College brands may fade in value, predicts Education Sector’s Kevin Carey. A college’s overall reputation doesn’t guarantee that specific classes, professors or departments will be strong. Students are expected to “buy” all or nearly all their credits from one institution, taking it on faith that they’ll get what they need.
That could be changing, however. Carey is a fan of Europe’s Bologna Process, which is “creating a great deal more transparency with respect to what, exactly, students who have earned credits from a given program or university have actually learned.”
With Lumina Foundation funding, physics and history professors from two- and four-year colleges in Utah are applying a Bologna-style “tuning” method to their courses.
Led by William Evenson, a former professor of physics at Brigham Young University, faculty members developed a comprehensive account of what physics students need to know and be able to do at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.
. . . The group also created “employability maps” by surveying employers of recent physics graduates—including General Electric, Simco Electronics, and the Air Force—to find out what knowledge and skills are needed for successful science careers.
“The process builds in accountability,” Evenson told me. “Once you’ve defined the outcomes, you can ask, ‘Are the programs really doing that?’ If a student finishes and can’t do what’s advertised, they’ll say, ‘I’ve been shortchanged.’
Defined goals and transparency will show that students are overpaying for institutional brands, Carey writes.
The best teaching might be at Salt Lake Community College, or Weber State, or somewhere else entirely. It might even be from a place that’s not an institution at all, but rather a provider of individual, à la carte courses. Openness will let us know.
. . . The irony of institutions dedicated to knowledge creation creating little information about what their own students learn will eventually be history.
Note the success of Khan Academy‘s free YouTube videos, which started as a hobby in 2006, writes the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.
This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system.
Khan’s low-tech video lectures, usually 10 minutes long, get rave reviews from students. He started with math and engineering, but has added history and biology.
Several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are donating money, allowing Khan to create a nonprofit, pay himself a salary and cut down on his consulting work.