An interesting debate has sprung up between seasoned and visionary minds in education: Stanley Fish and Daphne Koller. I won’t strive to summarize their arguments here, but would instead suggest that it’s best to reflect on them in their entirety.
I will confess that I’m sympathetic to Fish’s long-standing esteem for the liberal model of higher education, and I agree with his criticism that newer digital models lean too heavily towards fact and skill at the sacrifice of knowledge and wisdom. Fish doesn’t use the term “information transmission” in his criticism – but I would contend that this is exactly what he is getting at. By focusing on teaching students facts, we neglect critical life skills that traditionally have been imparted through higher education (though, historically to a chosen few).
Koeller, however, counters with an excellent point that online lectures are a better use a professors time (though I know quite a few that prefer a face-to-face performance to a “cold” recording). Koeller cites UW-Madison as an example of where flipping a classroom can benefit student learning.
Though flipping may improve outcomes which are tightly defined (skills and knowledge), one wonders how much improvement if any is gained for the knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom are two aspects of life development that I am skeptical can happen outside of a residential education.
Perhaps there is value in both arguments – we can find a balance in effectively using the Internet to transmit knowledge and to improve interpersonal communication, while still providing opportunities to develop these more intangible skills. Broadly defined learning outcomes (like the LEAP Value rubrics) may also offer ways to fine tune the college experience, both on and offline.
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