the trailboss abuses his CodeRanch power for his other stuff (power corrupts. absolute power corrupts absolutely is kinda neat!)
permaculture light bulbs permaculture electric heat permaculture cast iron permaculture wood burning stove permaculture solar food dehydrators
The moose likes Meaningless Drivel and the fly likes Thoughts about Khan Academy Big Moose Saloon
  Search | Java FAQ | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies
Register / Login
JavaRanch » Java Forums » Other » Meaningless Drivel
Bookmark "Thoughts about Khan Academy" Watch "Thoughts about Khan Academy" New topic
Author

Thoughts about Khan Academy

Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8801
    
    5
I know a lot of people (e.g. Bill Gates), are huge fans of Khan Academy.

I'm not.

I thought it would be interesting to see if we can manage to discuss it here in MD, and keep the discussion "on the high road", in other words, friendly and civil?

=== Background:

Several years ago Salman Khan started making his teaching videos available for free on the internet. A typical video is 10-15 minutes long and covers a topic from a high school level class. The typical video consists of watching Salman write on a color tablet and hearing him speak about the topic as he writes. Salman has a friendly, informal approach. Examples of topics are: "radians and degree", "intro to balance sheets", "Korean war overview". He covers a WIDE range of topics!

According to the website, these videos have been viewed almost 200 millions times, and Salman has created about 3400 videos.

The website's "about" page say things like:

- A free world-class education for anyone anywhere.
- Badges worth bragging about.

Bill Gates has called Khan Academy: "the future of education", and has made big donations to the non-profit, Khan academy.


=== Here's my opening statement:

I admire that Khan is devoting his life to getting free education out to the world.

I think that Khan is a so-so, mostly-average high school level instructor. With that said, it's true that in many parts of the world, a so-so high school level teacher is much better than anything else available, and from that perspective, again, hooray!

The problem I have with Khan academy is that it's far from world class pedagogy and its success is undermining the efforts of truly excellent teachers as they try to bring education forward into what actually IS world class education. Further, while I applaud Gates' interest in education, by his comments it's clear that he doesn't know much about it. And yet, Gates is trying to position himself as a key influencer in the world of education. It appears from his actions that Bill thinks he knows more about education than our top educators do... that raises BIG RED FLAGS for me.

(If I was feeling snarky I might say something like: "World class education, from the folks that brought you the Windows operating system.")

Next, I'm very concerned with the fact that Khan academy is implementing some aspects of "gamification". Today, many companies are attempting to implement some variation of "gamification" to their website or products. Game theory and game mechanics are complex, tricky and subtle domains, and when misapplied lead to worse-than neutral results. Most "gamification" efforts are ill conceived and result in long term negative impact on a user's motivation. Khan academy's implementation of game mechanics is a great example of "gamification" in which game mechanics and game theory have been misapplied. This misapplication will hurt students' motivation over the long term.

To summarize, in the correct and limited context, Khan academy can be a useful addition to education. But, it's no where near "world class", and it should drop any attempts at the dangerous inclusion of "gamification".


Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
Dave Trower
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 12, 2003
Posts: 86
There is another company called Coursera that is doing the same type of thing as "Khan Academy" that I really like. Coursera is geared more for College students and the classes last for a periods of weeks.If you successfully complete the class, you get an e-mail stating this.
I have successfully completed two classes.
Here are my thoughts about free online education:
Pros:
1) It is free.
2) You can watch the videos at any time and from your computer.
Cons:
1) In general you cannot ask the instructor a question. You can get an answer from another student but they are also taking the same class and perhaps do not know much more than you do.
2) You cannot get College credit.

If you are like me, not interested in earning another degree but still interesting in learning, then "Khan Academy", Coursera, Udacity, eDX, etc might be a good option.
I think of it as an alternative to buying and reading a book.
It will not replace education nor will anyone be that impressed if you pass a class like this. But I still like it.
I previously made a post about it in MD but my post was moved to "Blatant Advertising"
The post is here
Post About Coursera
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8801
    
    5
Hey Dave,

We know the Coursera guys. From my perspective it's roughly equivalent to Khan's level of teaching, maybe a nudge better. The reason I'm a bit more ok with Coursera is that they're not running around claiming to be the future of education. They do claim to provide "world class" learning, and they do tout their pedagogy, but it doesn't seem quite so over the top.

