A weird Lancastrian method for reopening higher education

I’m not sure this could work, but everyone else is doing weird ideas, so let’s consider another one.

Remember Lancastrian methods of education from 19th century England?  Part of the idea was to keep small group size, and economize on labor, by having the students teach each other, typically with the older students instructing the younger.

Here is my suggestion: have students use an app to arrange in-person meetings, in groups of five, for periods of a few weeks running.  Social distancing and masks can be applied as conditions at the time dictate.  The app will match students on the basis of stated interests, and sometimes by other methods too, such as levels of mathematical sophistication or if you wish cultural diversity.  The app also will tell them where to meet on campus, all classes being held outside.

Some classes would be led by professors, but there are not enough professors to go around so many others would be led by the more senior or otherwise better informed students.  Professors and TAs could rotate across various groups if so needed.

All students are given free iPads, connected to campus wireless, and sometimes those iPads would serve as collective blackboards for the small groups.

Central admin. or departments could impose curricular structure in advance, or within a topic area particular assignments might be generated by “Unconference” methods, for instance the students might agree to read a particular book or essay, or to all learn a particular skill.  To the extent overseeing faculty are scarce, you can try having the students themselves finding the relevant teaching materials.  Very good groups would have the option of continuing for further weeks.

Start in August, keep on going until its gets too cold, they did it at Valley Forge and people learn in the desert and tropics too.  Many of the meetings can be short — say 45 minutes — and you can privilege the more valuable majors with locations in the shade.  Put up as many tents as you can.

Every class has a supply of back-up YouTube material, and associated testing, for when the weather is bad, or for when the semester has to end.

For the final semester grade each student writes a 20-25 pp. paper about what he or she learned through these units.  Professors and sometimes TAs would grade those papers, and do note this is not an insuperable grading burden.  It rewards the “did you learn anything useful at all?” approach, rather than “did you manage to sit and suffer through through all of your boring classes?”.

I suspect it feels too much like chaos to a university administrator, but perhaps that is an argument in its favor?

You will note that this method, for all of its learning uncertainties, has two big advantages.  First, it really does prioritize the health of everyone involved.  Second, students still have lots of contact with each other and get to enjoy some version of the campus experience.  The interactive groups might even provide a more engaging campus experience than did the status quo ex ante, keeping in mind that some schools will combine this method with the abolition or radical paring down of dorms.

Addendum: Hand out free diapers, all other plans have that issue too.


Does this App exist yet? Which App are we talking about here?

You probably don't really need an app just to arrange meetings. Let the students organize themselves over text messages.

For the sane, COVID Hysteria was shot dead over Memorial Day weekend.

How long it takes academia to wake up is anyone's guess. Fortunately, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

Which managed to beat the U.S. in daily deaths on Memorial Day.

Yes, IPS, seeing POTUS playing golf at one of his clubs without a mask twice over the weekend certainly did shoot the hysteria dead.

Not sure if I am reading this right, but I am genuinely curious. Do you think someone on a golf course should be wearing a mask?


If he has a caddy or anybody else playing with him, yes. The photos did not show others, but I am sure there was a caddy. But then, except for once briefly inside a Ford plant in Michigan, Trump has never worn a mask because, hey, he is a "real man." Gag.

I forgot, how much does me wearing a mask decrease your chances of dying?

From 0.05% to 0.04%?

We do not know, L, but indeed there appears to be some effect.

Of course, this is not at all the point. Masks are much more important for keeping the wearer from spreading it to others, not protecting themselves, although, of course, the massively selfish Trump is probably more concerned about this point that you emphasize.

Do note that nations where large portions of the population have been wearing masks have dramatically lower rates of the virus than others, with this being the case in most of East Asia. Do you want to suggest that they do better for some genetic reason?

As it is, the worst thing about Trump's conduct has been the matter of failing to set an example. There are clearly all kinds of complete idiots, many commenting here, who take him seriously. Not seeing him wearing a mask and making his silly remarks about it has certainly led to many not wearing masks who should have.

