libraries without books! now, classrooms without students?


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greetings, dear readers and happy new year to you.

now that most of us are settled down from the hustle and bustle of the holidays (okay, yes, i’m using that as an excuse for not posting in a more timely manner), it’s time to continue to look at world of ‘e.’ and if you’ve looked at these blog posts long enough, you know that this is my thing. e-books, e-reader apps, ipads, finding ways to incorporate an ‘e’ in pretty much everything i do (except for the ‘i’ in ipads)

a friend of mine suggested that maybe my topics were passe. that e-books were here to stay and maybe i should start talking about the “new” new thing . . . MOOCs. that’s massive open online courses.

well, same same. libraries without books…classrooms without students? what’s next college campuses without classrooms? maybe.

if you’ve been following news of higher education (or news in general) you know that the state of california is in a financial mess. included in that mess is one of the jewels in california’s crown (no, not the beach boys or george clooney. oh, george cloooooooney, he’s dreeeeeeeeamy, ahem, oh sorry, i digress). it’s their university system, the university of california and cal state university.

and the university systems have their own mess . . . incoming students who aren’t prepared for college-level work. oh, no!!

they’ve increased tuition, increased class sizes, decreased class offerings (both in course availability and when they’re offered). looking to take a summer class? think again? and with a 48% dropout rate (48% – that’s worse than south carolina high schools – at least they’re at 50%) more out-of-state students? only for two years, then their in-state. well, something’s better than nothing. read this: higher education institutions are in deep financial trouble.

but the times, they are a-changin’ (thank you, bob dylan). i mean, what’s left? we can’t raise tuition any higher. lecture classes with 570 students? that can’t be good. not offering classes in a timely manner? how long is it gonna take to get my degree? an extra semester? two?

the cal state university system, through san jose state, thinks they may have a better way. online courses!!! they are going to partner with a company called udacity and offer online courses for 150 bucks!! can you believe it? according to the new york times article:

“The Udacity pilot program will include a remedial algebra course, a college-level algebra course and introductory statistics…however, the courses will be limited to 300 students — half from San Jose State University, and half from local community colleges and high schools — who will pay lower than usual tuition. The cost of each three-unit course will be $150, significantly less than regular San Jose State tuition.”

you can read about it here, and here and here.

so, if half my students aren’t on campus, and that half is split between multiple locations, what is the thread that weaves them all together? is the physical location no longer necessary? and to that end, where will they get the research materials? if each student goes to their own library, you’ve got the san jose library, the individual community college libraries, the individual high school libraries. the availability and level of materials seems uneven, on the surface. enter electronic resources, stage left.

will the lack of students in a physical classroom lead to a lack of need for physical books in a physical library on a physical campus?

let’s say professor mcgonagall decides to teach from her home boudoir via skype. and the materials she recommends for her course are all available electronically through google books or hathi trust. students post their research papers, quizzes and tests to folders in google docs or dropbox. it could happen…it’s happening now (maybe not from one’s home boudoir, although i suppose it depends on the class, doesn’t it?)

how many people do you think are interested in distance learning, for a particular course? maybe 160,000?? at $150/pop, that’s a lotta pop.

happy reading, no matter the format. and, if you haven’t read the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry, you should.

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