(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)
I remember first reading an article about quantum computing in 1984. It was in a random tech magazine I had purchased in the Miami airport as my wife and I waited for a flight to Argentina (where we were headed to live for a year). To be honest, I had just learned my first lines of Basic and the article was over my head. But I do remember thinking at the time that quantum computing might become something really big decades down the line.
So, fast-forward to 2022, when IBM announces that it expects its quantum supercomputers to run at 4,000-plus qubits by 2025. Here’s how IBM researcher Jay Gambetta describes the advancement:
In the last few years, we’ve seen the emergence of AI-centric supercomputers, where CPUs and GPUs work together in giant systems to tackle AI-heavy workloads. Now, IBM is ushering in the age of the quantum-centric supercomputer, where quantum resources — QPUs — will be woven together with CPUs and GPUs into a compute fabric. We think that the quantum-centric supercomputer will serve as an essential technology for those solving the toughest problems, those doing the most ground-breaking research, and those developing the most cutting-edge technology.
Okay, so it’s more likely that a university in the U.S. will be charging more than $100,000 in annual tuition before quantum computers make it into the supercomputing mainstream. Bryan Alexander provides this information in his update on a prediction for tuition prices he made in 2018.
As of today, USC’s official financial aid page declares its annual cost to be $85,648 ($75,576 if you live with family, and “[a]dd $450 New Student Fee for your first semester.”). Harvey Mudd now charges $82,236. U Penn is $85,738 ($83,134 if living off-campus, $70,558 if you live at home). Amherst: $80,250. Tufts: $84,600 ($74,600 for commuters). Dartmouth costs $83,802, Brown $83,683, Northwestern $87,804, University of Chicago $82,140, and Wellesley $81,000. So they’ve crossed over from the 70s into the 80s.
This underlies Inside Higher Ed’s article last week that explained how U.S. universities, having held tuition prices steady during the pandemic, were now raising them again. This has led some, like Phillip Levine, an economics professor at Wellesley College, to argue that the pricing and the opacity around total costs and financial aid options are hurting students and their families, and the institutions themselves.
And all of this at a time when Americans are saying that the biggest barrier to higher education is the cost. Surely the cost of attending college hasn’t contributed to the 39 million students who have left college without earning a credential? Say it ain’t so!
On the bright side for higher education institutions, provided they can figure out the cost conundrum, is that the current housing boom could put more Americans in a babymaking mood. Come on Class of 2040!
Since no week would be complete without some hyped news about the promises of the metaverse, we also had Mark Zuckerberg showing us how Meta’s next mixed reality headset will work. For anyone interested in reality and some useful information on opportunities for education in the Metaverse, you might want to check out Stephen Downes’ recent presentation.
Finally, David Wiley asked an important question last week: Why is it so hard to improve student learning? The short answer: because it means changing the way we currently do things. Oh, and Tim Stahmer, in his review of a post on how much homework students should be doing, asks some all-important questions: “Why should kids be required to do school work at home in the first place? What is the value of homework? Where is the research, or any kind of evidence, showing this kind of assignment actually improves learning?”
Education, Educational Technology, and Learning Design
Technology and Culture