Wait till the student finds out that the writers of many textbooks are dead
Wow it's like necromancy dude ....
Anyone with sufficient memory to recall their college days may remember suspecting some of the staff behind the lectern were barely breathing. One student in Canada however was rather surprised to learn a professor offering the gift of knowledge had, in fact, passed away two years earlier. The magic of online learning, …
> Wait till the student finds out that the writers of many textbooks are dead
To be fair, there's a general expectation that when it comes to teaching, the person giving the lessons is generally contactable without having to resort to a ouija board!
Though it does sound like for this course, there was at least one layer of teaching assistents between the prof and his pupils!
One layer of teaching assistants and six feet of dirt.
It's the difference between Caltech publishing The Feynman Lectures as a textbook and offering a course "taught" by Professor Feynman and his teaching assistants.
One wonders if holographic professors are coming after universities reopen?
And a thick layer of accountants raking in the money first and not even bothering to find out if they could actually run the course - just change the year in the course prospectus and nothing else. Frankly the university needs to kick some backsides over this, students are having a difficult enough time as it is without this sort of nonsense.
Shortly we will have had over a year of online courses being given. So that should be years 1, 2 & 3 s lectures all recorded and avalable for veiwing. Now just stop paying the lectures, and make the courses cheaper.
Measuring Course work: Use the aproch of one of my lectures in the days when we wrote ink on paper - the thicker the submision the higher the mark.
He didn't read them as even if you skim them you would see your name, and one of my class mates in the the middle of an essay wrote "Professer Wragg you don't read these do you" - no comment.
Students are getting their lectures online, so why do they have to get them from second rate lecturers in second rate universities even though they still have to shell out the same 9 grand that students at the top universities pay for first rate online lectures?
Instead, why can't they all log in to Prof Top Expert's lectures?
In my experience, subject knowledge doesn't correlate very well with teaching ability.
In fact at undergraduate level it seemed to be a positive hindrance in many cases. I was taught 30 years ago at a Russell Group university by some incredibly talented researchers and professors, and learned almost everything from text books instead (not the assigned texts written by the teacher either!). When I later did a post graduate teaching degree, I realised how short-changed I had been by the standard of teaching in my first degree. There was the odd outlier, like the head of faculty professor who was the best teacher I think I've ever come across, but in general the teaching was quite poor regardless of the teacher's level in the academic hierarchy.
I think we can agree that there are some excellent lecturers and some not so good. So when I said Prof Top Expert I meant the one who gave the best lectures.
If they are all being delivered online then why should one student shell out the same amount for lectures of lesser quality?
A good idea in principle, but often a professor giving lectures answers questions from the students, assigns homework, refers to specific textbooks suggested for the class, and writes other course materials. Taking the lectures out of context from that may be less useful than it sounds, because the successful outcomes may have a lot to do with those other aspects. It might make sense to take certain classes and teach them identically in many schools, but that can make quality better or worse depending on who is chosen to do that and it doesn't help with the individual responses to questions. That aspect can at times be very important. All the professors I respect the most were good at lecturing but also good at relating to their students in discussions.
Additionally, one person "poor" teacher could just as easily be another persons "excellent" teacher. People are different. A really good teacher should be able to bring out the best in all their students, but they are few and far between. Other very good teacher may have a technique that is not suitable for all,
eg, some students excel at coursework then fall over under the pressure of exams. Other seem to barely scrape through coursework then excel under the pressure of cramming and exams.
I studied mathematics at an English university. The lecturer who taught differential equations was widely published and respected in the research community, and some of the students got a lot out of his course. Sadly I could not cope with him literally changing notation half way through a line without explanation. He literally did not see any problem with having dy/dx with different indices top and bottom ('I am on form today' was his response to my question).
Yes, there's more to teaching than just giving the lectures. I know teaching fellows who are working flat out (evenings and weekends, and have been for some time) preparing online courses, demonstrations, student exercises and quizzes, answering questions ranging from "why doesn't this work?" (analysis) to "why doesn't this work?" (can't log in to moodle). Teaching materials also have to be updated, especially at the later year undergrad and masters levels as new methods and ideas come out.
Also, if you want to just take one set of lectures, repeat them ad-infinitum and fire everyone else, then you should be paying commission to the people who created them. There's usually quite a lot of "creators should get paid for their work" anger around here, but it doesn't extend to educators? Most decent universities in the UK have had this conversation with staff who have been working to put materials online that, no, we wont just sack you and use the stuff you've already created next year.
