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posted by martyb on Sunday May 14 2017, @02:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the dv/dt dept.

Higher education is generally a poor deal. A good course at a good institution will boost a career but the vast majority of higher education options are worthless or detrimental. Despite this, people are willing to get themselves into maybe US$100,000 of educational debt. Meanwhile, Ivy League faculty salary often exceeds US$150,000. What do students get for a lifetime of debt? Weed-out classes with a 50% failure rate then top grades awarded with abandon. An increasingly long-tail of third-tier academic journals which are full of bogus results. (A racket within a racket.) Deluxe gymnasiums and student accommodation with en-suite bathrooms. And, in some cases, pressure on staff to ignore plagurism; often due to financial or cultural reasons.

Yes, there's the social aspect and in-person interaction but why is online education seen like a poor substitute along with correspondence courses, vocational courses and community colleges? And here's a humdinger: Why don't the best educational establishments have ISO9000 certification? Are the inputs too variable or is the process too scattershot? Actually, how efficient is education? Are these guys with the US$150,000 salaries even 1% efficient at teaching? I doubt many of them care.

So, what's the Shannon channel capacity of education. Who knows? That's a really poor state of affairs. In the 1940s, telcos knew more about their operational efficiency than educators know now. So, how effective could an education be? How much can we accelerate learning? With CAL [Computer Aided Learning] running since the 1960s we should achieve small miracles. Well, it works brilliantly in limited domains, such as numeracy and vocabulary but the bulk of CAL, educational videos, are a sea of unending dross. So far, I've sat through 18 out of 42 hours of Buckminster Fuller and nine hours of Stanford cultural history. Computer history was the most enjoyable. There's no shortage of content. It ranges from whizzy edutainment to excruitiating virtual blackboards.

As a comparison, I took the small and concise topic of buffer bloat to see what had risen in popularity. Jim Gettys (who you may know from RFC2616) remains dull but at least I didn't have to look at him. The remainder seemed to be aimed at online gamers wanting to reduce latency. I repeated the exercise with Hamming codes. The best by far was also the longest by far: Richard Hamming explaining how he formulated the most important idea of his life. The worst was from the Neso Academy and could easily be mistaken for the Fonejacker mixed with Look Around You.

How much of these presentations consist of dead time, reading text aloud or drawing diagrams? At best, about 30% - which is shocking when presentations have 100,000 views or more. The more polished Kurzgesagt takes more than 1000 hours to produce one hour of output. CGPGrey takes more than 120 hours per hour of output. But many of the Khan Academy clones take one hour to produce one hour of output. That's an externalized cost when basic structure and editing would save significant viewing time.

So, is it possible to make dense, factual content which is fun, informative and structured? Yes. Have slides with concise text and diagrams. Remove silence. Remove "um" and "ah" sounds. Even if it takes 120 hours per hour of output, students will be almost 50% more effective and, for any given presentation, *total* exertion reaches break-even before the 500th viewing.

Excluding assignments and practical experience, 400 hours of structured presentations would take someone from high-school to graduate. If skimming, it wouldn't even require 400 hours of viewing. That's because the cool kids watch video at 1.5 times speed or double speed. So, a minimum of 200 hours would be required. That could fit around a full-time job; maybe during travel on public transport. So, it may be possible to get from layperson to physicist within 10 weeks.

What would happen if we had thousands of hours of presentations and millions of students? The curious? The unskilled? The unemployed? The imprisoned? Stuck in a refugee camp with 100,000 people? Well, 1080p video consisting of slides plus speech requires less bandwidth or storage than pop music. Yes, it is less than 1MB per minute. So, 400 hours of presentations requires a network file server with less than 24GB of storage. 40 courses with no common content require less than 1TB of storage and zero external bandwidth.

The faddish blockchain enthusiasts suggest that digital education can start from a foundation of digital identity but I'd start from digital education alone. Regardless, I hope you consider accelerated learning as practical in some form even if you dispute the details. The best part is accerated learning can be organized by volunteers who never meet. Retirees with a lifetime of experience. Agoraphobics. People in remote locations. People with illness or disability. Or just people who love to share the details of our technological society.


