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Monthly Archives: April 2013

It is argued that the rise in for-profit online courses is democratizing learning, and creating ‘accessibly, quality education for everyone who wants it’.  But there is a disturbing trend of online universities which are running merely for profit, which pride themselves on developing ‘courses like products’, outsourcing staff to cut costs and developing such a standardised degree that it can be completed as cheaply as possibly, and resold each year to a fresh new set of undergrads.

For universities to assume a total business management model is to miss the point of tertiary education entirely. We live in an age of academic inflation; to put it quite simply, when it comes to getting hired, the same level education won’t get you as far as it once would. More people are graduating from university than ever before. The same employers who were once thrilled at a Bachelor degree, might now consider an an Honors inadequate. So basically, if you’re only going to university for that piece of paper you are wasting your time.  Universities need to be able to offer more than just something to write on your resume, they need to create a space which nurtures creativity and innovation as well as equip students to think and communicate with the most powerful medium of our time. To standardise a degree is to hinder creativity and to ignore the individual. Standardised models of education do not allow humans to flourish, we need an education system that is personal, that allows individuals to develop their own solutions based on external support. Creating courses merely to extract economic benefits from people is to dislocate students from their natural abilities and create a focus on individual. We need courses that adapt to the individuals who attempt them, we need courses that challenge students and that push them

Why focus solely on the vocational, when the qualification has practically  been rendered inadequate? If all universities take such a ‘institutionally-focused pragmatism’, then surely students will adopt a similarly disinterested approach, and the result will be nothing more than a cohort of disinterested young adults with worthless transcripts. We’re creating a generation of students with only one bottom line in mind; money.  What will this mean for the future of academia? Well, if the focus on nothing more than pleasing the customer, there probably won’t be much of a future. Realistically, the current teaching generation will one day be dead, and running universities will be these students from these stock-market listed atrocities with little intention to contribute to public knowledge or political discourse.

And what about open access? The internet is the most powerful communication force that we have seen to date. We must utilise the internet to harness creativity, not hinder it. We need to use it to disseminate knowledge in a way that benefits society as a whole, not corporate greed. We need to use it to inspire invention and improvisation – to utilise online publishing in a way that previous generations could only dream of. Society thrives upon a diversity of talent. Diversity is not going to materialize through turning out cookie-cutter courses faster than the cheques can be cashed.

‘The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew” – Abraham Lincoln

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We hear that print media is dying; bleeding into the online world of citizen journalism that will eventually supersede it. Yet shockingly, amid the panic, cookbook sales are on the rise. Particularly those from food bloggers. We live in an age where for the first time ever, individuals are able to establish a writing career through self-publishing – the traditional barriers of entering the print media world seemingly gone for good. Though the startling irony is that most of these success stories will inevitably end in a book deal. Back to print media. Back to the traditional; a full circle. Look at Katie Quinn Davies, the Sydney food blogger who recently had her book published in four languages. There are many , many very similar stories.

Rather than replacing traditional journalism, such participatory media can serve as a facilitator for entering traditional editorial style journalism.  Food blogs might take the hard work out of  searching for a recipe, but perhaps won’t seem as credible, and perhaps won’t offer the same high standards of consistency in language and style achieved through vigorous editing. There is something to be said for something that has been slowly perfected, something that is finite. People can tell if something is written by a professional or an amateur.  In a fast moving world where online content can be edited and re-edited again, readers can take solace in something that isn’t going to change again. It is what it is. Perhaps this is a passing phase, perhaps this soaring of cookbook sales is merely a by-product of this so-called age of gastronomy, or perhaps, nothing will ever replace a shelf of thick, well-worn, dog-eared cookbooks that you can hold in your hands, splatter gravy upon and hand down to your daughters. And yet for now, rather than replacing traditional media, we see citizen journalism, at least in the area of food, complement it, and enrich our media environment, that is now multifaceted as much as it is democratic.