The real question, is how many thousands more will end up dying because this utterly irresponsible president has acted as he has with regard to mask wearing. We already have a serious estimate of more than 36,000 because of him delaying doing anything serious about this.

Hygiene practices are often useless but will occasionally be life-saving.

Doing them all the time, even if you cannot see the direct immediate benefit, is why they are classified as hygiene.

For what it's worth, I do a lot of things that MARGINALLY reduce my chance of dying.

What is the incentive for the brighter or harder working students to help the others?

Anyone who has ever taught someone else knows that the way to truly master a topic is to teach it to someone else.

Because you can't teach effectively by just winging it or having a half-boiled understanding or parroting what the teacher or textbook said.

Very true. Also you could pay them using the money saved by sacking faculty.

But you CAN teach effectively by parroting what the teacher or textbook said if that's what the assessment is looking for and a good grade is what the learner is looking for.

And let's be honest. That's what most students are looking for in most of their courses.

Yes, you can teach effectively just by providing grammatically correct accurate info. It helps though to have an idea of how more or less accurate it is, especially when some smart arse asks a question.

August is 2 months away. Other nations have shown effective public health measures are capable of halving the rate of daily new infections every 6 days. Even if the United States only manages to halve daily new infections every 12 days, then the Coronavirus will be contained enough for classes to proceed as normal with precautions.

The linked Wapo article below may be interesting to read - it provides a stark contrast between the American emphasis on tech and wonder weapons to beat a virus and simply following well established public health principles using already available tools.

That such basic knowledge and how to apply it has yet to seep into any American discussion months after the virus started its spread is disturbing. It is hard to imagine that the U.S. of the 1970s would be so completely inept, yet here we are, decades later, watching that ineptness from the outside, wondering how things reached such a low level. And worse, being repeatedly told that this time, it is different, with America helpless in the face of a virus.

I don't understand what happened in the United Kingdom. They went from being the Motherland to being an alien land where that can 't even mother themselves enough to stop the spread of a very bad cold. So far it has killed more British than the Blitz. It's as if after Brexit they really wanted to rub it in that they don't need Germany for anything.

I am a bit more charitable. The UK had a plan for a pandemic, based on the flu, and early on, even did a good job testing and tracing. Unfortunately, even as they began to follow that plan, it became ever more evident that SARS-CoV-2 is not influenza. Leading to changing the plan in the middle of a pandemic. Further, with Johnson falling severely ill for several weeks, just when leadership was most required to handle improvising a response, it was unavailable.

The virus takes ruthless advantage of every single opportunity to spread, in ways we continue to learn in the six months it has existed.

That really makes no sense. The Australian response to the coronavirus works against influenza -- we're expecting the best influenza season for a very long time -- and national leaders are pretty useless in emergencies. It's their role not to get in the way of the people who know what they are doing, which is why it can be a good idea to send them to Hawaii if the country catches on fire or something.

It makes sense, if you consider that the British were basically anticipating that the 'herd immunity' strategy was the best way to handle a pandemic. A strategy based on the flu, more or less - not SARS-CoV-2 .

That is, they more or less were planning to just let a disease run its course. After seeing what happened in Spain and Italy, they abandoned their plan - which did not foresee requiring large stockpiles of PPE, nor any particular need for the massive amounts of PPE that SARS-CoV-2 consumes once it starts spreading. Sadly, the virus ruthlessly exploits any gaps in PPE supply to spread further, as also seen in Spain, Italy, France, and the U.S.

PM Johnson getting sick was also a real problem. In comparison to a presidential system like in the U.S., there is not really any way to have a vice PM step in.

Essentially, the British never planned to contain a pandemic, and it was only after watching the growing catastrophes in Spain and Italy that an attempt was made to change course. Far too late by most measures, but at least compared to the U.S., the UK had a considered plan to handle a pandemic.

