There’s a disturbing move afoot: Removing the vital call and reply learning dyad between instructor and student.  We learn by exchanging ideas in real time, not by filling in choices in an online multiple answer exam.

We
now have new textbooks being pushed into higher education that support
the semiotic without the semantic — which creates disjointed cogency
in what should be a unifying context:

Edward H. Stanford,
president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, said in an interview that
the new e-textbooks were developed based on an ethnographic
investigation of student study habits done by the company. He said the
company learned that students often do not study in a linear fashion,
but instead jump around in the text, whether in print or electronic
textbooks. “One kid in a biology class said, ‘I don’t read the chapter.
I just look at the art. If I understand the art, I go on to the next
art. If I don’t understand the art, I read,'” said Mr. Stanford. “When
he said that, it made perfect sense to me, but until he said it, I had
never thought about it that way.”

In response, the
company added more ways for students to jump around in their
e-textbooks. From any homework problem, for instance, students can
click to the relevant part of the text, or can jump to a part of their
professor’s recorded lecture that touched on that concept (if the
professor makes use of that feature).

But the selling
point to professors will most likely be the software’s ability to grade
student homework automatically. At a professor’s request, the new
e-textbooks can present a student with homework problems online, which
are graded, with the scored work sent to both the student and the
professor.

Jay Chakrapani, vice president for product
development for McGraw-Hill Higher Education’s digital group, said the
system is designed to adapt to each student’s progress, skipping to
harder questions if the student aces the easy ones. “It’s almost like a
personal trainer or personal coach, constantly steering you to
assessment items that probe you on the areas you’re weak.”

This McGraw-Hill scheme is the beginning of the end of a necessary and memeingful education.

Passing
the class is now the only merit that matters — crafting comprehension
in context by building a delicate cogency between instructor and
student has been rendered meaningless in its purposeful destruction by convenience.

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