Still, their pedagogy isn't all that great either.
Yahya Elyasse
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 07, 2005
Posts: 510

hello,
In fact since 2011 there has been a new era of what we call MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).
many efforts have been done by very prestigious universities and organizations around the world to push this new young domain :

  • http://www.udacity.com
    https://www.coursera.org
    https://www.edx.org
    https://class.stanford.edu


  • Here is an excellent article that explains this new phenomena in depth : The Crisis In Higher Education : http://www.technologyreview.com/featured-story/429376/the-crisis-in-higher-education/?abc=ni
    Yahya Elyasse
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 07, 2005
    Posts: 510

    In fact i was since long time thinking to contribute something to education system. especially in third worl countries where access to education is limited to some wealthy classes. i was not as smart as the guys who launched the MOOC movement ;)

    But i still want to help promote education in Africa , north Africa and middle east. what would be options to do that? contribute to translate these courses in other languages? would these companies like udacity and couresera agree for a partenershipt to translate their courses to other main languages like french ,Spanish , Portuguese and Arabic? that would be something good.
    More good would be to found your own MOOC company dedicated to deliver high quality university and high school level courses to people in DE-favorable countries not speaking English. well many options out there and the field is still new and opportunities could be abundant.
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    The Nicholas Carr piece you linked to seems mostly even-handed. If you read it (and it's long). carefully, you'll find that it lays out a lot of information, but it doesn't come to any strong conclusions other than "time will tell". This seems appropriate.
    Yahya Elyasse
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 07, 2005
    Posts: 510

    Bert Bates wrote:The Nicholas Carr piece you linked to seems mostly even-handed. If you read it (and it's long). carefully, you'll find that it lays out a lot of information, but it doesn't come to any strong conclusions other than "time will tell". This seems appropriate.

    Yes 'Time will tell' because this is a new experimental domain .and they still do research and analysis on the the massive Big Data that they will be collecting from these MOOC classes.. and use sophisticated analysis tools to understand how to make higher education better and more effective.
    will MOOC educational model fail or succeed? 'Time will tell' ;)

    Paul Anilprem
    Enthuware Software Support
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Sep 23, 2000
    Posts: 3253
        
        2
    There is one big issue with any kind of passive teaching method - books, tutorials, online classes etc. That is the learner has to be very proactive. If you want to learn something, there is no dearth of resources. But the problem is that most people have a mental block. They just can't learn on their own. I have seen it first hand and I have realized that most people either need hand holding or motivation. Self learning requires a lot of mental strength, specially on the part of people who are not all that educated in the first place (and so do not realize or do not know the excitement of learning something new).

    Another thing is that most kids actually want to run away from studies. (By studies, I mean, the kind of curriculam based studies we have in schools.) That's their nature. At that age they can't understand the importance of persistence in learning and they can't know what to learn either. Hence, the need for invovlement of parents and good teachers.

    So overall, I think devices such as Khan Academy, cannot the solve the real problem of educating the masses on their own. It can help only those who want to learn and who know what to learn. Such people will find ways to learn anyway.

    Still, I think if it is combined with the resources available in schools, it would be great. For example, instead of having a specialized teacher for each subject in school, if a generic facilitator can conduct the class by using the videos, assigning home work, monitor progress etc. that would greatly increase of the efficiency of a school.


    Enthuware - Best Mock Exams and Questions for Oracle/Sun Java Certifications
    Quality Guaranteed - Pass or Full Refund!
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30085
        
    149

    I've taken a few classes at udacity and coursera. I also got my masters degree online years ago. I like the model of the MOOCs in that they bring together a lot of people interested in a topic. I suspect the initial offering of courses has a larger share of those and it wears off. I've only taken initial offerings.

    I like the structure of some of the courses. And others have been bad. Just like in a real school. However, a repeated disagreement I've had with folks in the classes is about grades and credentialling. People just looking to learn are good. People focused on grades/recognition are having trouble with peer review/grading, fairness, tech problems lowering grades etc. My philosophy is that is a free not for credit class.