Your last paragraph sums up the problem with the UK's response. They didn't take enough steps that would have slowed either influenza or COVID-19 when it would have made a huge difference.

The problem with the UK is incompetent political leadership, not a quirk of the Parliamentary system. There is a lot more flexibility than replacing a president. There generally is a deputy Prime Ministers and as the PM is just the leader of the majority party, pretty much anyone can be Prime Minister. I could be Prime Minister if the majority party asked me to take up that role despite not being a member of Parliament. (No, that's not likely to happen.)

The U.S. of the 1970s managed to spend itself into a 9-year quasi-depression, the cities turned into third world hellholes, and we lost a war. Maybe "from the outside" it looked like paradise. It wasn't.

The connection between that idiotic war and spending is pretty plain - yet the U.S. of the 1970s still remembered how to follow public health concepts that were to a major extent American accomplishments.

The problem with success is that starting in the 1980s, it became far too easy to save a bit of money by cutting back in precisely those areas that no longer seemed necessary - even as we started spending more money on the military again.

Water under the bridge at this point. Though it is interesting to read how Tyler feels today's SF is no better to worse than its 1970s hell hole version.

SF in the 1960s and 1970s had very few blacks so only limited exposure to the riots and urban decay of that period. It was generally wealthy city. They had the hippies, but they did limited damage because laws were enforced (you'd go to jail for defecating anywhere but in a toilet) and they were kind of cute.

Today's SF has been ruined by idiotic laws that empower the homeless and C&C (criminals and crazies) and disempower ordinary citizens. The city is even wealthier because of the tech industry, but is very unpleasant to visit because of the filth and petty crime.

Yes, this. I have no idea if it is a good or bad idea to adopt these methods but it has really nothing to do with the virus. Given the MO of this virus it is hard to envision a reality in which the required safeguards would prevent schools opening normally in the fall.

When I saw "Lancastrian method" I thought Tyler was referring to Kelvin Lancaster's Theory of the Second Best.

But maybe Tyler's idea is indeed Second Best, if constraints rule out regular teaching in the classroom.

I suspect it feels like another one of those ideas that takes so long to implement that we will have completely forgotten why we started even before it collapses in a bureaucratic pile of crap

But it keeps the pundit churn index high, which is all that counts.

Ha, yes, I feel that way about nearly every Covid-related scheme I read about, though my temperament, perhaps akin to that problematic fatalism - "someday this will be just another part of our DNA, prolly what makes us human" - referred to in a recent post - may be the issue.

Even less learning takes place outside than the already negligible levels that take place indoors.

It's uncomfortable sitting on the ground and stuff and too distracting. I remember having class outside a few times in college. It's pointless. Of course growing up kids always loved the rare times we had class outside, because no work got done.


I fear you make a good point.

Tyler has an interesting idea, and maybe it will get taken up at some smaller liberal arts colleges, but probably not elsewhere, for better or worse.

This is like hiring a personal trainer who doesn't show up but charges you full price anyway, as you and your fellow clients try to figure out some exercises to do on your own, without any gym equipment.

All these alternative schemes suffer from the problem that universities want and need to keep charging the same tuition as before, while delivering a very different experience. Students would be better off taking a gap year and studying something on their own: maybe a language, maybe computer programming, maybe learning a useful craft or manual skill from watching YouTube videos.

All of these proposals seem to focus on how to resume classes. I doubt many students would be contracting the virus in class.

The problem is parties, where students will be close together, speaking loudly, and intoxicated (and so less likely to take any precaution). You aren't going to have students back without them having parties, even if you close down dorms. And good luck trying to ban parties.

You are better off isolating students from the outside world as much as possible. That probably means keeping faculty and administration remote, and any staff who have significant contact with students replaced with student workers. And then you periodically randomly test a sample of them and do contact tracing (which will largely be asking what party they were at). Several months out with guaranteed orders, getting tests shouldn't be that difficult, especially as many universities have labs themselves.

