As I was reading this article, I found myself jotting down a number of notes in the margins. I suppose that means that Tresman's work really resonated with me or that some of her comments hit a nerve.
Starting with the hit nerve: In the early portion of this article, Tresman discusses the theoretical work she is using to frame her discussion. She points to Ball's work on the "market economy" approach, including a critique on the notion that "educational problems can be solved by technological means." A number of articles refer to these "educational problems," but few elaborate on what these are. What problems are we hoping to solve by implementing technological solutions? Is there a common list that educators are working from? Is this notion constantly changing and evolving? In the 1930s, Dewey was talking about the inadequacies of education. Are we still dealing with the same issues? (I would imagine not.) Tresman concludes this section by arguing that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. She states, "Careful observation and analysis of what is actually happening within a given institution, can lead to a theory that is both relevant to a given institutional context, rather than that of the government."
Continuing with the market economy approach, Tresman highlights the assumption that students are customers/consumers. She questions the idea that consumers "are the best judges of their educational needs and how these should be met." How do students know what they need? They often do not have any experience in a particular area and are not aware of the work that may be relevant to it. If students did have the experience and knowledge, then why would they even need education? While I agree with Tinto's assessment that educators should make students' needs a priority and create a rich learning experience, I do not think that students always know what is best for them or what they really want/need. As many retailers have discovered, young people are a fickle market - what's hot today is passe tomorrow.
In the section, "The Student Learning Journey," Tresman asserts, "All higher education institutions regard student dropout as an issue." It is interesting how quickly things change. When I was an undergraduate, it was a source of pride to weed out students. In fact, the professors in some of my course we repeatedly state that they intended to create an environment where students either dropped or flunked out. I suppose that is what happens when education becomes a business - those undergraduate dollars are what fuels the institution and now have purchasing power.
The last section that was of interest was Tresman's discussion of "rescue strategies" designed for those students who have to interrupt their studies. She proposes that these individuals would be able to carry forward earned credits if they decided to "recommence their work within a reasonable period of time." This statement reminds me of the article that appeared in the October 29, 2007 issue of the Arizona Republic (the one that includes the quotes by Curt). This article discusses a new system implemented at Rio Salado College where courses started every week. While the Arizona Republic article does not specifically refer to stopping and starting courses mid-stream, it and the one by Tresman both do refer to a more flexible model of education. While this many be beneficial for students, how does this work for the instructor? It seems like these revolving door logistics (student in class - student not; one students signs up for class; next week another one starts, etc.) would be mind boggling.