Future of the University

I’ve been a student at VT since fall 2008.  Since then, I’ve completed my undergraduate and masters, and now I’m working toward a Ph.D.  Although the blog prompt asks for “one” change, I’ve have a list of things I’d like to see change for future students.  However, I’ll focus on one issue that has bothered me even in lower education.  MEMORIZATION!  It wasn’t until my graduate career that I started seeing some deviation from this teaching method.  It is my belief that the purpose of a test (in engineering) should be to see how one solves complex issues related to design.  Instead, the majority my classes ask random questions that prove nothing of design, but rather the memory capacity of individual students.  I might have some reason for supporting this form of testing in prior generations where information was not available at our fingertips, but in our modern society I should not be asked questions such as “what is the average height of a pavement curb?”.  As a result of this system, many students are weeded out of courses, not because of their incapacity to design, but their incapacity to memorize.

Tech & Innovation in Higher Ed

I read and reviewed the following article on MOOCs: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/i-took-a-mooc-and-i-think-i-liked-it/

Prior to this blog, I’ve never heard of a Mass Open Online Course (MOOC), but after reading this article I am now pessimistic about the positive gain of taking a course this nature.  With zero credit to be awarded for taking a free MOOC, there is “little incentive” for completing the course, which in the case of this author resulting a low pass rate of 8.8%.  This problem is also followed by what the author describes as “falling short of critical thought and analytical skills”.  He extends this view by stating that without a “direct connection between the student and the professor” something is lost, which I agree strongly with.  I’ve attended different university, each one with different class sizes.  From my own experience, the courses I’ve learned the most from are those courses with smaller class sizes, where the teacher knows me by name and has person time to answering questions I might have about course material.

Although the author opposes many of the aspects of this type of course setting, I agree with him that they do have their advantages.  Perhaps there are people out this without the money to attend college or have a person desire to learn material which if they do poorly on will not affect their current/future career.

Ethics

In Engineering, much like any other technical field of science, data collection and management is paramount to research.  As pointed out in the module for Data Acquisition and Management, data must be in a form that can be used by others to validate (or reproduce) your findings.  This module uses a “case-based approach” to learning, whereby hypothetical events are used to help guide the user to identifying ethical related issues pertaining to the provided data.  Two case studies are used: (1) Share and Share Alike?, and (2) Who Owns Research Data?.  For the purposes of this blog, I’ll discuss the (2) Who Owns Research Data?, as this case-study pertains most to my work.  In this case study, a Ph.D. Student is working with a professor on project that requires use of institutionally owned data.  After finishing her graduate work, the student begins a job somewhere else.  Although she has finished her studies and has begun a job, she wishes to return to the university and obtain the data she worked with in order to complete the work she was unable to as a student.  When the student arrives at the university, she enters her advisor’s office and begins downloading the data from his computer.  While she is doing this, her advisor walks in and catches her.  He quickly notifies her that the data does not belong to her and refuses her access to it.  After a quick dispute, she leaves without the data and in discontent.  Later, she has a discussion with another student, who incorrectly informs her that the data is hers since she had worked with it in the past.  He suggests that she visits her old advisors office during the weekend when he’s not around to retrieve the data without his knowledge.  In this situation, it is pointed out that this situation could have been prevented if prior to their graduate work, the students are directly notified that the data is either sensitive and/or property of the university.

Open Access

The journal ScienceDirect, was produced by Elsevier in 1997, and is based out of Amsterdam (in the Netherlands).  The platform provides open access to 3,500 academic journals and over 34,000 e-books. The areas of focus include: Physical Sciences & Engineering, Life Sciences, Health Sciences, and Social Sciences & Humanities.  On their website, the state that any article published by their Open Access Journals are made permanently free for everyone to access immediately upon publication.  As they explain, discovery is an essential part of science, whether a user is a researcher, teacher, student, health care professional or information professional, their database can be a great source of scientific information.  Although Elsevier provide open access to the public, they do require authors to pay a fee (ranging from $500 to 5,000) for publication.