    Last year, at NYC social media week, there was a talk about the future of higher education. As noted in my live blogging on the topic, a big thing missing from online classes is the sense of community/learning environment. The MOOCs try at this, but it isn't as good. My grad school handled this well proving it can be done online. There are good points about moving lectures online and using class time for discussion/harder topics.

    Anyway, back to Khan Academy. I don't get the impression there is much community. But sharing the info in a digiestible format is good. Both for students who want to review what was covered in class or get ahead. The "opening up quests" reminds me of the pre-requisitie structure in any school. The badges seem a bit odd. "Ooh. I got a badge i multiplication". A good rebuttal is posted.

    New York City started a public school based n the gamification model where students start with 0 and work their way up. Experimenting is good. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

    Incidentally, the coursera course about gamification is wrapping up and Kathy's quote about gamification being the "high fructose corn syrup of engagement" was a discussion topic last week. It started good conversation. It also sparked knee jerk reaction that "Kathy doesn't get gamification." I'm pretty sure she "gets" it more than they do! The quote was mentioned with a little context but not much so I searched for and posted a link to the blog comment it came from. Which goes back to a difference - coursera is having discussions, not just watching videos. And doing interactive exercises and the like.

    Paul Anilprem wrote:Still, I think if it is combined with the resources available in schools, it would be great. For example, instead of having a specialized teacher for each subject in school, if a generic facilitator can conduct the class by using the videos, assigning home work, monitor progress etc. that would greatly increase of the efficiency of a school.

    So a teacher would be an administrator? That seems like the wrong direction. Kids need someone to ask questions and explore a topic deeper. Not a monitor to simply ensure they do the work.


    [Blog] [JavaRanch FAQ] [How To Ask Questions The Smart Way] [Book Promos]
    Blogging on Certs: SCEA Part 1, Part 2 & 3, Core Spring 3, OCAJP, OCPJP beta, TOGAF part 1 and part 2
    Paul Anilprem
    Enthuware Software Support
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Sep 23, 2000
    Posts: 3253
        
        2
    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
    Paul Anilprem wrote:Still, I think if it is combined with the resources available in schools, it would be great. For example, instead of having a specialized teacher for each subject in school, if a generic facilitator can conduct the class by using the videos, assigning home work, monitor progress etc. that would greatly increase of the efficiency of a school.

    So a teacher would be an administrator? That seems like the wrong direction. Kids need someone to ask questions and explore a topic deeper. Not a monitor to simply ensure they do the work.


    Having teachers is best. However, in underdeveloped coutries there are simply not enough teachers (let alone good teachers) either because there are no funds or because there are no qualified people for the job. So whatever limited manpower is available, I think if they work more as facilitators (who can channel questions, ensure homework is done, tests are administered, and deficiencies remediated), the overall efficiency of educating the masses can improve a lot.

    But again, I agree that having good teachers who can provide answers and let kids explore a topic deeper is best. Yet, it is a luxury that probably more than half the population of the does not have. So this is the second best option.
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    Jeanne, et. al.,

    Kind of glad(?) you posted a link to an article by Gabe Zichermann. Gabe is, IMHO, an evil dude. I'm not trying to overstate this for effect - he's truly evil. He's the embodiment of Dow chemical when they say "without chemicals, life itself would be impossible".

    If you want to learn the real in's and out's of gamification, don't trust a word Gabe says. He has a strong vested interest, and he's not above using the worst tactics to achieve his goals.

    One interesting test for the gamification movement is to try to find instances of companies or consultants that promote gamification, using gamification themselves ;)

    For anyone interest in learning what's truly good and bad about gamification, start with Sebastian Deterding. He's the real deal, and he provides an even-handed perspective on this delicate and complex topic.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30085
        
    149

    Yahya Elyasse,
    Your post was moved to a new topic.
    I think this is going to be a rich topic on it's own right so moving the part about MOOC certificates value to a new thread.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30085
        
    149

    I posted a link to this thread in the gamification coursera forum. I like this comment:
    I think that there are both positives and negatives of gamifying Khan Academy. I can say that I've completed all 350+ math tasks due to badges and things like that. But I feel that now I've completed them all, there's nothing left to do. Instead of making me want to do more, I feel that I am done.

    So the problem is how do you reconcile the fact that games eventually "end"?

