Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

More Thursday Links: MOOCs, Consent Culture, Community, and More

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* What I find rather fascinating is that there’s quite clearly no business model for MOOCs. Sure, there’s a model in which a bunch of grifters get paid, but there’s no model such that prestigious state and private universities actually make money off of them. Institutions are selling a pedigree, credentialing, networking, social experience, education, and a brand. MOOCs pretty much nullify all of those things. But grifters gonna grift, and administrators gotta justify their existence. In a followup post, he goes on:

What’s lost in this discussion is that the cost per student per course for most professors, even relatively senior ones at relatively prestigious institutions, is relatively low. The large introductory courses MOOCs are imagined to replace really don’t cost anything, even with a (relatively) highly paid full professor doing the teaching. When I taught at UC Irvine I earned a decent pay and had a decent course load. Over the course of the year I probably taught 500 students. Throw in a couple of TAs for the big auditorium courses and total instructional labor cost was probably $140 per student. Yes, plus benefits and other overhead. But the point is the cost of paying me was tiny relative to the tutition they were paying for those courses. There aren’t cost savings here, because the costs are already really low (per student) for these kinds of courses. And the only way to have them be revenue raisers is to sell out the brand, which won’t work either.

* Who runs higher ed in California? Steinberg’s plan appears to have been closely guarded. While Pilati said she learned of it late last week and one of Coursera’s co-founders saw a draft of the bill a few weeks ago, a spokesman said the chairwoman of the Senate education committee was not aware of the plan until her office was contacted Tuesday by reporters, and the head of the Cal State system had not seen a draft of the bill Tuesday afternoon.

* Related: How does UC choose a new president?

This year, however, neither a faculty representative nor a staff adviser was appointed to the special committee, which came as a surprise to many people, including Binion, Brewer and Smith.

* Boulder Hires Visiting Scholar of Conservative Thought. Sounds a bit like a quota system to me. If conservative thinkers can’t compete in the marketplace, why should we subsidize them with guaranteed positions?

* Because high school football is at the center of the social, psychological and even economic life of Steubenville, youth are treated like demigods, with the adults acting like sentries guarding the sacred program. Whatever the results of the trial, it speaks volumes that the young woman is in lockdown in her own home under armed guards because of death threats.

* But How I Met Your Mother is decidedly vague on the question of whether Barney’s seduction techniques or the kinds of sex he’s had with someone have ever hurt someone, in part because that would require the show to reckon more carefully with the consequences of the very thing that made Barney a breakout character: his riff on the pick-up artist playbook. Admitting that Barney Stinson might have had sex with someone without appropriately gaining her consent would make the character decidedly unlegendary—as would the idea that Barney was miserable after one of his conquests precisely because he realized that he hadn’t obtained consent, and felt guilt, shame, and remorse.

* When Playboy landed an interview with Lena Dunham for its latest issue, it sat down one of the most successful writer-director-producer-actresses on television today and gave her a hypothetical: “If you woke up tomorrow in the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, what would you do for the rest of the day?”

* So does this research prove that Nabokov was indeed burying historical clues in his fiction? Yes and no.

When complimented in an interview for having “a remarkable sense of history and period,” Nabokov responded: “We should define, should we not, what we mean by ‘history.’” The author then expressed his reservations about “history,” which could be “modified by mediocre writers and prejudiced observers.” History as Nabokov knew it held certain ethical traps to which Pitzer’s own historical analysis comes dangerously close. Discussing Lolita, Pitzer claims that “if Humbert deserves any pity at all, Nabokov leaves one focal point for sympathy: Annabel Leigh, Humbert’s first love, who died of typhus in Corfu in 1923.” According to Pitzer, “thousands of refugees had taken shelter on Corfu in camps.” She also entertains the possibility that Humbert Humbert is Jewish: “As surely as Humbert’s sins are his own, and unforgivable, it is also true that he has been broken by history.” Throughout history, the wounds of history have often been called upon to justify further atrocities and solicit sympathy. While earning him the criticisms of many Russian émigrés, it is perhaps precisely Nabokov’s artistic distance from and skepticism about “history” that prevented him from falling into the trap that Solzhenitsyn did later in his life when he embraced both Putin and ardent nationalism. “I do not believe that ‘history’ exists apart from the historian,” Nabokov said. “If I try to select a keeper of records, I think it safer (for my comfort, at least) to choose my own self.”

* How Season Four of Community Reveals a Major Flaw of the First Three Seasons.

* Tomorrow is #tooFEW day at Wikipedia. I’m really interested to see how this goes off, and if it prompts a backlash or an arms race.

* And Nate Silver is ready for the 2016 polls. Dear god help us.

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