"That probably means keeping faculty and administration remote": I'm sure that many universities are half way there already.

Can you imagine Americans complying with such a regimen and giving accurate information? I don't think I'm atypical in saying that I don't know what I had for lunch yesterday, much less who I saw for 15 minutes or more in the two days before my (hypothetical) symptoms appeared a week or two ago.

'Can you imagine Americans complying with such a regimen and giving accurate information? ' In the 1970s (to connect the two threads)? Absolutely. Those Americans would have been familiar with polio, and its eradication due to concerted effort on the part of public health authorities less than two decades beforehand.

And if you do not know what you had for lunch yesterday, that does not sound like a general problem of Americans.

Tyler, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has used the older-senior-teaches-the-younger-junior-learner model for millennia.

Wearing masks is one thing, but who is going to be willing to wear diapers or bring their own chamber pot to deal with the problem of keeping bathrooms clean and uncongested?

I’m seeing many indications that peak “new normal” has crested and outside of the nursing homes in a few mismanaged states, the Kung Flu is the same as the old flu. It will take a while for MR to catch up.

Exactly right.

And MR will keep the blinders firmly in place until November 3.

Both of you clearly are paying way too much attention to the wrong sources. The kicker for states that continue to have rising or non-falling cases of covid-19 is having meat production facilities, not nursing homes. All states have nursing homes, you fools.

"Mismanaged states"? Here are some with growing cases: Alabama, Arizona, Minnesota. Here are some with numbers pretty flat: Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota (although if one visits the state website for SD they show a supposed trend line going down that is supposed to give us negative numbers now, with that trend depending on four days of especially high numbers early in May, which if removed leaves a pretty flat line, although the governor of that state has probably said more stupid things about this than any other, of course getting her lots of attention on Fox News).

Oh, here are the "mismanaged states" that had rising case levels over this past weekend: Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Geoirgia, Sout Carolina, North Dakota, North Carolina, and Virginia. I suspect, guys, this is not the set you thought it would be.

Do students today not form study groups? I had a few during my undergraduate years, but in law school study groups were as common as the Socratic method by professors for teaching law. Students taught each other not only in independent study groups but in class too! I know, a celebrity professor today is as likely to use the Socratic method as she is to cook dinner for the students.

The law hasn't been worth studying for decades.

I gotta say, I don’t even see why an in-person professor is necessary in these lecture classes, and frankly, neither does Western Governors University. The lectures aren’t totally pointless, but the real learning is always done via some combination of individual study and study groups.

Here is Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and president of Purdue University, acknowledging that the risk of re-opening his school in the Fall is to the faculty not the students: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-we-have-a-responsibility-to-open-purdue-university-this-fall/2020/05/25/da3b615c-9c62-11ea-ac72-3841fcc9b35f_story.html I can relate to that risk (most college faculty members are younger than I am). But what Daniels doesn't acknowledge is that college students have a life beyond the campus, and that students infected on campus, many showing no symptoms, will spread the virus to their families and beyond. Daniels is willing to take that risk in order to preserve his university, and he should acknowledge not ignore it. Students returning to campus in the Fall may become the Fall super spreaders.

CDC is now saying there is very little risk from someone not showing symptoms. Hope that's true.


YOu had better provide a source on this. I just checked, and while transmission rates may be lower from asymptomatic individuals, saying there "is very little risk" is not what I see in latest CDC publications. This looks like rank bs on your part, TMC.


The closest it gets to what TMC says is "we don't know."

Unless he has a better link?

Isn't this a fine-tuned version of what is nowadays called "Problem Based Learning"? A couple of universities have adopted this starting in the 70s: https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/education/why-um/problem-based-learning

If the students are close enough to meet in person the only housing situation that allows it is the dorms, by and large. If they're in the dorms again, any other aspect of college can only be more sanitary. This proposal seems to entirely miss the underlying practicalities of University life.

