Archive for December 13, 2012

Academics and Venture Capitalists: Not close vs open, but evidence vs speculation

Aaron Bady’s essay critiquing Clay Shirky’s take on MOOCs is highly recommended reading (linked below).  I bought in to Shirky’s “Udacity is Napster” argument, and I still think that access may trump quality.  But Bady really highlights why there is such a distinction in views about MOOCs.  The first sentence below is wonderful, both pithy and true.  It’s not that MOOCs won’t be wonderful, it’s just that there’s not enough evidence that they will — but venture capitalists and “education disruptors” run on hope, not evidence.

The key difference between academics and venture capitalists, in fact, is not closed versus open but evidence versus speculation. The thing about academics is that they require evidence of success before declaring victory, while venture capitalists can afford to gamble on the odds. While Shirky can see the future revolutionizing in front of us, he is thinking like a venture capitalist when he does, betting on optimism because he can afford to lose. He doesn’t know that he’s right; he just knows that he might not be wrong. And so, like all such educational futurologists, Shirky’s case for MOOCs is all essentially defensive: he argues against the arguments against MOOCs, taking shelter in the possibility of what isn’t, yet, but which may someday be.

via Essay critiques the ideas of Clay Shirky and others advocating higher ed disruption | Inside Higher Ed.

December 13, 2012 at 9:14 am 10 comments

Stanford’s Most Popular Major Is Now Computer Science (#CSedWeek Fact)

The last paragraph of this is interesting.  Yes, Engineering and Computer Science (in particular) are booming, but not everywhere, and it’s not evident to everyone.  I was just at Tufts on Monday, where some Engineering students were asking me if Computer Science was growing in enrollment anywhere.  Well, there’s Stanford…

Now? According to three stats buried in a press release from the university’s engineering school, Computer Science is the most popular major at Stanford. More students are enrolled in it than ever before (even more than at the dot-com boom’s height in 2000-2001). And more than 90 % of Stanford undergrads take a computer science course before they graduate.

Stanford is Stanford, and its stats aren’t necessarily indicative of academia at large: Countrywide, the most popular major is business. But the school’s computer-heavy numbers reflect its existence, both as a member of what candid college administrators call the Big Four (the other three are Princeton, Harvard and Yale), and as a school nestled close to Silicon Valley’s elite.

In a lengthy feature from earlier this year, the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta revealed that, even beyond Stanford’s CS department, “A quarter of all undergraduates and more than 50% of graduate students [at Stanford] are engineering majors. At Harvard, the figures are 4 and 10%; at Yale, they’re 5 and 8%.”

via Stanford’s Most Popular Major Is Now Computer Science.

December 13, 2012 at 9:12 am Leave a comment


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