December 1, 2017 | Academic Affairs

By Derek Stadler
I recently attended the Innovations and Disruptions in American Higher Education: Views from the Professoriate, the UFS Conference on November 3, 2017 at the CUNY Graduate Center.

The conference featured very interesting speakers on topics affecting the current and future professoriate.

One topic definitely hit home: Dr. Angie McAlister’s “How Cognitive Computing Will Change Everything”.  She demonstrated a vision of future online classes based on cognitive computing.  In it, a student completes an online course while being asked questions along the way designed to probe progress.  No doubt, the heuristic questions are based on several hundred, if not millions, of student progress scenarios.  While McAlister’s demonstration seemed modern, ideal, and simple, I couldn’t help but think about all the implications to such practice: no direct human mentoring and no classroom time.  Aren’t interactions between the instructor and student based on experience and basic needs?  Can technology see all possible situations that the human mind bases on emotion?  Also, how will technology fare against students who may fall through the cracks?  Will there be a revolt against cognitive computing in the same way that MOOCS are critiqued?  Will not students still need to be motivated to commitment and self-discipline?  How about completion rates?  Can cognitive computing pinpoint language and demographic issues common with students at an urban university?

Hopefully, all these issues will be addressed before we even begin to think of such technology as a total replacement for human interaction.

Derek Stadler is an assistant professor of Web Services at the Library of LaGuardia Community College.

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Photo: S. Pasela, UFS