[iDC] duplication theory of educational value

Adrian Miles adrian.miles at rmit.edu.au
Sun Sep 18 00:02:26 UTC 2011

hi all

On 17 September 2011 00:19, Alex Halavais <alex at halavais.net> wrote:


> 1. Accreditation. You can't get a retail job without a BA. It's a
> joke, but one that isn't very funny. Accredited universities have a
> stranglehold on accredited degrees (for the moment). Opting out of the
> degree path carries substantial risk.

This is not the case in Australia where accreditation for such things
happens via the Technical And Further Education system, which is linked to
the university system but is distinct and about technical education. Having
said that I would probably want to argue that the move towards such systems
of accreditation is symptomatic of the thing I'm trying to describe. If they
don't come for the studio, they come because they have to get a licence. It
is just a variation on the theme of scarcity, mutated into a regime of

Having to be accredited is not a bad thing, but seems to have happened here
is that once an institution does this then there is a shift (which has
happened, and is happening in Australia) where compliance regimes become
naturalised as a part of the discourse of education within the university.
We become subject to what my colleague Andrew Murphie has characterised as
an 'audit culture' and education then becomes normalised to a variety of
poorly conceived (and educationally problematic) metrics. I think North
America has had this forever, it is reasonably new here. It is evidenced in
things like our 'course experience surveys' which produce a 'good teaching
scale' which involves questions such as "the teaching staff put a lot of
time into commenting on my work". This is a quantitative question
masquerading as a qualitative one. The issue is compounded where if you
think that teaching students how to critique their own work (themselves and
within their peer groups) is a better learning outcome than the teacher
being the fount of such wisdom then you either get a bad teaching score.

Given all that however, most of my students come for accreditation, even
where they may be entering professions where there is no formal
accreditation system - having a degree is not a guarantee of entry, nor
necessary. That's fine, as long as one of the things they learn along the
way is that it is not the 'licence' that matters beyond a compliance regime.
In my own areas I take this as an opportunity to shift their understanding
(a qualitative change) and not just ticking the boxes for accreditation. So
just because they come for this, doesn't mean that's all they leave with :-)

> 2. Community. It's not just the experts that you have access to--and
> to be fair, I had all of two or three substantive discussions with
> experts during my undergraduate career--it's the peers. It's easy to
> say that social media replaces this, and there are ways to structure
> online interactions so that they can provide a different kind of
> community (not better or worse, but different), but for now, there is
> much to be said for the kind of community built by sharing physical
> space. That means more than drinking coffee and talking about
> Nietzsche, it also means drinking beer and talking about life.

Absolutely, but for students in Australia this is an assumption that is more
often than not not realised. They come to university after a 6 year
secondary school experience where community is fundamental. But here most
students go to a university in their home city - they don't move to a campus
in a different state and live in college with a group who have also done
that, and they move from a school where there is active parent involvement,
they know a lot of students across subjects and classes, to a large
institution where, in many instances, they commute in, attend a large
lecture, commute home. This is not always the case, but is a common
experience. So here the issue is that students come assuming there will be
community (as this has always been their experience of education) and so in
some programs it happens (because they are small, it is nurtured) in others
it doesn't. Because they come from an experience where this is a given I
don't think (in Australia at least) this is a compelling reason for them
coming to university as they assume it will be present. The problem is that
it often isn't!

> Both of these can be replaced, but I don't think there are strong,
> easily accessed alternatives to either at the moment.

an appropriate closing
Adrian Miles
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