Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Random Notes from a Crank

If you're a fan of the HBO series True Detective like I am, you'll appreciate this article about the final episode and the series: "Close to Perfection."

As some of you might know, I was once a professor at a two-year college. From my perspective, an article in Salon, "My Hard Lessons Teaching Community College," is a fairly accurate depiction of two-year college work though I think the two-year college where I worked had better metrics of "success" than the ones the author relates. Here are two salient quotations from the piece:
  • For many of them [students], why they fail is not a question of talent, or even basic skills. It’s a question so complicated as to be nearly unanswerable. Sometimes, they just don’t want or need what we can provide.
  • The other [premise] is much more profound and troubling: that with the right support (the financial aid, the grants, the scholarships, the tutoring, the early intervention, the developmental courses, the disability services, the right counseling, the list goes on and on) anyone can get a college degree. It’s patently false.

This article reminded me of a statistic I've read a couple of times: 12% of students who start at a two-year college graduate with a bachelor's degree after six years. That stat is shocking to most. However, it's not accurate and could be used unethically. Some people who begin at a two-year college have zero intention of getting a bachelor's degree (think of all of the truly vocational programs at two-year colleges), so that stat is skewed for a number of reasons. Also, some people go to a community college to see if college is something they want to try. Some discover it's not for them. No big deal.

Speaking of higher ed, with all kinds of discussion related to massive open online courses (MOOCs), here's some info from this month's Harper's Index: 
  • Percentage of students enrolled in massive open online courses who view no more than one lecture: 49
  • Percentage who complete the course: 4

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