Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Friday, 2017.12.15
Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other
without consideration of their relation to experience.

		Albert Einstein

2006.03.20

12 Down, 42 To Go

The streak is alive. With the project management class behind me, and another “A” in the books, I’m just about 1/4 the way through DU’s CIS Masters program. Thus far, I can say I’m not quite getting what I expected or wanted from the program. There are three factors which lead me to this assessment. First, I’ve only completed 1/4 of the program and much of what I want and expect depends on a successful graduation. In this respect, my evaluation reflects impressions on an emerging trend. How close I get to my target will depend a great deal on my experiences with future classes and what ever course corrections occur along the way.

Second, the professorial presence for two of my classes thus far has been less than adequate, shoddy in one case. The two classes which fell far below my expectations for quality, especially given the price of tuition, were balanced by two classes which reached superior levels of quality. Perhaps this needs to be chalked up to a rough start and the majority of the program will reach the same levels of quality.

Third, the technology employed for the on-line course work is distressingly inadequate for what I expect in a graduate level program. Its an integrated, commercial “courseware” package which includes an on-line exam feature that qualifies as one of the worst utilizations of web technology I’ve seen. It reflects a complete mismatch between technical capability and context requirements. In fact, if this feature is used in future classes it could very well be a show stopper for me and provoke a search for a different Masters program. The courseware package has a poorly designed discussion feature with no easy way to search through or print out discussion threads. I view these as equivalent to classroom notes and rely on them for future reference. There should be an easy way to archive these notes to the student’s hard drive. It is the students, after all, who have paid for the opportunity to create these notes and should have a way to easily access them at any time in the future. I still have access to all the hard copy notes I took in class from my undergraduate program and the collaborative notes between me and my classmates in the on-line forums should be as readily available.

In an expanded scope, I’ve been thinking more about on-line education in general. I’ll have more to say about this in the future, however, some observations have been expressed by John Quarterman:

A related risk that I’ve heard some executives complain about is that on-line education doesn’t provide the socialization for which college is famous. But of course we’ve heard that about everything on-line from electronic mail to IM to World of Warcraft, and we’ve seen that on-line communications, while indeed lacking in the face to face aspects, provide certain socialization advantages, such as time-shifting, global reach, and the ability to communicate with more people of more different types.

So I’d say the jury is still out as to whether on-line education is a risk or an opportunity. Like many things, it is probably both.

As it was when I was an undergraduate 25+ years ago, you get from education what you want. Any lasting value is commensurate with the effort the student puts into their educational opportunities. Back then, socializing in class was an important feature. Now, as an adult, I prefer to socialize in contexts other than the classroom. This makes on-line education far more likely to satisfy my current needs and desires, such as eliminating the need to relocate, saving time commuting to class and the ability to interact with classmate as my schedule permits.

My attention now shifts to focus entirely on what I have to do in May. Its a long way to travel with a heavy burden, but reading the signs suggest the return trip will be much lighter. Its time to roll and do this…

[Edit History]

2006.03.24 – It occurred to me there were several other benefits to on-line education. Network reliability is quite good these days, more reliable than the path from the front door to the classroom door. This is especially true if the weather is bad which can often cause class cancellations and lead to makeup work. More importantly, on-line is a more secure and safe venue for education. There are clear risks of physical harm to driving which are absent in on-line education. As this article illustrates, “Man with pellet gun prompts shutdown of Downtown area”, the simple act of sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture medieval style can be nixed by all sorts of agents – real, imagined and all points in between.