[Paleopsych] CHE: Courseware That Could Replace Professors Is Inevitable, New York College Official Says

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Sun Apr 17 17:21:27 UTC 2005

Courseware That Could Replace Professors Is Inevitable, New York College
Official Says
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.3.7

[Again, the best teacher I ever had taught themselves, not the subject. So 
amend this to *most* professors.]


    Right now an enterprising computer programmer somewhere is probably
    designing instructional software that could completely eliminate
    professors as we know them, says John C. Miller, director of the
    Algebra Courseware Project at the City College, part of the City
    University of New York.

    Mr. Miller delivered that threat -- or promise, if you're an
    administrator rather than an instructor -- on Sunday at Innovations
    2005, the annual conference of the League for Innovation in the
    Community College, which is being held here through Wednesday.

    His best guess is that the programmer is probably in India, home to
    what Mr. Miller said are the world's best computer programmers and the
    world's best technical university, the Indian Institute of Technology.

    The worldwide cost of "secondary" mathematics instruction --
    pre-algebra through elementary calculus -- is somewhere in the
    neighborhood of $50-billion annually, and most of it goes to
    instructors' salaries, he said. The enterprising programmer would find
    a ready market for instructional software among cost-conscious college
    and school administrators.

    "The technology is ready," Mr. Miller said. "It's a question of when,
    not if."

    Community colleges have in recent years adopted instructional software
    widely, mostly in developmental English, reading, and math courses,
    but the software now available commercially is supplemental. In most
    cases, an instructor still guides students through the course and
    answers questions that software cannot.

    Mr. Miller said this approach isn't necessarily the best in every
    situation. For example, he said, the process by which
    community-college students are placed in sequential math courses is
    flawed. If tests place a student in the first course in a sequence, he
    may nevertheless be familiar with the first third of the course
    material, which could lead to boredom and bad study habits, which
    might set him up for failure when the instructor finally gets to the
    material that the student doesn't know.

    If the student was taking a course that used self-paced instructional
    software -- which would allow him to breeze through the first third of
    the curriculum by proving to the software that he already knew the
    content -- he would have a better chance of staying engaged.

    "It's clear to me there's a strong argument for computer-based
    instruction in sequential math," said Mr. Miller, a retired professor,
    "because it's nearly impossible for a professor to design an
    instructional pace that suits all students." Mr. Miller said that math
    would likely be the harbinger of such technology. "But if it works,"
    he said, "expect to see it spread across the humanities."

    Many professors who attended the session were doubtful.

    Nasrin Shafai, an associate professor of math at Montgomery College in
    Conroe, Tex., argued that such software is more of a threat to
    advanced, graduate-level courses because more can be assumed of
    students in those courses.

    "My students need me," she said. "They need me to motivate them. A
    computer can't do that."

    Others pointed out that software publishers would be most interested
    in basic-level courses that pack in the students, rather than obscure
    graduate courses.

    "Adoption may be irresistible," Mr. Miller said.

    Background articles from The Chronicle:
      * [59]Technology Reshapes Universities, Report Says (11/22/2002)
      * [60]The Promise and Problems of a New Way of Teaching Math
      * [61]Students Dislike Va. Tech Math Classes in Which Computers Do
        Much of the Teaching (2/20/1998)
      * [62]Rethinking the Role of the Professor in an Age of High-Tech
        Tools (10/3/1997)
      * [63]Computerized Courses Change the Way Mathematics Is Taught
      * [64]Brown U. Offers On-Line Tutorials Instead of Lectures

      * [65]At Last, We Can Replace Lectures (7/9/2004)


   45. mailto:jamilah.evelyn at chronicle.com
   59. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v49/i13/13a05402.htm
   60. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v46/i07/07a03101.htm
   61. http://chronicle.com/che-data/articles.dir/art-44.dir/issue-24.dir/24a03201.htm
   62. http://chronicle.com/che-data/articles.dir/art-44.dir/issue-06.dir/06a02601.htm
   63. http://chronicle.com/che-data/articles.dir/art-43.dir/issue-09.dir/09a02701.htm
   64. http://chronicle.com/che-data/articles.dir/art-42.dir/issue-21.dir/21a01901.htm
   65. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i44/44b00801.htm

E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.

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