Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doing the Needful*

The free market to the rescue:
Lori Whisenant knows that one way to improve the writing skills of undergraduates is to make them write more. But as each student in her course in business law and ethics at the University of Houston began to crank out—often awkwardly—nearly 5,000 words a semester, it became clear to her that what would really help them was consistent, detailed feedback.

Her seven teaching assistants, some of whom did not have much experience, couldn't deliver. Their workload was staggering: About 1,000 juniors and seniors enroll in the course each year. "Our graders were great," she says, "but they were not experts in providing feedback."

That shortcoming led Ms. Whisenant, director of business law and ethics studies at Houston, to a novel solution last fall. She outsourced assignment grading to a company whose employees are mostly in Asia.
Apart from the obvious "can those folks grade to standard" questions, the takeaway here is that the professor doesn't have the resources to do her job.

*I see this quite often. That English - and learning models - are different in India and Malaysia and Singapore may make a difference.

17 comments:

NutellaonToast said...

yeah, but college education sux across the board. Colleges don't teach. It's awful. Who thinks 500 person lectures accomplish anything? Yet that's like 70% of al first year classes.

Substance McGravitas said...

Stimulus money!

mikey said...

All you have to do is work in a customer-facing role for a while, sales, service, support or marcom, and you'll discover that underlying this sort of thing is an inarguable truth: People born after 1975 in general cannot read or write english. They have limited vocabularies, no understanding of sentence structure and larger scale concepts like that of the paragraph utterly evade them.

So you get these emails from customers, vendors and colleagues that are just embarrassing to try to parse, and sometimes are so bad you can't even determine what they're trying to say.

I'm no education policy wonk, but I do know there's only 2 ways to teach people to communicate effectively, and that is for them to READ and WRITE. I know an awfully lot of people in their mid 30s to mid 40s who have not read a book in ten years or more, in many cases since high school. If you were going to communicate in video, I suppose it could be argued that watching movies would help you become better at that form of communication, but if you need to communicate persuasively, you need to be able to actually USE the language.

Sorry. A bit of a peeve of mine. I'm just very tired of having these people tell me that reading a WHOLE BOOK is a waste of time, or even worse that fiction is valueless, and when I send them a link to a 2 or 3 page essay or article on the web, when I see them a week or two later and ask what they thought they always tell me they just didn't have time to read something that LONG! Dood, it's what, 1500-2000 words? GAH...

Substance McGravitas said...

Prior to 1975 were people dealing with other people's writing as much? I remember working a job with a note-spike for memos which nobody read because nobody gave a shit, so nobody judged the writing. Now all workers who aren't working outdoors are expected to type a bunch of stuff when required.

So I figure the proportion's the same, we just notice it more because it's a text-driven world now.

Substance McGravitas said...

Also I figger NoT is a youngun' so there.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

People born after 1975 in general cannot read or write english. They have limited vocabularies, no understanding of sentence structure and larger scale concepts like that of the paragraph utterly evade them.

LOL, YB a H8ter?

mikey said...

People born before 1975 aren't, on the whole, frightened to death of books in general, long form fiction in particular. They tend to have a more functional grasp of the written language, including functional methodologies for increasing the effectiveness and persuasiveness of their writing.

I wasn't really thinking about it in terms of much greater workplace requirements for written communication, but you're right, that certainly does work to expose the shortcomings of the general population.

I've found that whereever it is that I'm working, I very quickly get nominated to write most correspondence and all copy. I assume that in most offices there is someone like me that gets those tasks.

I was working at a contract manufacturer in 2002 and it was decided we would put up a new website. There were 8 people in management, so we divided the site up into 8 pieces and each person was given the task of writing the copy for their share of the site - in general less than ten pages, most of which would also have images on them. At the deadline, we all got together and other than me, not one of them had written even a single WORD. It was then decided that I would write ALL the site copy. Which I didn't mind, because it's truly easier to write it from scratch than to try and edit the painful stupidity out of somebody elses copy. Plus, it's always nice to have that little pile of chips when you want an extra week of vacation or something...

Another Kiwi said...

The lack of general knowlege in my work collegues who were born in the 80's and 90's may be somewhat related. Not only do they not know who V.I.Lenin was, they don't know who J.W.Lennon was, either.

Substance McGravitas said...

It's like the grampa club in here! I will have one prunetini please, lukewarm because my teeth hurt.

Another Kiwi said...

Says S. McG, head fanboy of Burt Prelutsky

mikey said...

If only I could hire some energetic kids to get these damn kids off my lawn. I need a nap...

Smut Clyde said...

one way to improve the writing skills of undergraduates is to make them write more.

Why do they not start blogs?

We didn't have lawns when I was a lad. We used to dream of being chased off lawns.

mikey said...

DAMN, Doktor Smut, you must be freakin OLD! 'Cause they had lawns when I was a lad. They'd pay me cash money to mow them when I was a lad, being as how their precious male offspring couldn't be expected to sully their soft hands.

Smoke a couple reefers, mow expansive lawns in the golden sunshine of a northern california summer morning, get money, buy a couple tacos, some beer and gas for the scooter and be at the beach by noon.

Hell, babe, I felt like I was getting away with something...

Substance McGravitas said...

DAMN, Doktor Smut, you must be freakin OLD! 'Cause they had lawns when I was a lad.

It is upside-down there and they have dirt and the grass grows downwards underneath it.

Another Kiwi said...

My english has certainly been improved by bloggers, yes indeedy doody.
Lawns is not for the likes of me and Smut, I tell ee lawns is brought and paid for in the blood of good men working in the lawn mines week in and week out .

Dragon-King Wangchuck said...

You mow sixteen yards and what do you get?

N__B said...

You mow sixteen yards and what do you get?

Another first down and closer to red.