Thursday, May 20, 2004

More on community education

Another polytech caught running a community education course with no classes, no assessment, no exams and no final qualification at the end of it - and scamming $15 million from the government for doing so. Ho-hum. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it's the market, stupid. Underfunding tertiary institutions while demanding they operate according to commercial imperitives is simply asking them to exploit every loophole in the "bums on seats" funding model.

Though unlike twilight golf, Christchurch Polytech's self-directed computer course is at least useful. Extending basic computer knowledge to people who don't normally use them is exactly the sort of thing we have community education for. But why the hell were they getting $795 per student for a course which costs them less than $10 per student to "teach"?

The loophole has apparently been plugged, and hopefully there'll be more of a requirement for polytechs to expend resources (as in: actually teach people in a classroom) if they want to get funding. At the same time, though, this is an innovative model (people do actually learn from these things), and I've no problem at funding it at a level more in line with its cost if student participation and progress can be verified. And on the third hand, monitoring costs money, and it is cheaper and easier not to bother. Rather than paying polytechs per student to use shotgun methods, just pay someone a flat fee to develop the material, then host it on a central website and make it freely available to all. I'm sure it would be cheaper than paying every institution to develop its own material and then checking to see whether the students actually exist...