    An example of a game that doesn't end is Tetris. Because Tetris never ends, you can truly master Tetris. My approach to gamification would be something like Tetris, rather than a game that ends, or even games with badges and achievements. You play Tetris for no other reason than that it gets more challenging and you want to beat your old score and that it's fun.


    ps - watch the calling people evil. You yourself said this was the high road thread!
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    Hey Jeanne,

    This thing with Gabe is really tough! Imagine that you knew that part of Gabe's schtik was to recommend that kids ought to play with dynamite? What Gabe advocates won't literally blow your hands off, but his stuff, misapplied, can permanently dis-enthuse learning. It's REALLY, REALLY dangerous stuff, and he knowingly pitches it anyway.

    So, perhaps not evil, but what then?

    Ok, now this quote:

    My approach to gamification would be something like Tetris


    Again, this is the problem. If you want to make an actual game, NOT linked to education, that succeeds or fails on its own merits, go ahead and take a whack at some ad-hoc gamification. But, when you start talking about education you're playing with fire, and it's no longer a harmless experiment. Now you're screwing around with kid's futures.

    So the basic rule of thumb is: "When it comes to education, keep gamification out."

    Here's a link that's far more eloquent than I:

    http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2012/02/26/kathy-sierra-on-gamification-in-education/
    Steve Luke
    Bartender

    Joined: Jan 28, 2003
    Posts: 4165
        
      21

    Bert Bates wrote:...This thing with Gabe is really tough! ... It's REALLY, REALLY dangerous stuff, and he knowingly pitches it anyway.


    That is a logical outcome of what he is trying to do: sell a product. What I see the gamification of education being is a marketing scheme. All that research that MOOCs are suggesting is one of their benefits is the same thing. What the research will do and what the gamification does is help sell people on one product over another. It won't help education at all - it will most likely hurt it because they won't be measuring or worrying about measuring how well educated the students are, but on how much much they interact with the software, how often they return to the site, or how many 'points' they earn - and all that is secondary, a means to the supposed end, the delivery rather than the message. If they wanted to do research on education - there is no opportunity that MOOCs add that on-campus education does not.

    MOOCs and gamification is not the only time the US education system (at least) has gone down the route of concentrating on the wrong measurements when 'selling' itself. When I started college I had intended to go into teaching. I started looking at schools and doing my research. Invariably each school concentrated on 'selling' based on how many of their students get placed as teachers in their first year after graduation, then how many of their education majors graduated with honors, and how they have an easy time passing the certs. Every one told me that their school put extra effort - courses dedicated to - passing teacher certification. All of that sounds good but none if it really measures how well the graduating students can teach. I got worried and started examining what courses the education majors had to take. For students going for 9th to 12th grade certification education students have to take a concentration (mathematics, biology, etc...). They got special classes in their concentration, not classes that math or biology students would take. In many cases those classes were taught or co-taught by professors in the education program rather than the professors in the appropriate school for the concentration. I decided none of that was for me, it seemed like schools weren't really attempting to produce good teachers but rather attempting to get good rankings in 'best schools for education' by doing what they could to place teachers without respect for how well those teachers knew the subjects they were supposed to teach. I decided it wasn't for me - I would major in the area I would want to concentrate (Biology) then tack on an education degree in post-grad if I still wanted to (which I didn't). When I attended college it was to a school which had a large education department and I T.A.ed a couple of the labs for education students. From that experience I was happy I had changed my mind - the education directed classes were always well behind the same course for students in non education majors and in general the students weren't expected to know as much, be able to do the labs on their own, and in general had higher grades (not one had below a B, how is that possible? only when you want to make sure the students graduate with honors and get placed.) Those course were the only ones I knew of that didn't get graded on a curve. I believe that this same approach was taken in many schools, not just the one I attended and the ones I researched before choosing to go straight Biology. Further experience with teachers I know since have shown even greater lack of ability (obviously relying on teacher aides to get answers correct, rather than knowing the material enough to write their own tests and be able to answer them correctly.)

    This type of concentrating efforts on marketable outcomes rather than the proper education and training of students has led to a generation (at least) of poorly trained teachers in this country - at least that is what I believe. Even worse is that because the teachers don't know what they are teaching the students they teach can't learn it well from them and the whole system is suffering because schools decided to go with marketable metrics rather than true education.

