Monday, November 24, 2008

University of the Future?

Maybe here is the solution to some of our large class sizes. . . . from Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 2008
Jeffrey R. Young, “Will Electric Professors Dream of Virtual Tenure?”

Excerpts . . . .

Last month at the NASA-Ames Research Center, a group of top scientists and business leaders gathered to plan a new university devoted to the idea that computers will soon become smarter than people.

The details of Singularity University, as the new institution will be called, are still being worked out — and so far the organizers are tight-lipped about their plans. But to hold such a discussion at all is a sign of growing acceptance that a new wave of computing technologies may be just ahead — with revolutionary implications for research and teaching.

The idea that gave the new university its name is championed by Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, entrepreneur, and futurist who argues that by 2030, a moment — the "singularity" — will be reached when computers will outthink human brains. His argument is that several technologies that now seem grossly undeveloped — including nanotechnology and artificial-intelligence software — are growing at an exponential rate and thus will mature much faster than most linear-minded people realize. Once they do, computers will take leaps forward that most people can hardly imagine today.

Computerized research assistants might even do some of the work that graduate assistants do today. Professors will be able to assign hundreds of these electronic assistants to problems without having to get grant money to pay them.
Computers will become better at teaching than most human professors are once artificial intelligence exceeds the abilities of people. . . . These new computer teachers will have more patience than any human lecturer, and they will be able to offer every student individual attention — which sure beats a 500-person lecture course.
Section: Information Technology
Volume 55, Issue 14, Page A13


Anonymous said...

"University of the Future?
Maybe here is the solution to some of our large class sizes. . . . "

A more simpler solution would be to advocate for more space on campus to meet the demand--and provide effective learning environments for both instructor and student.

For those of us who are educational consumers, and also parents of college freshmen, you have experienced the processes involved, selected and choosing a school, the marketing hype, the "sell" factors, and yes the pricetags. Good universities are able to meet these needs across the board and make it a priority (i.e. classroom space, painting and upgrading facilities etc) and make it a more pleasant environment to learn esp. when the price tag remains high in todays economy especially.

As a parent of a college freshman, why pay for a closet space of a dorm room, outdated library facilities and computer labs, when students can go somewhere else and have much more? Sure they may have college math classes that hold 700 students as part of their schedules, but in other ways their needs are being met 10 fold over in other ways.

The Singularity University will work for many people one day, yet as you know, there are many more that it will not work for. Keep in mind the growing number of high school dropouts in the United States and those that still do not have access to a public library or computer at home.

The key word remains action. All universities are experiencing the same issues, as are students trying to obtain an education and be able to afford it. When there is simply inaction, it becomes less important to everyone.

Richard J. Cox said...

Actually, I was being sarcastic with this particular comment. . . .

Anonymous said...

yes fine, but large on campus class sizes, overcrowding and lack of classroom space has been an issue from town meetings over recent years too.

whats the average class size for on campus classes? as you know this problem is everywhere...