Friday, October 11, 2013

Duration of a Course is the Wrong Question When You Want To Measure The ROI of any given Pedagogy

Most of the time, the character limits on social media are a boon to creativity, but occasionally a post spurs a longer thought.  This is my response to this post on shortening the duration of course offerings

Pedagogically, I'm a fan of a traditional semester which allows ample time for complex ideas to steep in the brain. There's room for making mistakes & recovery in a safe environment and invention along the pathways to learning.  Even so, that doesn't mean we need to rigidly adhere to a formulaic structure for what can be construed as high quality teaching. Unfortunately - or fortunately - the debate as to what constitutes high quality teaching is old and unresolved even among professionals in the field. 

Really, delivery mode (or duration) isn't altogether important, whereas understanding how to prove maximized ROI (outcomes of learning) in any format is the trick.  I'm not sure counting numbers on any given MOOC via digital anaylitics applied in the back end - or even measurement of numbers of people who pass any given quiz or test in swift fashion - is going to suffice as proof whatever delivery mode works. 

The irksome portion of this conversations rests in the connection between teaching and learning.  That is, teaching can be fantastically optimized and superior, above all reproach, but learning hinges completely on the learner doing the learning.  Simply put, you could be the greatest teacher since Euclid drawing diagrams in the sand, but if a learner/student is disinclined to learn, your ROI can still be zero.

As one wise man once said - not sure whom - "Education in advance of need, is folly," which may ultimately be the downfall of modern prerequisites, unless of course, it is the learner who understands the need to master whatever subject to achieve her or his own aims.  Perhaps we should reset the whole conversation in terms of the separation between "wants" and "needs" and roll from there.


George Anders said...

That's a very thoughtful post. (I'm the guy who wrote the original LinkedIn piece that got this conversation started.)

One more distinction to draw is the student's stage in life. Duration may be a minor factor for people who are able to commit several years to being full-time students.

Other learners, however, may be in the midst of careers -- either by choice, or because of a need to stay solvent. For that second group, long-duration courses can become problematic. The desire to learn is still there, but the ability to make good on that desire can be hijacked by life events.

Aaron Anderson said...

Thanks for popping over George & leaving the comment. You are correct. The age of the learner is another element of the equation. Not sure where to continue this conversation - over on LinkedIn or here - and my preference would be to do it over on LinkedIn as it's got much broader exposure and capacity to connect versus this very old blog that I started close to 10 years ago for a whole host of reasons.