Measuring learning and the Gov’t

*Warning: my thoughts on all of this continue to change and be re-formed. So this is probably the first of many thoughts on the subject.*

“It is one thing to measure how much time a student spends in a classroom; it is quite another to measure how much the student learned.” – Blair Dowden

That quote comes from this Inside Higher Ed article.  If you’re a part of higher education in America, especially if you’re a part of online learning, you’re undoubtedly aware of the new legislation requiring each institution to register with each state where they have a student.  Each and every state.

As you might imagine, this is causing much turmoil.  Higher ed institutions are trying to figure out what this really means.  They are calling their state DOE offices and getting mixed messages.  Many states can’t handle the extra work this requires and many others don’t even know what to do with the requests.

Then there’s the potentially more damaging issue of defining a credit hour for everyone.  There’s no way this will go over well for any class that is not fully face-to-face.  And I’m not aware of an institution where this is the one type of class offering (face-to-face) that is not shrinking.  Higher education has been trying to find ways to offer courses and programs in similar ways as the past, and trying to meet expectation and need with innovation and new ways of taking classes.  And trying to do all of this with less.

So, how will the government “measure” learning?  The only way they know how: tie it to money.  I wonder if this is one step closer to pushing institutions to the point of rejecting federal dollars for their students?  If so, won’t that further restrict access to higher education?  Having the government try to measure learning is problematic at best.  Education isn’t business.  Controlling what students learn isn’t science.  Teaching and learning is a relationship, not a transaction.  Treating the process, and the institutions that have made it their purpose, as a transaction will only leave everyone involved dissatisfied and even disillusioned.

I’m not trying to go all political here, but doesn’t this really tie the hands of higher education with respect to teaching what and how they want, and then limit those who have access to education of their choice?

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