As promised, a few attacks. I’m sure by tomorrow I’ll have thought of several more. Oh, and also, I meant to link to this Crooked Timber thread about Coursera, with a richly combative comment thread.
- I, along with lots of other people who succeed in traditional schools, love text and process it really fast. Other people like other media. Streaming video isn’t the same thing as talking to another person, but it’s plainly closer than text, and talking to another person is the way we’re built to take in information. If streaming video weren’t a useful means of educational transmission for a substantial fraction of people, Khan Academy wouldn’t be popular.
- Some people would say that we could get by with many fewer scientists that we have now, without compromising the amount of meaningful science that gets done. That seems too simple to me, but I just want to record that it’s a belief held by many, and on that account maybe a small NSF-funded garden of science is sufficient to our needs.
- Online credentials, whether from Udacity or future-ETS, could in principle lead to a massive gain in global equality. Nothing is stopping 300 people from China and Brazil from being among the 500 people Google hires. I was going to say the same thing about inequality within the US but here I have to stop myself; my sense is that massive availability of online resources has not e.g. made it just as good to be a 14-year-old math star in Nebraska as it is to be a 14-year-old math star in suburban Boston. Reader comments on this point welcome, since I know there are lots of former 14-year-old math stars out there.
- More on within-US equality; it’s easy to see gains flowing to kids whose parents are rich enough to buy them a prep course or just buy them the time to spend a year at home studying. On the other hand, this seems no less rich-kid-friendly than the current system, in which kids whose parents can afford college graduate debt-free, and the rest, who still have little choice but to attend if they want professional jobs, spend decades of their working life chipping away at a massive debt.