  comes from a Greek word of "leisure.")  But if we mean to credential, all
  sorts of issues arise about standards, evaluative criteria, grading,
  cheating, originality, and so on.  We mix these--educating and
  credentialing--quite naturally because of the power of interactivity.  We
  learn by collaboration, by our experiences with other people, whether we
  aim to or not.  That's one reason for this list.  And in cooperation, one
  wants to know the other person's character.  One doesn't want to invest
  much, perhaps, in a cheater, or work to earn a credential that is cheapened
  somehow.  Much of the negative passion on this list about online education,
  I think, is motivated in part by a defense of the value of education and a
  desire to prevent its cheapening.

  But if we can separate educating from credentialing, then the subject is
  different.  Even criminals, one hopes in building a "penitentiary," can
  learn from their experiences.  It is completely reasonable to ask how we
  can preserve the value of credentials, but that is not the same as saying
  that to do so is what determines the realization of education.  Third grade
  pupils may get gold stars for reading books; we on this list don't, and yet
  we read anyway.

  As it happens, I am in the midst of offering one of the MOOCs (massive,
  open, online courses) that has occasioned the current controversy: "Fantasy
  and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World" on the Coursera
  platform.  The Cisco Newsroom has just put up a short essay of mine about
  that experience which includes a discussion of plagiarism in this context.
   Perhaps some on this list may want to see it:
  http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=1008003.

  All best, and, as ever, I thank you for your work for us all,

  Eric
  ---
  Eric S. Rabkin
  www.umich.edu/~esrabkin  http://www.umich.edu/%7Eesrabkin




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