Sunday, October 2, 2011

Are Professors Obsolete?


"Educational institutions are under stress worldwide both from economic and technological factors. [..] The online education boom is producing the usual mix of stunning innovation and snake-oil charlatans. [..] What does science fiction have to say about the future of education? [..] Consider Battle School in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, the concents in Neal Stephenson's Anathem [..]

Slow down cowboy

How the hell did you jump from online education to Ender's Game? It's really sneaky what he did there actually, "online stuff, pah, there are lots of charlatans there", he than immediately moves on to scifi which was not "fi" enough sadly, and uses this backward fi, with its classroom concept, to demonstrate "we already have that!"

You bloody idiot: Everything about postmodernity is scale-free, that is, a single video can reach millions, in an instant, because you are not limited to phsyical medium's copying, distributing hassles utilizing physical paper. On an Internet-based medium, if there are good classes, and there are many, they will reach millions, in an instant, without the cost of copying, and distribution.

Will there be snake-oil salesman? Yes. But quality will also be available, and because we have a scale-free medium, that quality will be able to reach the eyes who are starved for knowledge. And the fact that Internet medium is so open to newcomers, the chances of quality content being made available are much higher.

Will professors be obsolete? Researchers wont be, and I dont care what label these people carry, professor, master educator, savant, whatever. They can make their lectures available online, for whoever is interested.

They can even offer certification, either 1-on-1, over video, or using automated process maybe which is prepared by them personally. Students then acquire certification for different classes, from multiple researchers, in different locations even, or universities. "I have Group Theory certification from Dr. X, Linear Algebra certification from Dr. Y, ..". How cool would that be?

If any profession is to be obsolete, that is the dumb transmitter, the repeater, the weakest link in the chain, which is the average teacher.