    I think the gamification phenomenon in education is nothing but another opportunity for educators to start concentrating on the wrong metrics again and come out with great numbers to market themselves.


    Steve
    Seetharaman Venkatasamy
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jan 28, 2008
    Posts: 5575

    Steve Luke wrote:For students going for 9th to 12th grade certification education students have to take a concentration (mathematics, biology, etc...). They got special classes in their concentration, not classes that math or biology students would take. In many cases those classes were taught or co-taught by professors in the education program rather than the professors in the appropriate school for the concentration.

    ++
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    Hey Steve,

    I'm trying to get to the core of your post...

    Is it something like: "One aspect of being a good teacher in a topic is that the teacher has to understand the topic himself" ?

    If so, I agree. On the other hand, being expert in a topic isn't sufficient to be a great teacher of that topic.

    I'd say, you gotta have both:

    - subject matter expertise (to some degree)
    - teaching skills

    Is that the core of your post or did I get it wrong?
    Steve Luke
    Bartender

    Joined: Jan 28, 2003
    Posts: 4165
        
      21

    The part about teaching is:
    1- To teach a subject you need to both learn how to teach and know the subject thoroughly
    2- The way Schools of Education measure success is incorrect: measuring placement rather than ability to teach and knowledge of the subject
    Seetharaman Venkatasamy
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jan 28, 2008
    Posts: 5575

    Steve Luke wrote:
    2- The way Schools of Education measure success is incorrect: measuring placement rather than ability to teach and knowledge of the subject

    I agree
    </removed rant>
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    I don't have much exposure to these online, gamified [sic?] teaching tools. My teaching has been in real brick and mortar universities.

    On one hand, a huge percentage of my students have not been prepared properly. Anything that can give them more fundamentals in math, English composition, logic, etc. is good. More history and art is good too.

    On the other hard, its supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If its not hard, the professor should crank up the material until it is hard. If its easy, where is the learning?

    Students love it when the grading is done "on the curve", which shows how poorly prepared they are. The curve is a normal distribution. Which means if the curve says 5% of the students get A's and most get C's, so be it. But it also says that there will be 5% F's and as many D's as B's. When you grade on the curve, you can't have a good class where half get B's and the rest get A's.

    This ain't Lake Woebegon and all of our students can't be above average.
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30085
        
    149

    Pat Farrell wrote:Students love it when the grading is done "on the curve", which shows how poorly prepared they are. The curve is a normal distribution. Which means if the curve says 5% of the students get A's and most get C's, so be it. But it also says that there will be 5% F's and as many D's as B's. When you grade on the curve, you can't have a good class where half get B's and the rest get A's.

    We never used "on a curve" to mean "on a bell curve." We used it to mean that the highest score became 100%. While it is entirely possible this interpretation is wrong, it is a common one. Common enough for it to be a recognized meaning.
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:We used it to mean that the highest score became 100%. While it is entirely possible this interpretation is wrong, it is a common one. Common enough for it to be a recognized meaning.


    That's simple grade inflation. If students had any preparation, they'd know that "the curve" in statistics is nearly always a Gaussian distribution. aka the bell curve.
    Mike Simmons
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 05, 2008
    Posts: 2991
        
        9
    I wouldn't confuse knowing the origins of a term with knowing how it actually ends up being used. "On the curve" has long been applied to a variety of contexts that don't really fit a Bell curve anyway, either because (a) the sample size is too small, (b) the range of possible scores truncates one or both tails of the curve anyway, or (c) sample selection bias, especially in graduate and upper-division courses, means you shouldn't really expect a symmetric Bell there in the first place.
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    Mike Simmons wrote:graduate and upper-division courses, means you shouldn't really expect a symmetric Bell there in the first place.


    Actually, the central limit theorem says that in general, with sufficient sample size, you end up with a normal (Gaussian) distribution. You can argue that with graduate couses, the "n" is too small for the CLT to hold.