@fishman: My "introduction to Molecular Biology"  course was taught by a Nobel Prize Winner who was an excellent teacher. One of the best in my educational career. Correlation does not imply causation, either positive or negative.
 This was one of several classes offered to satisfy a "breadth requirement", that is "for folks with no plan on a chemistry or medical degree, bur curious". Class included C.S. students like myself as well as Music and Philosophy majors. A friend who was a MolBio major later went on to work on image recognition for satellite photos. One never knows what bit off the main stream will be useful.
> In my experience, subject knowledge doesn't correlate very well with teaching ability.
I think anyone who's experienced 2020 as a parent can agree with that. I'm no math whiz, but I can do the stuff they ask of my 5 year old. No ####ing clue how to explain it to her. Teaching (at any level) is a distinct skill set, and I think many lecturers at Universities get away with not being particularly good teachers because their learners are already motivated and engaged in the subject area.
Some years ago I worked for a research group in one of the major universities in the UK; and it was clear many thought of teaching undergraduates as a necessary stepping stone to a research career, not as a vocation for itself.
Some years ago I worked for a research group in one of the major universities in the UK; and it was clear many thought of teaching undergraduates as a necessary stepping stone to a research career, not as a vocation for itself.
Well, that's because the universities treat it as such. Interviews for lecturer posts often heavily revolve around presenting your past research and research programme.
> I think anyone who's experienced 2020 as a parent can agree with that. I'm no math whiz, but I can do the stuff they ask of my 5 year old. No ####ing clue how to explain it to her. Teaching (at any level) is a distinct skill set
Its easy skill to develop if you only need to teach one to one (class room teaching is another matter. The problem with on off home schooling is that neither you nor the children have the time to learn and adjust, and you are probably sticking to a curriculum designed for schools (not so much a problem with older kids where the exam boards set the curriculum anyway).
I have two kids, one HE up to GCSE, the other still 12 (would be year 8 at school) so we decided not to delay her first IGCSE (we spread them out over a few years) until later rather than deal with the chaos of this year. I blogged about temporary homeschooling vs permanent HE: https://pietersz.co.uk/2021/01/homeschooling-tips-home-ed which might be interesting to people coping with home school
100% this. Many years back I studied at Bradford, not one of the top unis. But many of my lecturers were very young and very enthusiastic. Later they went on to much more prestigious roles (one being the highest paid uni VC until the newspapers got wind of her salary!). But I got a good education that's stood me in good stead for around 40+ years
At a previous company, we developed some software and shipped it with a 450 page instructional book. The book was written by a professional writer who typed at 700 characters per minute (at a time when you needed 400 cpm to pass your test as a professional secretary). I swear the guy didn't have a clue about what he was writing. But then he was so good at writing, I learned things about our software from the book that a colleague had written and that I had never looked at. What he wrote was factually correct and explained so easily, anyone could read the book and learn from it to use the software.
Yes, this guy had zero subject knowledge and an incredible ability to make the subject matter available to others.
Whereas, after about 30 years of doing no coding I'm teaching myself Python. And the quality of the books and online guides supposedly teaching beginners is truly shocking.
Things like instructions how to use a command that don't explain what they do, how they fit in with other commands or why you'd need to use it. Or using undefined terms to define a new term.. And of course examples of code with variable names that sound like they might be commands. The list goes on.
>Students are getting their lectures online, so why do they have to get them from second rate lecturers in second rate universities
A cynical person could suggest that this is why places like MIT / Stanford put all their lectures online for free - even before all the mooc/covid hype.
It isn't going to affect their student demand but why am I paying $$$$ to take CS at Podunk State U when I can watch SICP 6.001 lectures online?
I'm afraid that I too am going to respectfully disagree with your suggestion that second-rate universities have second-rate lecturers giving second-rate teaching, while top universities provide first-rate lectures. My experience having been through a top university is that the lecturers were given posts based entirely on their research ability, not their teaching ability. At the time, none were given any tuition in how to teach (this may have altered), but would often inherit the lecture notes of the previous lecturer. Some lecturers were excellent, some were rubbish.
I sincerely hope that students paying 9 grand a year get better teaching than I did.
