Free College?

How would you like to take college classes online free of charge? There is a new wave of courses in higher education called MOOC’s, or massive open online courses. These classes are open to thousands of students, all around the world, for free. All you need is internet access. Of course, there are some schools that require fees that would need to be paid in order to receive credit, so it’s free, but still kind of not free. There are pro’s and con’s to offering these open online classes. Obviously, it is good to offer education to those around the world who have previously been discluded because they couldn’t afford it. This would allow anyone with an internet connection to have access to a college education. There are however some problems with these courses. One professor at Princeton, Mitchell Duneier, teaches a MOOC Sociology class that has 40,000 students enrolled. Yes, 40,000! Could you imagine trying to grade assignments for 40,000 students? Or having enough office hours to meet the needs of 40,000? For one person, there is simply not enough time to address every question from 40,000 students. 

A system has been set up to deal with these problems. For questions on the discussion board, since there is no way the professor could answer every single question, the students can vote on which questions are more important to be answered. In addition, as far as grading goes, a system has been set up where assignments are graded by multiple peers and an average is taken for the final grade. But this poses some obvious problems. What if students do not take grading seriously? Or what if some students grade harsher than others? There are still some obvious problems with this system.

Since we are learning about design, I am curious to know what you guys think would be the best design for classes like this? How do you think the system can be improved? Do you think that these classes are going to be good or bad for the educational system?

Here’s the link to the article:

Wow! The Design of an Everyday Thing!!

So here we are, racking our brains to come up with a new technology (or an improvement on a technology that already exists) and we’re like, “man, this is harder than I thought it would be,” or, “man, I already have a gadget that does that…”. But now, I’m like, “man, I wish I would have thought of this!” Google Books engineer, Dany Qumsiyeh presents this video about his brand new design of a page-turning, digital scanner that converts paper books into completely digital books!

Let’s take a moment and relate this back to all our class discussions regarding Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things. Now, first things first, I know there is much, much more that needs to go into the development before this page-turning, vacuum scanner hits the market. Let’s keep that in mind, but let’s still talk about how well designed this scanner is at first glance. Norman presents this whole idea about affordances — the perceived and actual properties of the thing. He argues that affordances of an object are perhaps the most fundamental properties that tell the users how it operates. Let’s look at the affordances of this scanner: because of its prism shape, there is really only way to set the book on it! And I’m sure there is a button (or two) to tell the machine to start and stop, but assuming those are straight forward, the user doesn’t have to do anything while the machine flips the pages and scans the content of the book. When we look at the scanners we’re using right now, we have to turn the pages ourselves and worry about the orientation and the margins, and — ugh, it just becomes so inconvenient!! What do you think about the design? Is it as clear as a glass door (that’s funny because if it’s a glass door, there isn’t a way to tell if you should push or pull and so it’s really not ‘clear’ at all)?

This machine is awesome! Nowadays, paper is obsolete and, dare I say, forgotten. Everything is digital! I was already complaining about how inconvenient it is to flip the pages myself, so I won’t go there again. Dany claims that the machine involves a 40-second set-up! 40 seconds! What do you guys think about it? Is it really that big of a break through? Is it designed well enough (according to you or Norman) to make it big time in the Market?

Here’s one last thing: the best part of all of this remains that all these plans are open sourced with open patents, meaning even you guys can experiment and expand on it. Milestone 3 idea, anyone???

What is this Madness??

Just a few days ago I stumbled upon an interesting article from the NY Times, titled “Hurricane Sandy Reveals a Life Unplugged.” I thought to myself, wow this would be perfect for a blog post! I remember discussing, either the first or second week of class, what it would be like if all of the sudden all of our technology just shut down. An important question that came up was: would society be able to function without the technology that is so embedded in our daily lives?

This article offered a perfect glimpse of what life without technology would really be like. As we all know, the destruction of the hurricane completely wiped out a lot of the East Coast, taking all the power and energy with it. This meant that TVs, cell phones, the Internet, video games, etc. were all rendered useless. Thus, people were given a rare glimpse of what life would be like in a world where technology isn’t the vein of our existence. In the article, one of the paragraphs describes a family where the three children are infatuated with the mother’s iPad. The mom depicts the blackout experience as a form of rehab. She says, “It’s like coming off drugs. There’s a 48-hour withdrawal until they are not asking about the TV every other minute.” Some people just simply did not know what to do with themselves, they struggled to find meaningful things to do with all their free time. Conversely, some people found great uses for their time by catching up with family, exploring new hobbies/talents, etc.  

While many families relished at the time they had to spend with each other technology-free, they also found it difficult at times. The author writes, “among the parents who spoke with pride about newfound family time when their children were forced offline, there were honest admissions about the joy-kill of too much bonding.” This raised any interesting point for me. Do you think that people are so used to immersing themselves in technology that when it comes down to one-on-one personal time with actual people we get frustrated/annoyed/bored more easily?

Overall, I am fascinated by the idea of how our society would function without technology. In particular, how relationships would change, for the better or for the worst, without it always readily accessible. Do you guys think families should devote one or two days of the week where no technology is allowed? Would this help children (and adults alike) to learn that it is still possible to exist without the Internet or without a cell phone if need be. What are your thoughts on the article?