How the Profit Motive induced Universities to Mediate Contextual Education with Artificial Intelligence

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A study funded by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) establishes that internet or computer mediated instruction is not as effective as instruction that transpires in-classroom. This trend runs across not only Colleges and Universities, but Elementary and High Schools.

While internet and computer mediated instruction do not have any adverse effects on learning of the Mathematical Sciences, in contexts that involve interpretation of knowledge, such as Economics and English, internet and computer mediated instruction produce adverse outcomes.

It is unequivocal that the most important objective of education is not acquiring of knowledge, but development of the right mental processes for processing of knowledge. Given development of the right mental processes must transpire in context of processing of knowledge, the delivery of specific knowledge in the classroom merely is a means to an end. At end of the day, it is development of the mind’s capacity for interpretation and aggregation of knowledge that is primary objective of education.

Outside of mastery of BODMAS (brackets; off; division; multiplication; addition; & subtraction), the different branches of Mathematics function on different non-necessarily aggregating algorithms. If you master solving of algebraic equations, this knowledge is not necessarily essential for mastery of solving of differential equations. All that is required is mastery of algorithms for the two different branches of Mathematics. More importantly, there is not any demand for interpretation, only demand for mastery of the algorithm that enables arrival at a solution. It is not until a student majors in Mathematics in College that a student is presented with Mathematics that requires interpretation of knowledge, and this typically in a course on Pure Mathematics, as opposed to a course in Applied Mathematics.

Consider, however, Economics, or Finance, or English Language. In these disciplines, everything builds on itself like a pyramid. If a student does not master Corporate Finance, it is unlikely he or she can do well in International Finance, talk less of Securities Valuation. If a student does not arrive at an understanding of sentence construction, essay writing skills necessarily are stunted. If a student does not understand the principle of demand and supply, the price elasticity of demand becomes a difficult-to-understand concept. If importance of, and the role played by preferences is not well understood, perhaps all a student infers about the concept of price discrimination is, rather wrongly, presence of discrimination.

In each of enumerated disciplines, there is requirement of interpretation of knowledge, and constant demand for updating of knowledge. More importantly, application of mental processes developed in the classroom always is contextual — there does not exist any predefined solution for any and all contexts. It is exactly in such sorts of disciplines — disciplines within which arrival at the right mental processes are of extreme importance — that computer and online mediated instruction are shown, in the study sponsored by the NBER, to induce adverse outcomes. This, of course, ought not to come as a surprise, for the sorts of assignments that can be assigned in context of a course delivered, in entirety, on the internet are, relative to assignments which can be assigned in-classroom, limited.

The Business Schools, Colleges and Universities are not to blame. Once one College or University went online and made a financial killing selling education online, hardly any Dean, Provost, or Vice Chancellor was going to stake his or her job on some purist in-classroom model for provision of College education.

The profit motive, and the fact that some Colleges or Universities already are making the profits means Deans, Provosts, and Vice Chancellors do not consider the demerits of computer and internet mediated instruction for delivery of contextual knowledge that inherently is acquired in context of interpretation and updating of information. Since all that is directly visible to university stakeholders is the amount of money or profits being generated, in presence of hidden nature of effect of computer and internet mediated instruction on quality of education, risk aversion implied acquiescence to the profit, as opposed to the quality motive.

What then the solution? Well, each of the Department of Education and accrediting bodies such as the AACSB have to come up with regulations and/or standards that limit how large computer and internet mediated instruction can be in relation to in-classroom instruction.

In this respect, there ought not to be any undergraduate offering that is wholly delivered in context of computer and internet mediated instruction. If the minds of the young have their first opportunity to be freed into independent critical thinking in College, allowing any young person obtain a degree entirely online is a travesty whose opportunity cost likely is lost to the student who focuses, in entirety, on the cost trade-off of an wholly internet education.

At the graduate level, and for professional programs, a healthy ratio for balance of in-classroom and internet programs ought to subsist.

I cannot say what that balance ought to be, but something needs to be done, else the commoditization of education will, even while they make the profits, destroy all of the unique essence of Colleges and Universities in the United States of America.

In this respect, the proliferation of virtually fully online Masters and Doctoral programs, which is flooding Colleges and Universities with what they perceive to be cheap labor, which now is beginning to affect welfare of academics, and which most assuredly is having an adverse impact on quality of education, is a travesty that needs to be stymied, a travesty that does not augur well for the quality of education in the United States of America. In this respect, there exists a clear policy initiative, namely, no one obtaining a non-residential PhD or Doctorate ought to be full time academic faculty at reputable Colleges or Universities. In order for this policy to be effective, clearly ratios of adjuncts to full time academic faculty ought to be regulated or standardized. Can this be done in context of a market mechanism as opposed to regulations or standards that appear ‘intrusionary’? I would hope so.

In presence of regulations and standards that mediate the profit motive as primary motive for engagement in computer and internet mediated instruction, each College or University can focus, not on profits, but on how exactly to adapt computer and internet mediated instruction to development of their reputation.

We arrive then at a better premise for engagement in computer and internet mediated instruction, namely development of reputation in research, teaching, and service, as opposed to the mere fact that non-engagement in computer and internet mediated instruction amounts to ‘leaving of easy money on the table for the competition’.

If the commoditization of education that is destroying essence of education is to be stymied for reinvigoration of quality of education in the United States, Regulators and Accrediting Bodies must, on back of credible formal theoretical research, take up the gauntlet of prescription of Regulations and Standards that induce Colleges and Universities to deviate from the profit motive to the reputation motive in their adoption of computer and internet mediated instruction for dissemination of knowledge, particularly, knowledge that inherently is contextual.

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Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos

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