Happy New Year, and hey, education takes people!

A very happy New Year from The Papergraders to the world. We are wishing for the best for education, our culture, the world. Oh wait, that’s redundant. They’re pretty much the same thing.

This article from NPR rolled across my social networking vision today and struck me as pretty interesting.

The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off-Course

I wrote about my experience with MOOCs last year here and here. My conclusion, based on the unbiased, randomly chosen sample of one, namely me, was that MOOCs were really cool. For people who already had highly developed academic skills and a high degree of intrinsic motivation. Not to mention considerable adeptness with technology and a high degree of adaptability.

But since that describes very few of the people in K-22 education, they don’t work that great for everyone else. The article especially points out that MOOCs do not serve the disadvantaged well at all, precisely because they are often the folks that lack the skills I listed above. So, as the article explains, the companies that create these MOOCs are trying some new techniques:

Udacity and other leading MOOC providers now realize that a more expansive, human-centered support structure is key to helping students retain information, stick with the course — and finish.

Oh, cool. So students need other humans to support them in learning. Awesome. Glad we know that now.

“We [added] human mentors,” says Thrun. “We have people almost 24-7 that help you when you get stuck. We also added a lot of projects that require human feedback and human grading.

“And that human element, surprise, surprise, makes a huge difference in the student experience and the learning outcomes,” he says.

Wow. News freakin’ flash. “Surprise” goddam “surprise.” It takes actual people to make education work for the vast majority of students. No kidding. And, hey, all that human interaction is expensive. So, no, the future won’t be some utopia of independently educated, inexpensive, techno-driven magic.

To their credit, the leaders of Coursera, Udacity and other providers are adapting. As I wrote last year, I had a great time in the MOOC courses I took (through Coursera). Of course, I am exactly the sort of student who will be successful in a course like that. But once again, people who claim to be ‘revolutionizing’ education prove to have absolutely no clue what actually makes learning work.

All sarcasm aside though, wouldn’t it be great if we had a name for the people that provide the human interaction in education? Wait…we do.

We call them ‘teachers.’

Happy New Year teachers.

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