The wealthy already use something like this, it’s how a lot of non-exam focused tutoring works, just with recent HS grads (ie college students) instead of seniors

It’s the Uni TA system, too

I just walked by a TV and the head of the NYSE was talking about precautions they are taking to reopen the trading floor.

That seems a sign to me that we have transitioned from a dynamic and inventive society to a quaint one. Because obviously the NYSE doesn't need a "trading floor" in 2020. NASDAQ proved that long ago.

I say we should stop being quaint, or making bs excuses, and just invent our future (in education or commerce).

In education I suggest more open source platforms, and fewer teachers making it up on Zoom.

Let's remake Tomorrowland, with a better middle, and a better end.

We don't have a greater villain than our own complacency, and we don't need a bigger ending than everyone welcoming change.

It shouldn't take an Elon Musk level madman to buck the status quo. The GM electric car should have been it.


Ok Boomer. Let’s wave away the reality of Public Choice and pretend we live in a society where incentives don’t matter.

“Hey, I’ve seen this one before!”

If "public choice" means to you "we can never be better" (1) that sounds more like bitter boomer to me, and (2) you need a better framework.

Ask an innovator (tm).

(In my retirement I'm less cutting edge. My work is no longer being picked up by Sun Labs or the National Center for Supercomputing Applications .. but 70-some random punters have downloaded my Thingiverse designs this month. At the margin of innovation that's not nuthin'.)

Bragging about unverifiable things on the internet. Ok....Boomer. Link or it didn’t happen

Every group faces incentives, and we see the equilibrium. Housing crisis is not caused by lack of construction technology. It’s caused by you.

Now imagine every group faces incentives just like you do, blocking progress and development in their own small piece of the world in order to preserve their society damaging rent seeking scheme.

The US is you making building housing illegal writ large on the national stage.

Incentives. Public choice.

You are such a butt-hurt loser.

The proper response, in a Tommorowland framework, is to celebrate all innovation, and not get hung up on your personal issues.

But you can't do that, because to you, you comment squabbles are more important that innovation, good government, pandemic, anything.

That is *your* public choice.

You do realize that very little trading actually happens on the NYSE trading floor anymore, not for many years. It's mostly like a film set or a museum where TV reporters can gather sound bites for news reports about the economy with a suitably imposing backdrop. Those same news reports often incorporate a few seconds of some random folks doing a bell-ringing ceremony photo op.

All the better reason to make it an Annex of the Smithsonian, amiright?

In my experience "Peer Instruction" is set up primarily when the university wants to save money by not paying a professional. I have seen some studies of the outcomes of this kind of thing and they usually show that students do not learn as much as they would from a traditional instructor. Though, actually, the students who do the teaching show a significant amount of improvement.

Most students just do not have the mastery of the subject needed to be effective instructors for their peers.

As a caveat, this is based on what I know from the sciences and engineering. Perhaps the situation is different in the humanities.

It tends to be an emergent behavior on MOOCs, where students wish to demonstrate their expertise. It can also be gamified there, making good answers worth points towards a grade.

That worked for me back in the 3rd grade and study groups in college. It might work generally.

You forgot to mention the crucial role of the ancient Lancastrian martial art of Ecky Thump...

Higher education is fucked for the foreseeable future. Despite all their brain power, academics have a weakness for just following orders and doing what they're told. Uni won't open any time soon and when they do it'll be with this social distancing bullshit. Better get used to enjoying teaching from your laptop unless you feel like moving to a third world country that isn't subject to the fearmongering pressure of the mainstream media where people are actually living normal lives despite the fake "pandemic"


What is with you morons claiming "fake 'pandemic'"? This one has now killed more people in the US than all our wars since Korea did.

The Flu does that pretty much every year... 60-80,000 deaths is normal.

This is increasingly looking like a botched response on the part of a few governors, for which we are all paying.