    I maintain that in most classes, without grade inflation, the mean grade should be a C.
    Mike Simmons
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 05, 2008
    Posts: 2991
        
        9
    True, for sufficient sample size. I meant that sample bias is an additional effect that can substantially raise the threshold for "sufficient sample size" that you need to see a true Gaussian. If the Freshmen class follows a nice Gaussian, and you weed out the bottom quarter or so, what remains for the Sophomore class may not be quite as Gaussian. Though it will also end up a lot more smoothed-out than one might expect from removing the bottom quarter of a Gaussian curve, because a lot of other random factors will enter each new measurement.

    I'll agree with the idea of a mean of C for most lower-division classes at least. But if a school has aggressive weed-out courses, the survivors in upper division don't necessarily deserve to be graded the same way, in my opinion. This may depend a lot on the school and the major.
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    Hey Pat,

    I'm not sure I'm understanding this?:

    On the other hard, its supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If its not hard, the professor should crank up the material until it is hard. If its easy, where is the learning?


    I understand that sometimes universities will pick out a class to weed out undergrads, but in general, who cares how hard something is to learn? Isn't it more about learning the "correct" stuff? What wold be wrong if we could learn the "correct" stuff like they do in the Matrix?
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    Mike Simmons wrote: If the Freshmen class follows a nice Gaussian, and you weed out the bottom quarter or so, what remains for the Sophomore class may not be quite as Gaussian. Though it will also end up a lot more smoothed-out than one might expect from removing the bottom quarter of a Gaussian curve, because a lot of other random factors will enter each new measurement.


    Yes, you are correct, if you cull out the D and F students a couple of times, then the mean should be much higher for later classes.

    Some schools, such as the Harvard MBA program do this, getting accepted is itself a big deal, after some weed courses, then everyone is above average, and very few students who get past the first semester fail to graduate.

    However, my experience is that most schools don't follow this, or don't follow it rigorously. There is a lot of social promotion. Plus, most schools need the tuition fees from students, so they don't chase out those that simply aren't good enough very quickly.

    You never make a clean cut at say the 40% percentile from the bottom and clear them out. What you do is remove a Gaussian curve of students, most of the F, many of the D, and some of the C.

    Plus, the material in upper courses is supposed to be more advanced. Its reasonable for some students to survive the lower levels and still not cut it at the upper class material.
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    Bert Bates wrote: Isn't it more about learning the "correct" stuff? What wold be wrong if we could learn the "correct" stuff like they do in the Matrix?


    That would be cool, but this isn't fiction. Its not actually important how "hard" something is for the students to learn, but a lot of what is expected in say a BS CS is simply hard stuff. Proper analysis of complex algorithms is hard. As is calculus in more than 2 dimensions.

    My quick comment was poorly worded, but the reality is that its complex stuff that is hard and requires a lot of specialized learning. Take debugging of complex systems, its hard and its still hard after a decade or two of professional experience. I believe that the only way to learn it is to spend long hours in the lab debugging complex systems. Most current CS students rebel when a course takes more than 10 or 15 hours of homework/lab each week.
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    Hey Pat,
    Most current CS students rebel when a course takes more than 10 or 15 hours of homework/lab each week.


    Now THIS is interesting! Perhaps a bit of a detour from Khan, perhaps not...

    If a typical university student takes 4 classes / semester, then 15 hours of lab/homework, plus class time leads to 64 hour work weeks. I'd say that 4 years at 64 hrs / week doesn't sound like "world class" training to me. I've heard that that kind of schedule is common for a lot of med. students, but I've also heard that there are a lot of studies indicating that that approach isn't creating the best doctors.

    If we step back, and borrow an idea or two from "The Talent Code", it's clear that there are localized centers of learning, scattered throughout the world, that do a substantially better job of "teaching" (perhaps "skills development" would be a better phrase?), than even the best universities. I like to imagine that NASA's training of astronauts is significantly more effective than the training you can get at *insert your most honored university*.

    Given that these truly awesome places exist, it seems outrageous to me when Khan or a Mooc claims to provide "world class" training. Say it ain't so!

    Again, given the proper framing, hooray for Salman Khan. But as an example of "world class"... run away!
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    Bert Bates wrote: I'd say that 4 years at 64 hrs / week doesn't sound like "world class" training to me. I've heard that that kind of schedule is common for a lot of med. students, but I've also heard that there are a lot of studies indicating that that approach isn't creating the best doctors.


