miércoles, 21 de noviembre de 2012

Traffic Lights

I think, It was Douglas Barclay, a former American ambassador to El Salvador, who once said: "In El Salvador not even traffic law is enforced". By that he meant that as a general rule the rule of law is not applied.

One important thing MOOC is putting on evidence is the importance to schedule a course, to organize its content and to manage load distribution. Let us take as an example 6.002x. Before starting the course, everybody knew how many laboratories, homeworks and exams were required to take. Everybody knew 6.002x was a twelve weeks course with two exams. Those were the basic rules everybody had to respect. Also I like the idea of not having to deliver homework and laboratories two weeks before the final exam.

Besides 6.002x, I am enrolled in 6.00x, Introduction to Computer Science and Programming. Scheduling has been a nightmare for 6.00x. There have been too many problems in that course. But I am witness the tremendous effort the staff has done to keep up with the initial planning.

Here at the University of El Salvador, at the beginning of every semester professors are supposed to organize their lectures. Each professor has to present a "programa de asignatura" where he schedules every activity he himself compromises to fulfil. In practice, like the problem we have with traffic lights, there is anybody to enforce those basic compromises.

This is our last lecture week for this semester. Next week, students are supposed to take final exams. But, as the case with traffic lights, course scheduling does not work. It shocked me to see on walls an announcement calling to start the very first laboratory on power systems (See picture below). It says something like this: "Wednesday, November 21th, begins Power System Laboratory. Week A and B. " That means some students (Week B) have to start laboratory the very week they are supposed to start taking final exams.
As a rule regular courses like power systems require six to eight laboratories. That means students are going to be cheated by this professor. There will be no laboratory learning. Cynically, at the end of each semester,  students pretend they have learned and professors pretend they have taught.

The lack of organization is very similar to a chaotic traffic jam. It is impossible to create a learning environment with all that lack of organization.

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