08 October 2014

Hand waving about technology and teaching

Our incoming president UTRGV president, Guy Bailey, said at a presentation this morning:

I wouldn’t think students would have to be traveling throughout the Valley with technology.

I’m getting frustrated. Every time we hear questions asked about the UTRGV having multiple instructional sites, some almost a hundred mile apart, and how students will cope with that, multiple adminstrators, advisors, and politicians have all had the same answer.


If all you’re saying is “Technology!” in response to questions about teaching, you might as well be saying, “Magic!”

What does “technology” even mean in this context? Bullet trains to take students from site to site? Online course through Blackboard? Google hangouts? Skype calls? Low emission bus systems? Those are all “technology.”

I think that what all these people are thinking is that we’ll have video conferencing capabilities and online courses.

But let me tell you, as someone who live online: you have to be careful about this. I think in the time from when UTRGV was conceived to now, we’re already move through a hype and bust cycle with massive online courses (MOOCs). There is evidence accumulating that they work for a small subset of students, who are highly prepared and motivated and already pretty well educated.

That is not the majority of our undergraduate student population.

Online courses in the sciences face even more problems, because we have labs. And those labs are important.

My big fear is that administrators and politicians genuinely don’t have a plan, won’t ask for input on a plan, foist the problem off on lower levels, and then complain when something that faculty said would not work does not, in fact, work.

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