Online Coursework and Hult

3 05 2013

This open letter from the San Jose State University’s philosophy department, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, has been floating around the internet for the last few days and is igniting controversy- is it’s argument that live faculty are necessary for real university classes legitimate, or is it simply a case of turf protection?

Clearly, if it’s simply a matter of information transfer, having live-taught classes with full professors is probably a waste; books are a much more efficient medium for data, and software tutorials and simulators are better for teaching the preliminaries of hard skills; beyond that, the basic questions that come up and the sort of nuts and bolts of practical application can be taken care of by teaching assistants. Lecture-based learning is functionally obsolete- why take a lecture class from Dr. Joe from the University of Wherever when you can watch a lecture by the greatest living (and in some cases deceased) scholar in the world? In the case of this letter, they’re reacting against the Justice course taught by Michael Sandel… one of the foremost ethical philosophers on the planet. It’s easy to see how he could be a tough act to follow. (And I’ve watched a few of the lectures… back in my English teaching days, one of my colleagues used excerpts from them in his classes for advanced students.)


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