It’s the focus on broken metrics, silly

Gadi Amit, American Design Schools Are a Mess, and Produce Weak Graduates:

Employers like me and my peers need evidence that a new hire has what it takes to hit the ground running. And, given the lack of consistency in design school training, we’re forced to put more weight on portfolio reviews or evidence of skills learned through internships than academic credentials.

Robert Cringely, Ich Hasse Hausaufgaben (I Hate Homework):

American education, perhaps because of the No Child Left Behind Act, has become a testing nightmare. Metrics are everything and much of the curriculum is now intended not to educate but rather to pass the damned tests. It is precisely analogous to what I discovered thirty years ago investigating the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, where reactor operators were trained to pass the operator test, not to actually operate the reactor. When things went wrong — when they went beyond the scripted scenarios — the operators had no idea what was happening inside that containment. Channing’s curriculum, too, tends to be 100 miles wide and an inch deep.

What’s wrong is the focus on broken metrics. Change the incentives and you can change the system.

College from scratch

Clay Shirky hosted an impromptu discussion section this evening on redesigning higher education. He’s put together a wiki page of the best responses, but I feel like I need to record a few too for posterity. The question was simple: If you were going to create a college from scratch, what would you do?

AFG85: @cshirky Classes would create wikis for specific topics and students would be graded on the quality of their contributions.

AFG85: @cshirky And the same wikis would be used year after year, so new students would have to add to the contributions of last year’s students.

digiphile: @cshirky Fund multidisciplinary labs for applied innovation & incubation. And learn from the example of PCU & “Accepted” http://j.mp/4LHTkG

sewsueme: @cshirky instead of having a college counselor you would have a concierge/ curator who would help you make sense of your education journey

sewsueme: @cshirky as @ccoletta & I were debating earlier in the evening: there would need to be a new accred system. Employer or performance based?

sewsueme: @cshirky learners cld collect “credits” (learnings) from anyplace–Apple store, a uni course, an apprenticeship as long as they cld prove

sewsueme: @cshirky there might be some new course creation but aggregation from multiple places wld be important

ricetopher: @cshirky Why build anything? College as aggregator, filter set, facilitator of networked learning better model in an age of ubiquitous info.

AFG85: @cshirky for professors, have a small full time staff supplemented with practitioners from different fields teaching for one semester

AFG85: @cshirky for students, go YCombinator style–systematic applications, then one weekend of ten minute interviews.

ekstasis: @cshirky single biggest failure of education is the focus on grades as a proxy for learning. they don’t always track. #CollegeFromScratch

I still think that accreditation is going to be the toughest nut to crack. All of the other pieces, distributed collaboration, access to learning materials, etc., are falling into place thanks to the disruptive tendencies of the web. People are learning, by golly, but the record of their learnings is all over the map. For any of these zany ideas for new universities to fly, the students will need to have an equally new method for articulating their accomplishments. Right now, this legitimacy comes from the accreditation board.

If you can convince employers that your new mechanism for accreditation is more accurate and effective than the standard college degree then, well, I think you might have a new college worth starting from scratch.