    Plus, its no more than nine-months a year of the 64 hour weeks. So its really only three years of training.

    It was a long time ago, but I clearly remember spending huge amounts of time in the computer lab when I was an undergraduate. I'd easily go with @bert's 64 hours of work. And I know that in my work as a consultant and at the various start-ups, 50 hour weeks for months on end were typical.

    There are, however, limits to what you can expect an education to cover. So things can only be taught in industry, once the education sets the foundation.
    Yahya Elyasse
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 07, 2005
    Posts: 510

    I Have been through a French educational model called Prepas : a two years study with a final national Contest that when passed you can access Engineering higher schools.
    we spent two years studying advanced theoretical maths ,physics ,chemistry and many other materials... One day after spending about 4 hours solving a very complex theoretical math problem; the French professor turned to us, then he took his beard and said : "in fact When you will enter the Engineering domain All this hard theoretical work will not be of any use". ! I then told myself why are we killing ourselves learning stuff that we will throw away two of 5 years later!
    in fact after so long time now , i barely remember any of these very advanced and complex math & physics concepts and courses..i didn't used all this stuff in my work as a developer.
    So...lot of wasted effort goes in vain. this precious time could be used to teach other useful things for Engineers like leadership skills , communications skills etc..
    Jeanne Boyarsky
    internet detective
    Marshal

    Joined: May 26, 2003
    Posts: 30085
        
    149

    Bert,
    Perhaps you are taking world class too literally. Or object to the entire education system.

    What I recall from undergrad:
    15-18 credits per semester. Recommendation was to spend 2 hours outside class for each credit in class. This gets us to 45-54 hours per week.
    Plus stuff I learned on my own.
    Plus working

    This was 9 months a year for 3 years. Summers were spent doing internships. (I got enough AP credit to start college as a sophomore which is why it was 3 years rather than 4.)

    My point being that it seems unfair to fault Khan Academy and MOOCs for doing no worse than their offline equivalents in terms of time spent per week.
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    Hey Jeanne,

    I don't think that Khan or the moocs have anything to do with X hrs / week...

    Back to Khan, they're taking themselves seriously when they say they're "world class". Khan's pedagogy is decades behind current best practices. Khan is getting serious traction, and this really could set education back many years. It's as if someone came along and said that Fortran and hollerith cards were the future of computing and people started buying into it.
    Pat Farrell
    Rancher

    Joined: Aug 11, 2007
    Posts: 4646
        
        5

    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:15-18 credits per semester. Recommendation was to spend 2 hours outside class for each credit in class. This gets us to 45-54 hours per week.


    During my undergrad days, 12 was "full time" but most serious folks took 15 so they could get out in 4 years. 18 was a serious overload. More than 18 required the dean's signature before you could sign up. Our dean said "2 to 3 hours outside for each crediti hour" which takes you to 48-60. All close enough to @jeanne's numbers. Very few students tried 15 hours plus working more than a few odd hours here and there.
    Bert Bates
    author
    Sheriff

    Joined: Oct 14, 2002
    Posts: 8801
        
        5
    As an experiment, I went to project Euler and did the first 3 puzzles, for which effort I earned a badge. That badge felt nice.

    Then I went to Khan and watched a few videos and earned a badge. That badge felt like rubbish.

    Anyone else watch any Khan videos?
    fred rosenberger
    lowercase baba
    Bartender

    Joined: Oct 02, 2003
    Posts: 11153
        
      16

    I've gone in and done a lot of the "math" tree, not because I wanted to learn anything, but I wanted a refresher on stuff. Haven't been on in months, and as soon as I logged in, I got 3-4 badges. I don't know if they were newly created since I last was on the site or what, but I didn't really feel all that accomplished.

    In any case...there were a few topics where I couldn't remember how to do something and I watched the videos. I found them helpful in REMEMBERING how to do stuff, but I haven't gotten to any that TAUGHT me how to do something.

    Does that make sense?


    There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors
     
    permaculture playing cards
     
    subject: Thoughts about Khan Academy
     
    Similar Threads
    Six Rules for Achieving A Solid, Lasting Career
    Arrogant programmers and economic climate
    Tutorials?
    Question for Herb Schildt
    Decomposing Philosphers