Monday, October 2, 2017

NY Times on Coding Boot Camp Closures

Recently several large coding boot camp institutes closed their doors, suggest that we may have a bursting bubble in that sector. Among them are (1) Dev Bootcamp, bought by Kaplan, with 6 schools, and (2) The Iron Yard, backed by Apollo Education (Phoenix University), at 15 campuses.

This article asserts that the average course lasts 14 weeks and costs $11,400. Some courses last 26 weeks and cost $26,000. The sector is apparently transitioning such that about half of the registrants are individuals paying on their own, and half are companies paying for employees to up-skill.

Among the difficulties are that the boot camp model only works with intense, face-to-face interactions, and therefore has difficulty scaling to modern profitability levels (contrast this with the MOOC model which seeks to cheaply automate learning for hundreds of thousands, but has failed catastrophically at trying to create success for low-skilled and remedial students). While the Flatiron School in New York has an online offering, it costs $1,500 per month, and personal instructors online throughout the day (the article includes a story of the vice president making a phone call to one panicked student).
“Online boot camp is an oxymoron,” said Mr. Craig of University Ventures. “No one has figured out how to do that yet.”

New York Times.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Thesis Defense Horror Stories

A rich assortment of STEM thesis defense horror stories of the format, "Famous professor X disproved this guy's thesis at his defense in thirty seconds". An example:
A case I know of first-hand: A doctoral student in engineering developed some powerful pattern matching theorems based on various transformations including one that was introduced in a major conference paper. At the student's defense one of the examiners pointed out an example showing that the transformation doesn't have one of the key claimed properties. The student sat silent for a minute and then simply said that his thesis is wrong. The examiners were shocked and assured him that the situation couldn't be that bad. It turned out that it was that bad and the student did not complete his doctorate. Fortunately his advisor helped him land a good job in which he has established a successful career.

Computational Complexity

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Difference Between Humantities and Mathematics

Consider the charts of Polish national high-school exit exams below.

From Imgur. Discussion on Reddit.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Matt Might on How to Get Tenure

Matt Might, faculty at U. Alabama (and several other institutions), writes on how to get tenure, or more generally, how to approach an academic career with a sense of inspiration. Key takeaway:
Life is too precious and too fleeting to waste my time on bullshit like tenure. I didn’t become a professor to get tenure. I became a professor to make the world better through science. From this day forward, I will spend my time on problems and solutions that will matter. I will make a difference.
Matt Might.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Katherine Johnson on Double-Checking

A very short clip of an interview with Katherine Johnson -- subject of the book and movie Hidden Figures -- who had her 99th birthday last week. Here she talks about John Glenn demanding, before his first spaceflight, that she double-check by hand the trajectory calculations from the digital computer in use at the time.

I feel like this might be an excellent starting point for a classroom discussion on, "Why would anyone ever want to double-check a computer calculation? How could it be wrong? Was John Glenn totally insane?" Granted that I become more and more convinced that the topic of sanity/double-checking may be the most fundamental sense-making theme that runs through all the classes we teach at a community college.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday Thought: Beginnings

Schiller in a letter to Goethe, February 5th, 1796:
I always think it better, whenever possible, not to begin at the beginning, as it is always the most difficult part.
Found in the Introduction to Numbers by K. Lamotke (Springer-Verlag, 1991).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Grade Inflation and Corporatized College

Ed Burmila has an incisive piece on how "college run as a business" inevitably promotes grade inflation and the other ills we deal with daily:
When grades are inflated, everyone appears to win. Students are happy for obvious reasons. Administrators are happy that students are staying enrolled. Teachers are happy their already hefty workloads aren’t being increased further. Yet the collective outcome — contra econ 101 — is suboptimal.

As the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded rises, employers can demand additional credentials (which universities are only too happy to offer at eye-watering prices). The only ones who benefit are those who can afford to distinguish themselves from the pack of three-point-something GPAs by buying costly elite credentials.