That is for a whole year. Covid-19 has surpassed that in four months and still going. Also, your talk of "a few governors" suggests you have not checked on where cases are currently rising most rapidly. No, it is not all those naughty blue states with huge cities, some of which did stupidly send patients to nursing homes to ill effect. It is places likek Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Florida, oh, those kinds of governors.

I wish I could imagine my students embracing this and doing a good job. I make them do group projects every semester, because I keep thinking that they can teach each other if they work together. Good chemistry seems more the exception than the rule.
I have strong students who might embrace the teaching idea, but my concern is that the weak students would either not show up or would put in no effort.
If "Robby" writes a bad paper that deserves an F at the end of the semester, he may not have had feedback and the faculty will have a hard time being fair. The incremental grades of a normal faculty-directed class allow many chances for the worst students to see that they are not performing well enough to get a good grade. Thus, if they fail the class, there is a paper trail for the faculty to point to. "You failed the first exam and you did not hand in homework on most weeks... therefore it is obvious where the fault lies..."
Naysaying aside, it's an appealing idea and it's a way to keep groups small.

I have always thought this model would have been a better way for the Thiel Fellowship to make a maximum impact and disrupt the typical university system. With someone with Thiel's celebrity and network you could create a new university model where instead of students taking multiple subjects at a time, you break down the year into three segments and during that time they dive deep into a single issue. You would have each segment led by a academic professor or real world adjunct and have all grade levels participating in the same academic project. You could also take these course global so through a Thiel University you could spend an entire trimester with your cohort in Greece learning "Greek history and philosophy". It would align closely with Tyler's advice on learning about a topic by reading multiple different books at once about that topic. A truly deep dive into one subject matter would be stronger for knowledge building and also teach skills more useful for the eventual workplace.

Do we know why the Lancastrian methods got relegated to the history books? That's seems to be a crucial but missing detail.

That happened quite a long time ago. Its heyday was between about 1800-1830, basically two centuries ago, and then it pretty much went away.

That might work for a very tiny number of students who value learning. However, school is not about learning, it is about getting good grades. Just as Paul Graham wrote in his December 2019 essay, 'The Lesson to Unlearn'. It is the good grades that are rewarded regardless of any incidental knowledge. Are student going to welcome having their more than a decade of training in how to get good grades being upended? They've been conditioned to listen, pull out what will be on the test, and reproduce it. To read outside the syllabus is to risk learning too much nuance to choose the right answer on the test. To go in-depth after the test is taking time away from the nest class, next test.

It might be a good change, but it is a century+ cultural change for schooling. A cultural change that Ed Leamer in a recent Econtalk described as needed in "intellectual services" of education. The propose methods here may be useful for moving in that direction, but that's not what the students expect. They expect good grades and credentials.

"But, I want to go to the other end of the spectrum, which is intellectual services. It used to be, if you wave your Bachelor's degree, you're going to get a great job. When I graduated from college, it was a sure thing that you'd get a great job. And, in college, you'd basically learned artificial intelligence, meaning, you carried out the instructions that the faculty member gave you. You memorized the lectures, and you were tested on your memory in the exams. That's what a computer does. It basically memorizes what you tell it to do.

"But now, with a computer doing all those mundane, repetitive intellectual tasks, if you're expecting to do well in the job market, you have to bring, you have to have real education. Real education means to solve problems that the faculty who teach don't really know how to solve.

"And that takes talent as well as education."

Real education means to solve problems that the faculty who teach don't really know how to solve.

Which pretty much by definition means they don't know how to teach it.

No, Roger, it means that in real life people face problems neither they nor their faculty could foresee. So good education helps them be able to think clearly and well with more knowledge of various things they would not have had without their education in order to deal with these unforeseeable problems.

Guess you have not learned very much, too bad.

Your oh-so-superior insult suggests that I have struck a nerve.

Your characterization of "good education" sounds wonderful. However, I suspect that in practice it will be, "we will teach what is important in our discipline today and we will try to get you to think. But since we can't assess that, we will assess how much of what we tell you you have remembered at the end of the semester, or how well you have put together a paper or done a project."

