Over at the GlobalScholar Blog, I commented on Jay Mathews’ piece about great teachers vs. great buildings. Mathews is right that instructional quality matters the most, but as several links and quotes in my entry show, we can’t neglect buildings, either.
Oddly enough, Mathews’ article – and the support/criticism of some of his points – are an argument for increasing online and distance education efforts because they nearly eliminate overhead on structures, grounds and upkeep.
The public education system is notoriously bad [read as "slow, ineffecient and ineffective"] at taking developments in the private sector and translating them into working practices. There’s a practical example right under education’s nose.
Consider online poker rooms, which bring gaming into one’s home [for the purposes of this discussion, ignore morality arguments and gaming privacy/safety/integrity arguments]. Walking from the bedroom to the living room is a shorter and cheaper path than the driveway to the local casino.
Before the financial transaction legislation that hamstrung the industry, online poker rooms brought to gamblers:
Flexibility – the ability to play cards from anywhere, anytime. No commutes, no overhead [other than the monthly fee to their ISP that they were paying anyway]. Total comfort.
Efficiency. Live poker play gives about 20 hands per hour; online play gives about 60 hands per table, per hour. Most serious players are on a few tables at a time.
Cheaper for the consumer. Poker operates on something called the rake, which is a percentage of each hand that goes directly to the casino. Live, brick-and-mortar facilities have overhead that includes paying a dealer for each table, a never-ending list of physical plant construction/maintenance, etc. Online poker rooms just have an IT team that ensures secure software – and then that software is verified as secure by independent gaming authorities.
Live rake is usually 10% of each hand with a cap of $5; online rake is, at its worst, about 5% with a cap of $3. For players, that means more money staying in players’ pockets – and because of the efficiency [3x more hands per hour] and low overhead, the online room can afford such a friendly setup.
Captures the basics. There are certain charms to live play – the sounds, the conversations, the pace of the game. Right now, those elements can’t be replicated by online gaming. The essence of the game, though – the strategy, the skill, the luck – is captured accurately. There are few sectors that innovate, analyze and restructure at the pace of gambling entertainment [hop to Las Vegas if you don't believe me], so I have no doubt that within 5 years, online gambling will inch even closer to an experience that a stale, no-talent Ed.D. might call “authentic.”
Some folks get this [consider IndianMathOnline and GlobalScholar, for example]. They realize that significantly less overhead means that it’s easier to commit to and reward better instruction – and the savings, like friendlier rake, is passed on to the consumer.
Others are stuck in a debate about how much and how best to bloat property taxes and capital projects.
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