Thursday, May 11, 2006

Who would brag about courses passing "The Bus Test"?

Suppose an institution could say that all the courses were so “well-designed” that they could pass the “bus test.” Would that be something to brag about?

I think it might be rather embarrassing to acknowledge that “all of our courses are structured so that the faculty members are truly interchangeable” It would be a little like trying to brag about having figured out a really terrific curriculum guide and selection of textbooks without saying anything about the qualifications, skills, or other characteristics of the teachers. [Without saying anything about the variations in learning goals and needs among the students, either!]

Why do you think MIT can give away so much course content without anyone believing even for a moment that MIT is giving away MIT courses or any significant part of an MIT education? Commercial publishers and for-profit educational organizations can provide excellent training and develop excellent instructional materials… some of which can be used with interchangeable teachers or no teachers at all by SOME students for SOME purposes.

[Of course, many people have been learning quite well quite independently via access to nothing more than books. But the number of such learners compared with the overall population is almost negligible. Some of the best of those are called “scholars” and they are widely recognized as unusual – if not downright peculiar.]

I would expect an institution to want to be able to say something like….”We have really hard-working highly skilled teams to develop course-related materials and help faculty members develop syllabi and activities. We’re really proud of the kind of support these teams can provide for our faculty members – especially how well we can respond to differences among the faculty and differences among departments and among differences in course goals. Obviously, this approach is just an extension of our intense commitment to respecting individual differences among students, too.

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