Admittedly, those will have some correlation with the ability to solve new problems.

You miss the point of the Leamer quote. In the past, schools showed the graduate had successfully passed tests. But over time, that became tests of "game show" knowledge. But in today's environment, the graduate needs to be able to synthesize knowledge to solve problems not taught. This was always true for some disciplines and for the most successful graduates, but there was space for the "quoter", the techhead. But the latter have been overtaken by computers. "Mr. Memory" is no longer a draw to the crowd or sought by the employer. Mr. Google took his act.

I completely agree that it would be wonderful to teach students "to synthesize knowledge to solve problems not taught." I also think it would be wonderful to teach students how to make their relationships work. Or how to lead a satisfying life. But I don't think we know how to teach any of those things.

The bathroom conundrum is something that really needs more attention. Whether the risk is there or not, it will put a damper on any activities that require going away from a "safe" (e.g. home) bathroom for more than a few hours. I haven't seen this discussed much, but I think it's a big issue. Everything from lots of skin contact surfaces to high pressure flushing toilets and air dryers blasting droplets around.

In sum: More TA's, but without the knowledge or compensation or toilets.

Related, I'm wondering if the Colorado College model (block courses for 4 weeks at a time each) might catch on, since it's easier to split the semester into modules, and you're only exposed to the same people all at once.

I know that a number of colleges are considering that sort of block calendar. AFAICT none have adopted it yet, probably because it requires more changes in scheduling, faculty contracts, etc. than can be rushed through in a summer.

Like Colorado, Cornell College shares its name with a more well-known university -- and also uses the block calendar. AFAIK those are the only colleges in the US that have this sort of calendar. But some college in Canada adopted it, at least for awhile and I read an article that said Australian colleges are thinking about it (or already have started adopting it?).

I would not want to do this for five college courses today. I certainly would not want to do this as a college-aged student.

You will not find any females willing to go anywhere if they can't go to a regular bathroom while they are there.

I have no idea what the colleges should do for the fall. I would say that to be willing to pay to attend things couldn't be too different than normal. If they were, I think many students will decide to just take a year off. There's so much money involved and you really need to absorb the material at this level.

Actually, jersey, most surveys suggest that the vast majority, in excess of 90%, want to go back to school as normal, even if this may be unwise or foolish on their part. I saw a figure of 40% would take a year off if everything will be online, which is not what Tyler is proposing here, of course.

I can't blame the kids for just wanting to go back this September as usual. In many if most places in the country it will probably seem like a reasonable risk based on what is happening in August, which I suspect will be not much.

But who can predict what will happen between September and next May? A country-wide second wave that's worse than the first, with many new hotspots, is entirely possible. With no treatments or vaccine we lack the ability to protect ourselves in any way besides lockdowns and social distancing. It seems impossible to plan yet plans must be made. I'm sure glad that I'm not involved personally in any of this. There is no certainty of a highly effective vaccine by the 2021-2022 school year either.


You are right that we do not know what will be happening in August, and those even guessing like you are out to lunch. Look how much things have changed in the last three months. How many people were foreseeing that?

We have an incredible range of possibilities. It might be that some of the more ridiculous sounding forecasts by Trump will turn out true: the virus will just "magically disappear" all over the world in the next few weeks, and everything will be almost back to normal by August. OTOH, we might have a 1918 style second wave, which was much larger than the first, with everything shut down and all bets off.

The problem is for uni admins, whom I usually am not a fan of, that they must make decisions now in the face of this truly massive uncertaintly. I am glad I am not in their shoes.

By the way - one of the tremendously annoying truths about using youtube or vimeo materials for class back up is link rot. I spend a lot of time updating urls every semester. Often enough perfectly respectable museums (I'm glaring at you, Getty) overhaul their whole websites, breaking every technique link I had.

Prenda is more or less doing this with K-8 kids, and it is amazing to watch what humans do with freedom.

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