Here I write some notes about higher education inspired by taking Preparing Future Professoriate (PFP) course. I tried to use some readings along with lectures’ notes and discussions. I wrote these notes as topics by the sequence they were given in lectures. I indicated beside each topic the lecture number(s) in which this topic was discussed.
Universities History (1)
I learned about the first universities int the world and I was proud to see that Al-Azhar university, in my country Egypt, was one of these universities. I was glad to see the history of universities in United States, as for myself I like to read about history in all its branches. I learned about the land-grant universities and knew that there is also sun-grant, sea-grant, and sea-grant. I linked between land-grant universities and public universities in Egypt as I think most public universities in Egypt are established in a way similar to land-grant universities.
I learned also about other types of universities like research-universities and realized that we have a new research university in Egypt which is Nile-university. There is also, Master’s colleges, historical black universities, tribal colleges, etc. I knew that some of these universities requires special costumes to be worn in the campus and related this to Al-Azhar university which also requires special costumes in some disciplines.
Mission Statement and Some Statistics (2)
This was my first time to get a look at a university mission statement. I believe that it is important to know the statement of the university you are going to attend but unfortunately I did not have a chance to look before. Beside, the mission statement of Virginia Tech, I wrote a Blog about the mission statements of MIT and UCLA as two top-ranked universities in computer Engineering.
*Update: I’m going to attend a summer school this semester in UCLA which gives me a great honor to be there. I was inspired by following UCLA news after I wrote about their mission statement.
As for statistics, I was surprised by the huge number of universities in the united states. I did not think about this before and the number actually exceeded my expectations. As for universities, I knew about University of Phoenix as the largest university with about a quarter-million of undergraduate students. I also learned useful information on how to know approximately the range of salaries according to the university and discipline from the Chronicle of higher education.
Faculty and Administration (3)
I learned about the tenure-track in US universities and how the assistant-professor tries to do his best in research and the number of publications he is expected to make within the five-years period. Also, his evaluation in teaching and dealing with students and other faculty.
It was my first time to know about other faculty potions (non-tenure track) like research faculty. Actually, this system is completely different from that in my country; Egypt; as the tenure-track is given to high-ranked undergraduate-students once they graduate. They are required to get their Masters and Ph.D’s within some period of time, typically around ten years, to become tenure. This process actually weakens the educational system in Egypt as assistant professors are not required to make any research to keep their positions.
For administration-positions, I learned the hierarchy of these positions and how the candidates go through a search process in order to select best persons who can serve in these positions. Again, this completely different from my Country where these positions usually are given according to political views.
Communicating Science (4)
Although this was not a usual lecture, as we took the lecture in a GLC meeting room. The lecture was not a usual one that we stay and take notes or participate in discussion, the lecture was about using communicating science but in a practical way. We all know how to communicate with people in our disciplines using jargon and the same ways of publications, i.e., journals, conferences, posters, etc., but how to communicate with people from other disciplines that was the topic of the lecture.
The principles of communicating science are how the to make the communication more direct, personal, spontaneous and responsive. The first rule I have learned in this class is how to overcome your fears of speaking to others. We played some carefully chosen games with each game was done with different partners in order for us to communicate with the maximum number of students from different disciplines and origins.
This class inspired me first to take the Communicating Science course next semester and also to try being more social in the future.
Ethics of Higher Education (5,6)
I learned about the code of ethics. Before the lecture, I have knew about the Honor code of Virginia Tech through classes I have taken before. However, this was the first time foe me to know that before applying this system, it was up to the instructor to make decisions of cheating students. For my self, I like the code of ethics to be applied in all universities, However it may look harsh, but I think it is more fair that all students get the same punishment for the same action.
In Egypt we let decisions to be in the hand of instructors or even faculty dean. And in this case, it is totally evaluative and the student could not be punished at all while another student could get kicked out of the university fro two years. We had a discussion in class today about what we shall do if we caught someone cheating during an exam. I actually had this situation number of times when I was a lecturer assistant in Egypt. In these situation I took the cheating student to the instructor or proctor and unfortunately, they did not give the same reaction each time. I wish that they apply the honor code system in Egypt with a transition period until the students get familiar with it and learn to apply the rules.
*update: I wrote a Blog about IEEE code of ethics and I was fascinated by how it is organized in ten points and covers the responsibility of its members against many parties and said that I wish to be a member in it. Now, I’m a student member in IEEE, I found that they make huge discounts for students and that’s how I joined.
