domingo, 17 de marzo de 2013

Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)

I have been studying 8.02x during the whole weekend. I have been preparing myself to take this week first exam. Sunday afternoon, around 5 o'clock, I decided it was time to rest. I came down stairs to the living room and turned on the TV. My wife had been very busy preparing a party and helping a friend of us. So, I guess, She could ignore my self exclusion of society.

On TV they were playing South Park. South Park debuted in August 1997 but I know of its existence two years ago. I can not say I really like it but I can say that there is something in its crude language and dark, surreal humor that make me laugh.

This South Park's episode was called:  "Make Love, Not Warcraft". It is the eighth episode of the tenth season, the 147th episode overall. In the episode, Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny enjoy playing the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft. They got so obsessed with the game that they end up in isolation from society.

Got a Computer? Get a Degree.
I wonder how my wife sees me. Isolated in my room, auto excluded, what is all this? Is this the new way of learning? What about our college youths?

Last year, The new york times opened a discussion about web-based distance online education. Is only needed a computer and an Internet connection to get a college degree? Professor Walter Lewin was one of the debaters. He wrote something very important: "Campus culture with the discussions with faculty and peers is a key part of becoming an academic of the caliber worthy of an M.I.T. or Harvard degree."

MOOC is not the end of campus life. It is only going to improve it. College education has many things that can not be done in isolation. Like the lab work, as it was pointed out by professor Walter Lewin. We need to interact face to face with other human beings.

martes, 12 de marzo de 2013

edX's impact in developing countries' universities

What is the impact edX has had in the university of El Salvador?
In the  electrical engineering department, at the University of El Salvador, I encouraged to study online courses given by edX. We focused on one single course: Circuits and Electronics. This proved to be successful. Below I am going to speak out some of my own personal reflections.

1/ Knowledge updating. Professors in developing countries do not have the same academic pressure their peers in developed countries have. The saying: "publish or perish" do not apply here. In general, there is no tenure track. Professors have a very limited scope on their fields. edX has helped professors  to improve  electrical engineering basic background. In our department four out twelve full-time professors took 6.002x (2 spring + 2 fall). Right now, at least, four of us are taking 8.02x. So, in my opinion, professors are improving their basic knowledge (Basic circuits and electronics and basic electricity and magnetism).

2/ Baccalaureate. Our department was born in 1966. Since then the bachelor degree program has suffered very little change. MITx has given us ideas about how  electrical degree programs have evolved in the last four decades. This will be important to renew our baccalaureate.

3/ Professors are learning how to schedule a course. edX has made us to reflect on the questions about how students learn? how to organize academic material? how to schedule a course work load?

4/ Professors feel challenged. I would like to comment something that happened to me:  A colleague came to my laboratory. He saw me doing a 8.02x homework. He could not help to tell me how much he was upset for the way Walter Lewin advertised 8.02x. In his two minutes video, Walter Lewin said: "If you are one of those students who hate physics, it is not your fault. It was just bad luck that you had a poor teacher." This pressure could lead to have improvements in teaching.

5/ Students are realizing what is to be a student of a high quality professor. Students are starting to understand how elite universities work. They are finding out how much those universities care about students. Professors don't improvise their lectures. Lectures are the product of a very carefully planning.

6/ Students are realizing that failure is not only their fault. Failure is not just a student fault. It is a shared responsibility among students, professors, administration, K-12 education and the state. To identify each one is key to help improve students' performance.

sábado, 9 de marzo de 2013

Barge Haulers on the Volga

Art of Russia
Yesterday night my wife and I watched on TV the second episode of a BBC documentary. It was about Russian art. And was presented by the well known English art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon. In the first episode, He explores the origins of the Russian art from its roots in Byzantium. Last night episode, Roads to Revolution, was about how Russia changed from a feudal nation to a country on the verge of revolution.

Barge Haulers on the Volga
In the second episode, Andrew presented the work of Ilya Repin, a late nineteenth century and early twentieth century artist. Many of his paint showed tensions within the nineteenth century Russian society. But it was the paint Barge Haulers on the Volga the one that struck my mind. Far away, deep into the Volga river, a steam boat was portrayed. That meant technology to replace manpower was ready. However, It  was cheaper and easier to use men in hard labor.

MOOC could help to easy the hard work involved within earning a degree. Right now, at our department, graduation rate is around five percent. Completion is above nine years. That is a heavy load for students, for parents, for the state and, in general, for Salvadorean society. It is a lose-lose game.