Education is in for a real sea change I went in the late 70s and we had classes of 60+ and I soon found you were just scribbling down what the lecturer was speaking and with the numbers in the class you couldn't really interrupt. I found a workaholic mate who lent me their lecture notes and I found I could copy those up in just over half the time but because he wasn't a responsible figure I checked his notes as I went along - the lecturer was believed unless someone spotted their mistakes at the time. Something that only came to light in revision. My dad was a uni prof and took us abroad when doing summer work and that often involved being allowed to go to lectures given in summer schools by people who obviously loved their jobs and subjects. Production line uni was shit in comparison and I dread to think what my eldest is going to come up against next year.
As you note some lecturers are excellent, some rubbish. We now have the whole world connected and can aggregate all these lecture into a collection of accessible and classifiable classes where people can pick and choose the ones that suit them best. Well once we realise education should never be a profit centre
We had a new head of Dept (not appointed to a Chair, he eventually went to Sussex for that) who had the bright idea of reorganising the entire Botany course. Our first year was nothing but systematic botany and plant anatomy - something like it might have been 20 or 30 years earlier. He did admit later that he regarded us as the class that lost our first year.
There are a couple of things which make it more complicated than that.
First rate university courses consist of more than lectures: there's also interaction with lecturers or teaching assistants.
And lecture courses don't stand alone: they're integrated into a dependency system which allows the lecturer to make valid assumptions about what the students ought to already know. So a given lecture course at one university might spend the last third or half building towards some important result which will be a prerequisite for an advanced course the next year, but at another university which doesn't offer the same advanced course the corresponding intermediate course might be structured very differently.
There is value in heterogeneity and in allowing students to choose a course which suits their interests and capacities.
Back when I started my 6th grade year & met my teachers for the first time, I was amazed at the number of them that had been there so long that they remembered having taught my father. One of those was my history teacher whom appeared so old & fossilized that he didn't have to take education classes to teach him history because he had *lived through it*. I swear that man made Yoda look like a suckling babe.
Anyway, this teacher would often take role call, have one of us students start a film, & promptly fall asleep. We'd have to turn the volume up loud enough to be heard over his snoring. We'd make fun of the fact that he often drooled in his sleep, but that didn't stop us from having to watch the bloody films since the old bastard gave tests on the material.
When my father found out that my history teacher was the same one that he had had back when he was in school, he was flabbergasted. "No fucking way! That man was older than dirt back then. He must be a fucking MUMMY by now!"
My dad came to parent-teacher night & my history teacher nearly came unglued. "Oh holy crap. $Shadow, this is your dad? No WONDER the last name sounded familiar!"
In the Summer before my own son was due to start at the same school, said history teacher finally passed away. It was a common joke that he'd BEEN dead for centuries, he just had forgotten to fall out of his chair to tip anyone off.
Undead teachers are nothing new, in fact they may be older than you think. =-)p
One of my favourite teachers had been teaching at the same school for 35 years - so was now teaching
the grandchildren of some of his first students when he sadly died at age 59. He'd also taught a celebrity and regarded him as "a jumped up little sh*t" even as he was well known on TV on both sides of the Atlantic.
My Dad was a teacher: one of his early colleagues was similar - in a village school, she'd have paretnts turn up to parents evenings and sit quaking in their seats. "Yes, Mrs. Finding, no, Mrs. Finding" as she told them about how well or badly their children were doing.
she'd have parents turn up to parents evenings and sit quaking in their seats
One of my mates moved back to our home town, kids in tow, to learn that a couple of the teachers who'd taught us back in the 70s were still there and were now teaching his son.
He went to the first parent-teacher evening with justified trepidation. He sat down in front of one of his old teachers, introduced himself and asked about his son's progress. The teacher gave him a long look, tipped his head to one side and said laconically, "He's his father's son."
Fed-up headmaster tells "highly critical" parents to retrain as teachers in scathing letter
"One of those was my history teacher whom appeared so old & fossilized [...]"
In 2002 we had a school reunion - over 30 years since the secondary school had lost its identity in reorganisations.
Some old boys were instantly recognisable - appearing almost unchanged since their teenage years. Others could only be verified by a lot of looking for clues - or name tags.
The few teachers present were surprisingly recognisable even though they would have passed retirement age by then. The senior history teacher looked exceptionally unchanged - as if he had a portrait in the attic. As one 60 year old old boy said "whatever he's on - I want some!".
Now - nearly twenty years later - I had an opportunity to ask if I had missed that teacher's obituary. Apparently not. That means a number of our senior teachers in the 1960s survived into their 90s.
Two sides here
As a peripatetic literacy difficulties teacher I spent my years in and out of various schools' classrooms, working with the kids referred.