Plagiarism, Misconduct and ORI (5,6)
I learned today about plagiarism, and how someone could make self-plagiarism without intention. I knew about plagiarism cases such as in articles, teaching philosophy and dissertations. I think the most unnoticed plagiarism comes in dissertations or thesis because the researcher is required to fill a large number of pages which he sometimes tend to copy from or at least doest not rephrase which he have read in other articles or books.
I was sad to know that most plagiarism cases happen in Engineering, where researchers could falsify the results and give biased results to help their ideas. For me, I see no problem in making a research that does not give ideal (or at least good) result, by publishing these results as they are, you are saving others time from trying this research procedure. However, I think this happens as most of the research is funded by industry and people in industry want to see good results!.
I knew today also about the great pretender who falsified all his research results for a long period of time and he actually had a large number of publications which turned into to be fake at last. I wrote a Blog also about one case from Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in which the researcher falsified the input data by assuming that she have a larger sample of inputs that she actually had and provided results based on these falsified data. This was my first time to hear about ORI, but I actually was happy that something like this exists to prevent researchers from fabricating their results.
Global Higher Education(7,8)
I talked today along with my friend about higher education in Egypt. We took much of the lecture talking about higher education in Egypt and how the system actually differs from that in US and other countries. From our discussion and compared to the experience we get from listening to higher education in other countries, we get to know that our educational system in Egypt needs to be developed in a large way.
From my colleagues talking, I liked the education system in Puerto Rico which is similar in many ways to that in US however most of classes are taken at night as the faculty members have jobs in industry at the morning. Also, they do not have the concept of students living in campus as student commute to campus daily like in Egypt. Also the official language in their universities is Spanish not English.
Education system in Columbia is also interesting, they have their GPA from 5 not 4 as the rest of countries. Also the case that all university buildings are monitored by cadets which in someway not comfortable to all students. We have in Egypt police officers and cadets on the campus gates as campuses are fenced in Egypt, but not in every single building.
Unfortunately, I’ll not be able to attend the second lecture on global higher education as I’m in Washington D.C. to finish some papers in my embassy. I wish if I were there to make useful of other countries experience in higher education.
Meet the Dean
Today, I met Dr. Karen DePauw as planned by the “meet the dean” task. I really enjoyed the meeting minutes we have talked together and I felt a great honor to speaking to her. We talked about VT-MENA program and what I plan to do after graduation. I told her that I likes Blacksburg as a small and quite town and knew from her that most land-grant universities have the same experience. I told her that I’ll make my essay about the comparison of higher education between Egypt and US or I may choose another topic after last Monday discussion in the lecture, and she agreed for both. I think I should begin early in writing the essay as there is not much time remaining in the semester.
Everything Is a Remix (9)
We had a discussion today about is everything actually a remix or not. I watched a TED talk before the class k by Kirby Ferguson claiming that everything is actually a remix and nothing more is original. The talk was mainly about Bob Dylan a famous singer and composer who take the most of his songs from previous songs as of lyrics or melody. I read about this topic and found a quote saying “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal”, that’s why these artists became great.
In my opinion, I do not stand in the same side as Kirby Ferguson. I can believe that every small idea in any aspect is an innovation. The person who creates a joke, the writer of good novel or song, the composer of a good melody, the researches which add a small idea to the research, the author of a brilliant tv ad, etc. All these made their minds and got new and creative ideas this could not be a remix. These people may not get to be famous but they really know how to use their minds. If we to believe that everything is a remix, we will get to stop using our minds. I’m sure that we need to see what others made and make use of it adding our ideas to improve it.
Open Access (9)
We also talked today about open access. I was surprised that many other disciplines have open access journals that they can get free access to articles. This is not the case in my discipline as most of the articles are owned by IEEE and ACM which require a subscription to access articles.
*Update: I wrote a Blog about open access in my discipline. I was not able to find an open access journal, so I talked about arXiv.org which is pronounced as archive (the letter X in Spanish in pronounced ch).
Using Technology and The Future of Higher Education (10)
We had a nice talk about the use of Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) in higher education. I actually can see that MOOCs help students to learn on-line without being tied to specific class time and location. I wrote a Blog yesterday about the future of higher education and how universities should balance between on-line courses and traditional courses. I learned also types of MOOCs which are xMOOCs and cMOOCs.
As for the future of higher education, most people in the class see that it will develop but in the similar way it is going now. This means that there will not be a great difference in the near future about the current system. This because higher education usually absorbs new technology and make use of it and so it is always evolving. My opinion about the change was that universities should create new multi-disciplinary programs to make use of many disciplines. I liked dr. DePauw view of I, T, and Pi about the depth and width of how the student should be immersed in some discipline and specific topic during his research.