Friday, June 3, 2011

Bitching #4 Academic Merit

Well I just got back two essays that I've spent about the same time on both and was pretty certain that both were around the same quality.

Apparently there is no direct relationship between the number of hours spent on specific assignments and the outcome – the marks. Two similarly identical assignments, both critical essays with a 1500 word limit about issues revolving the health care system. Both assignments required 7 literary sources, and had the same due date. Whist having spent more time on one of them, I managed to receive a lower mark on it. One of the essays was written in merely 6 hours whist the other about 10. Has academic merit backtracked to an age where it is determined only by the subjective opinions of a few people, in this case only one? In this day and age of rapid growth in communications technology, shouldn’t more and more people be involved in the evaluation of academic writing? Would it not be possible to have several people, all looking at the same piece of literature, give their own opinions about it? If a student’s honestly put in an enormous amount of effort in to their work, would it be fair for anyone when it’s just shredded into a million little pieces in the hands of an assessor who just happens to have had a bad day? I understand that the whole history behind having only a few handful of learned people in the past teaching a whole truckload of knowledge-hungry intellectuals is the only available model for academics, but we’re at an age where millions of professionals are able to gain access to limitless amounts academic work through the internet, why not make it so that everyone who bothers to spend the time to do so

Bitching #3 Self-directed learning

The idea of self-directed learning has always baffled me. If learning is truly self-directed, then why are there physical establishments that dictate your learning schedule and forces specific literature onto you? Why not make everything online, with a test at specific intervals to evaluate your understanding of the material? The answer lies in, shockingly, money. If all universities adopt this business model, the student will be able to save on transportation fees, book fees, hell even the basic money needed to buy pens and paper. The only thing that anyone would need is a computer. Furthermore, there is also an issue with legitimacy. Just like pirating, such curriculums can just be copy-and-pasted to be freely distributed – no one will have to pay for it. So since it’s not a viable option for the evolution of education, why call it self-directed learning since well everything about it is arbitrary and the only real control students have over their curriculum comes down to the basic “do or die”. If you follow everything and do everything as required, you will pass and maybe even excel in it, if you don’t you fail. Self-directed learning, or rather the phrase itself, just seemed like roundabout way of saying “we don’t really know how to teach this subject, so there, if you fail it’s your fault, if you succeed, it’s our meticulous plan to make you want to learn”.

So… If you’re in a position to make changes in the structure of the classes taught in any establishment that passes on knowledge to the paying masses, please consider just spending the time to actually teach, rather than throw useless information at your students and make it sound justifiable.