The low cost of online learning–the high cost of being Gatsby

12th October 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Week

This week, we explored two very different books:

  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Normally, as you might have discerned, we’re not novel readers. But seeing as how The Great Gatsby has long been considered to be THE great American novel, we decided to give it a read. The Great Gatsby is a short book, just as Gatsby’s life was itself truncated. Nick, the narrator, is an honest guide to how love led his friend Jay Gatsby to the boundless, tragic pursuit of money. This book is a beautifully written reflection on life, idealism, and ambition, all framed in the excesses of the Roaring Twenties. It’s strange to realize that Fitzgerald died in 1940 with the belief that his writing was a failure—even as Fitzgerald’s  limning of an ultimately forgotten Gatsby created his own literary immortality.
  • The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, by Clayton Christensen and Henry J. Eyring. We’re attracted to books that explore the potential of online learning in reducing costs and improving education.  Christensen and Eyring’s book does this, but only towards the end—the bulk of the book is an interesting comparison of the historical development of Harvard and BYU-Idaho (initially Ricks College). Cost-cutting is simply not in Harvard’s DNA. Yet, as Christensen and Eyring show, deliberate and judicious choices to not emulate Harvard can result in tremendous cost-savings for students. Key graf: “…most universities’ fundamental problems are of their own making. They are engaged in genetically driven, destructive rivalry with their own kind—other institutions trying to be the world’s best according [to] a single, narrow definition of excellence.”

Georgia Tech’s Online MOOC-based Master Program

If you want to learn more about innovation with online learning, you couldn’t do better than to watch this outstanding talk by Zvi Galil, Dean of the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing, about the great work Georgia Tech is doing in creating inexpensive but extremely high quality online learning programs. There is an enormous need for graduates in computer science, and Georgia Tech’s prescient program is helping to fill strong societal needs at low cost. Key takeaway from Zvi’s talk? There was “no statistical difference in pre- and post-tests between online and residential students.”

Zvi’s talk was given at the recent “Learning with MOOCs” conference in Madrid. You can also catch Barb’s talk in the lineup on the right of the page. Note Zvi’s fun interjections, which made Barb’s talk all the more enjoyable for her!

Teacher Pay Teachers

We recently learned about “Teachers Pay Teachers,” an open online marketplace where teachers sell their original lesson plans and other course materials to other teachers—they can also share for free. Over 8 million users are on the site, which has brought significant side income to some teachers. If this sounds of interest, check it out!

Barb on Mark Struczewski’s Podcast

In this episode, Mark and Barb discuss strategies related to how to learn anything (you’re never too old to learn new things), the power of taking tiny steps and…video games are good for you? Mark is a swell guy, so Barb had a lot of fun speaking with him.

Separate your writing from editing

Here is a great blog post from Anupam Krishnamurthy to help speed your writing. Key graf: “For a given task, the brain can be either in the focused mode or the diffused mode. Mixing up our writing and editing causes us to switch between these two modes, breaking the flow of our thought. When we separate the two, our diffuse mode can take center-stage when we write, while the focused mode can take over when we edit.” Read the whole thing.

Why an education in visual arts is the key to arming students for the future

This article is an edited extract by Ted Snell, Professor, Chief Cultural Officer, University of Western Australia, from his keynote address to the Australian Council of University Art & Design Schools annual conference.  Key graf: “We must then ensure that the creative arts are a core component of the curriculum so that all students will become more resourceful and better equipped to successfully manage change.” We couldn’t agree more!

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team



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