Thanks to computers—those modern saviors of mankind!—students returning to campus this fall needn’t return at all. Yes, sir: they will be able to “attend” class by staying home, ready to learn, while nestled securely in their rooms.
There they will “engage” electronically amidst the comforts of loud, mind-numbing, rotten music, ready access to Facebook, endless supplies of food, the companionship of friends and family, and so forth. Familiar surroundings produce a “better learning environment.”
No more for them the dreariness of the “‘frontal’ presentation“, it’s time to “reverse the ‘lecture-homework paradigm’“. Let’s get those kids out of class to do what they do best: click buttons on screens.
If this shift from analog to digital is an advantage for students, it’s a positive boon to professors, whose roles are being “reprogrammed.” According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York University has worked out a formula which shows that if professors banish their lectures and other teaching material to the hard drive, they will have more time to teach!
Make sure you understand this: since a professor need no longer stand in front of a classroom because his students will be elsewhere downloading virtual copies of him, he will actually be able to teach more. This must be true because it found its way into a peer-review paper. Left unclear is exactly whom he professor will be teaching, since his classrooms will either be empty or full of students clacking away on their laptops.
Dalton Conley, NYU’s Dean of Social Sciences, says that NYU shouldn’t have to “pay our research faculty to stand in front of a room and teach the same classes over and over (after all, when’s the last time Calculus I really changed?)…they can now take on the role of faculty curators.”
This is necessary, he says, because “We’re faced with the question of how do we justify the existence of a Research I institution that’s tuition-driven…” Just so. If it weren’t for those pesky and demanding tuition-paying students, those research “I” professors could spend their time more lucratively in their offices writing grants with large amounts of overhead Dean Conley can administrate.
Yet he can imagine the dark side: “could someone skate though with minimal interaction?” He answers, “Probably.”
Mark James, a visiting lecturer at the University of West Florida, says that “probably” is a “definitely.” He eschews PowerPoint slides and YouTube videos and asks “students to silence their cellphones and close their laptops.”
James came to a conclusion that would shock Dean Conley: “students seemed more involved in the discussion than when I allowed them to go online…They were more attentive, and we were able to go into a little more depth.” He also fancies the antediluvian view that “Knowledge isn’t always something that’s able to come out nicely packaged.”
But it isn’t fair, is it? Some kids will be able to complete their course works on their iPods at leisure, while others will be forced to sit still and attend. Some must even endure reading books! Perhaps those kids stuck in front of recalcitrants like James should be introduced to the Should I Skip Class? Calculator, which boasts
This calculator was designed to help college students decide if skipping class is a smart move. Answer these questions and your decision will be made based on a surefire mathematical formula.
The obvious answer for any student tempted to engage this calculator is: yes, you should skip class. Not only that, you should drop out of college immediately and find something useful to do.
Just look at Joshua Peacock, an ardent supporter of the calculator who said, “…no longer will we have to stress out debating whether to skip class, because this simple to use tool will do all the thinking for you.” That fine young man—if real and not a fiction created as a marketing ploy—so willing to let others do the thinking for him, boasts that he is now enrolled in the, we are not surprised to learn, Masters of Business Administration at “Cleveland State University ’11.” He sounds a paradigmatic modern businessman.
The simple fact is that there are too many kids going to college; and therefore, there are too many professors professing. If class sizes weren’t into triple digits, nobody would consider digitizing lectures. That they are and will continue to do so means that the illusion of learning will occur at an increased pace.
This illusion happens when a student is awarded a degree and suddenly thinks herself so knowledgeable that she begins spouting nonsense, just as the Scarecrow does in The Wizard of Oz after being awarded his unmerited diploma. We are producing a nation of self-satisfied idiots.