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  • (Score: 2) by edIII on Sunday May 14 2017, @03:00AM (6 children)

    by edIII (791) on Sunday May 14 2017, @03:00AM (#509326)

    The irony of an article about education with a spelling error in the title :)

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  • (Score: 2) by SpockLogic on Sunday May 14 2017, @03:18AM (1 child)

    by SpockLogic (2762) on Sunday May 14 2017, @03:18AM (#509330)

    The irony of an article about education with a spelling error in the title :)

    Perhaps it should be mac•er•ate - to soften or separate into parts by steeping in a liquid. Needles to say the liquid most of my students used was beer.

    --
    Overreacting is one thing, sticking your head up your ass hoping the problem goes away is another - edIII
    • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Sunday May 14 2017, @04:07AM

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) on Sunday May 14 2017, @04:07AM (#509339) Journal

      Perhaps "accerate" is what happens when macerated food comes out the other end. Or, perhaps this is new college lingo for farting or crapping in someone's food -- "Man, we're really gonna get Jim with this prank!" "Yeah, let's just let that sandwich accerate a little in the emanations from my flatuliferous region!"

      The latter actually makes a bit of sense. What would happen if an entire degree was compressed into 10 weeks? Likely quite a bit of accerated learning.

  • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday May 14 2017, @05:13AM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday May 14 2017, @05:13AM (#509361) Homepage

    Attuhney Genrul Jeff Sessions spells it "plagurism" and, goddammit, that's how we're gonna spell it 'ere! But that spelling mistake would likely not have happened had the summary been plagiarized.

    Also, ISO9000? Holy Jesus fuck, really? The cost of education is already such a huge goddamn problem, and now instructors have to write procedures for sitting down on one's ass and labeling everything in the goddamn classroom?

    Note: in the electronics industry we like to be difficult come ISO-time -- for example, we will demarcate with tape a spot for the stapler, label that spot "stapler" and then put another "stapler" label on the stapler itself -- then we'd do the same for every other piece of equipment on our benches, no matter how insignificant. Sometimes we would literally label a FOD container "can of nuts." So for those of you who've never experienced the joy of an ISO inspection, now you get the idea of just how goddamn stupid those things can be.

    It's no secret that online classes are there for the students who don't give a shit about the material at the freshmen and sophomore levels. Upper-division online classes are there for student with the discipline to do much of the legwork and reasoning that would ordinarily be offloaded onto the professor. That lends itself well to something like computer science but not so well to engineering, in which you need access to expensive FPGA dev boards and engineering labs full of test equipment with each gadget costing as much as a high-end Italian sports-car -- and I got bad news, you're not gonna find anything even close to a PNA-X [keysight.com] at your local makerspace.

    As for the refusee camp example, well, no. Just no. Refusees are basically animals, they will be too busy yelling, fighting, and trying to muh-dik everything in sight to focus on educational TV. Even a dog might watch something on TV and find it interesting, but refusees are like rabid jackals and should be shot on sight.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 14 2017, @09:56AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 14 2017, @09:56AM (#509407)

    pressure on staff to ignore plagurism;

    How could they NOT ignore it, if they cannot even spell it? One might ask.
    (I, for one, am tired of illiterate college drop-outs whinging about how useless what they never got is, and then proving they never got it, and thus do not understand what they are missing. There is a name for this syndrome . . . )

  • (Score: 2) by cafebabe on Tuesday May 16 2017, @01:09AM (1 child)

    by cafebabe (894) on Tuesday May 16 2017, @01:09AM (#510319) Journal
    • (Score: 2) by edIII on Tuesday May 16 2017, @01:32AM

      by edIII (791) on Tuesday May 16 2017, @01:32AM (#510330)

      Perhaps not, but it was the funniest :)

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.