Sunday, March 22, 2020

Online instruction at UW-Madison

The local paper reports on the progress made at UW-Madison, which switches to online courses only for the remainder of the semester starting tomorrow.

The number of students claiming to not have sufficiently good internet at home to allow for streaming  video strikes me as much too high - probably some selective survey response / non-response going on there (though of course no survey response rate is provided in the article).

The university further complicated things a couple of days ago by pushing faculty pretty firmly to start doing their online teaching from home.

It will be interesting to see the lasting effects of this sudden mass payment of the fixed costs associated with online instruction by both students and faculty. Clearly, some courses in the arts and the hard sciences really do need to be conducted in person if possible. Others, like many chalk-and-talk lecture coureses in economics, really do not need to be done in person.

And of course, once lectures go on line, one starts to wonder why we don't just have a few really good lecturers make the videos rather than having local lecturers of heterogeneous quality make them. Does it really make sense for thousands of faculty with highly variable talents in public speaking to prepare, say, introductory econometrics courses every semester? I suspect that some painful efficiency gains await in the (now nearer) future.


don said...

You've lived too close to a university campus for too long. Here in the suburban fringes our best available internet speed has not increased in almost two decades: 8Mbps down and 0.8Mbps up. It's adequate for one person to stream, but not for two people in the same household to do so at the same time. Once the students move out of the dorms and back into their parents houses I would not be at all surprised for many to have connection issues.

econjeff said...

Wow ... you're living history out there in the woods. I just did a speed test and we have 143 down and 20 up.