Monthly Archives: December 2011

why the university of phoenix makes money: reflections on a thanksgiving conversation

I have the usual academic prejudices against diploma mills. Nevertheless, I have had a number of conversations with extremely satisfied University of Phoenix students. One was a group of employed Black adults who were working on business management degrees with an eye to career advancement. They felt they were getting a good education that fit into their needs and resented the negative talk about the school. And most recently I spoke at length at a Thanksgiving party with a new acquaintance who is working on an undergraduate degree through it. The thing that impressed me about what she said was the extremely high level of personal contact she has with the school. To stay enrolled in a class, she has to log into it at least four days in every seven, and she gets constant feedback from her instructor. Students are also required to post comments to a class forum and to respond to other students’ comments. Students who make it into the upper division have to learn how to express themselves in writing. Even more, there are three different college advisors who call her every week to chat with her and see if she is having any problems or concerns. She is very satisfied, both because the on-line format permitted her to maintain educational continuity while following her spouse’s employment and provides an avenue for upward mobility for people who are working, and because she feels like people are paying attention to her and care how she does. She feels like she is getting her money’s worth.  I was impressed. This is a lot more than I can say for the experience a lot of the students have on my very large state university campus.  I said to myself, “I can see why they make money.” Continue reading

teaching query

Dear Scatterplotters, if you are not already dispersed for winter break, do you have ideas for me? I’m teaching a course where I want students to actually read the books, but I don’t want to test them on the material. If I could scan their brains and verify they had actually read the books, that would be fine. I’ve been using an ungraded book comment assignment that is often experienced as busywork by those who do it honestly, and has a non-trivial fraction of students who just work on ways to game the assignment without actually reading the books. I tell them to “read lightly, like reading a novel.” I want them to experience the books, histories of ethnic minorities in the US, so they have background for class discussions which are less focused on history. Do folks have suggestions about how to accomplish this goal while minimizing the busywork and faking it aspects?

Edit: To clarify my own problem, my lectures are too big for me to call on people to recite about the book and my educational goal is that they will learn things from the book that we don’t discuss in class.

correlation, causation, and so on

Has anybody played around much with Google’s Correlate tool? Quite amazing, in a frightening sort of way. I found it surfing from this similarly amusing, but less thorough, post. I can come up with no adequate theory to explain the nearly .73 correlation between my scribbled line and searches for “home videos clips” on Google.

However, using a steadily decreasing line, the correlation is mostly with searches for now-obsolete web technologies (how many people now search for “web page” on google?), which indicates, I think, the fact that the meaning of google itself has changed over time.

december distractions

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. December is hard on academic women. We’re all just trying to keep our heads above water, but that doesn’t mean there is no joy in the Month of Fail. For our family, Kid is on a new hockey team, and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be that goalie he’s staring down (he’s #6).

I admit that during the game, I was jotting down both a Christmas gift list and a grocery list, but unlike years past, this time I had a smile on my face.

yet another blog?

I know you’ve all been just dying for another blog to read, haven’t you?  Well, I’m here to satisfy!

Today marks the the public launch of Mobilizing Ideas, a new scholarly (or perhaps pseudo-scholarly!) blog concerned with activism, social movements, protests, and the like.  The blog consists of two sections: a monthly set of invited essays on a particular Continue reading

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