In one a retired teacher I knew had come back after a few years to cover a class or something. Doing the register in a class that had kids she'd never taught she kept saying "I taught your mum/dad/aunty". The kids were in awe.
But also, since non-readers often in turn have children with reading difficulties, it was a matter of pride that when I retired/got made redundant in the cuts, not one single referral to my service was the child of one of my earlier referrals.I never had to say "I taught your dad".
If memory serves...
Whilst doing a bachelor's degree by distance education many years ago, one of the course packages (course notes and cassette tapes) had been prepared a couple of years earlier by a professor who had subsequently died. (Not of old age. Possibly cancer?)
The course-work was still current, so if it ain't broke don't fix it. And the course was administered by another lecturer.
Producing a distance learning package, e.g. the OU courses, there'll be a lead time to get the course material together. It'll then be expected to run for several years before being scheduled for replacement. There'll be some amount of probability that one of the authors will die or at least retire before the course EOL arrives. A traditional University course is a live event. A distance learning course is a product; it may have to outlive one of its originators.
I did my OU degree in the 80s and was amazed to find out one of the lecturers at the Maths Summer School was the host of many of the early morning lectures delivered on BBC2.
Gone were the kipper tie and flares and present was a smartly dressed prof in his 40s.
But with maths, the subject matter hadn't changed, so all the lectures were still perfectly valid (and in many cases, probably still are)
When I was in college, we were told about 2 weeks before classes started one semester that our instructor had passed away. The replacement, despite being a full professor, was a total pushover. "How's the homework going?" she'd ask. Everybody would complain and ask for more time - so she'd give us a couple more days. By the end of the semester, we were a couple weeks behind.
In the meantime, I was doing the homework on **NEXT** week's lecture topic during this week's lecture. The course was really that easy.
When the same happened to me, the professor dying during the summer apparently without warning, they just cancelled the class. We all had to quickly find a replacement, and given that registrations were typically done four months earlier, choice was somewhat reduced. I don't think they ever offered that class again either.
The subject of deceased yet seemingly active academics would not be complete without mentioning Jeremy Bentham, who can be seen at UCL Student Centre, over 150 years after his death.
Apparently Microsoft and Apple are both indebted to him for his invention of the words maximise and minimise.
When I was a schoolboy, my father worked for the Medical Research Council, and was placed in the Anatomy Department of University College, London, in Gower Street. I used to visit him some days, and in the evening we used to walk down the main staircase on our way across campus to the Underground station. At the bottom of the staircase was a large wooden cupboard, and on occasions it was open, revealing old JB sitting there in the gloom. Rather creepy for a schoolboy. I don't know which bit of him was preserved and which bit was waxworks, but his head used to be stolen by students from other universities and held to ransom as a Rag prank.
This lad is barking up the wrong tree. The whole point of university is that you set out to discover your own subject. While some skills have to be taught, hence medical school, you go to Uni' to read your subject. Professors and faculty are there to steer you and monitor your progress via seminars / tutorials but you are expected to absorb the subject yourself, as opposed to school where you are taught the facts as seen fit by the exam board.
Conversely, professors and researchers are primarily there to extend the subject, not teach students.
"[...] professors and researchers are primarily there to [...}"
...spend their time publishing a quota of papers and writing grant applications. It appears that they are only really free to follow their subject when they retire and become officially ranked as "emeritus" - and no more teaching duties.
Yes, in discussion with academics ( we did a lot of post-grad training) it became apparent to me that promotion and even job security was related totally to the number of papers pushed into journals and not the quality of the paper; or indeed the journal as far as I can make out.
A further downside of this was that we were regularly sent research papers and even subscribed to a journal or two of reading research. But in the last few years of my working the quality of papers and the insight they provided to how kids actually acquired reading had shrunk to a point below negligible. There were any number of comparative studies of minor mechanical skills learning across different cultures/nationalities etc but fuck all about what was happening inside the heads of our kids.when they were doing less well/better than others. It was very obvious that the research was based on two factors;
1) research grants for studying anything to do with teaching phonics were far more available than actually looking at the ( considerable) evidence that phonics isn't the panacea the politicians and businesses claimed and
2) Most of the research was based on doing surveys and sums rather than forming and testing hypotheses - the Psychology, which requires scientific method, thought and creativity and has a risk of a null outcome, had been replaced with something more like Anthropology, which is about observation and recording and always has a positive result because no testable predictions are made.So there's always something to publish at the end of it.