Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the etc., etc., etc.

Here is the whole title of the book.

DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

Some of the book can also be found on Google Books.

If the higher education system changes as much as the author thinks it will, then it will have many implications for academic libraries. Lots of people and organizations are trying to predict the future of academic libraries.

The basic premise of the book is that the internet and alternative educational institutions are providing new and different ways for people to learn.

She (the author, Anya Kamenetz) noted that one of the problems with the higher ed system is that students are treated differently once they transition from high school to college. If high school students are having difficulty passing classes, the teacher or the school is held responsible. If one of those students is having difficulty passing college classes, then the student is blamed. In short, some/many colleges and higher ed institutions do not take [as] much responsibility for helping their students finish their studies. There is not as much accountability for high ed institutions. She also describes a system where colleges are incentivized to increase costs and services to students. If a college costs more money, then it must be a better institution.

Here is the part where I start talking about libraries.

I found the word library mentioned just once in the book, and it was about the Europeana project. The word library isn't even in the index. The free Internet is OK for learning some things, but it takes an institution to provide a well stocked library of resources so students don't have to shell out money (to buy or travel to find) books and journal articles and newspaper archives and conference materials and government documents and microfilms and lots of other stuff. She also doesn't seem to get there is a much bigger and deeper web of Internet materials that are not freely available to students, unless institutions subscribe of course. It also takes an institution to provide laboratory space for students in the sciences. Doing a chemistry experiment on the computer just isn't the same thing as dealing with real chemicals in the lab. It takes an institution to provide places for students to gather for clubs and other interest groups.

David Wiley of BYU (and Flat World Knowledge) shows up on page 83 and notes that "if universities can't find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them, universities will be irrelevant by 2020." (He is also a leader of the open-education movement.) People are thinking the same thing about libraries. They think we need to either innovate or we will be dead. Ummm, I don't think so. People have been saying for the last 15 years that the Internet is going to make libraries obsolete, but here we are. If anything, we are working harder than ever to help our students navigate the complex and evolving information sphere.

The book covers a lot of open education and open access resources. For example, they mention DOAJ on page 85. Libraries are certainly behind initiatives like this.

I did find some of her writing confusing. For example, she seemed to confuse credits with classes in some spots. This article at Inside Higher Ed does a great job of evaluating much of her logic and false assumptions.

On page 88, she provided the wrong title for this article, "Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0." The PDF is here. Instead of reading the book, this article provides a good overview of the open education movement.

I did learn about a lot of new and interesting initiatives that are going on.

Overall, it was an interesting book. However, she seemed to miss the point that a lot of the education one receives at an institution is not just from taking course and reading the readings, it is from the socialization process. This is very important for younger undergraduate students, but graduate students also learn about their field by socializing with other graduate students, and from learning how their faculty mentors do research. The institution provides the "personal learning network" all in one place for the students, and they get an official certification (degree, or whatever you want to call it) of their learning. For edupunks, they might be able to build great personal learning networks and be able to learn about the topics they desire, but they may not have the same kind of certification. This may not matter as much in some fields of inquiry, but it matters quite a bit in other fields. I'd rather not go to a dentist who learned about dentistry on the open web. I'd rather not hire a lawyer who didn't have a law degree. I wouldn't trust a research article in biology, if the author didn't have a biology degree.

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