By Hira Iqbal
You either have to be living under a rock or not be on the LUMS Discussion Forum to know somewhat of the great Nearpeer controversy. We have the motion, that Nearpeer is out to get us, our children, and everything we love, and will destroy the ideals that LUMS holds dear. And the opposition’s claim stands to be that Nearpeer is actually not all that bad.
So what exactly is Nearpeer? Essentially this: People who have done TA-ships in the past, or are doing TA-ships on certain subjects make video tutorials on the subject and on solving past exams and quizzes. For a certain fee, one can obtain access to a “module”, and there are about 3 modules to an entire course. Some courses are offered free of cost.
What’s the controversy? Essentially this: Why should students pay extra to access information that should already be available to them? Why should TA’s milk extra money out of the system when it’s already their job to aid us and they’re already paid to do it? Why should people who are able to pay gain an advantage over those unable to do so? And finally, if we rely on past quizzes to get us through courses (given that instructors have a tendency to repeat questions) then are we really learning anything at all?
To all of this, the defendants of Nearpeer offer retorts. Firstly, if you’re already paying so much in tuition, it’s unlikely that the charge of 350/- per module will seem like a lot (amounting to an average of 1050/- per course). Furthermore, they say that we also spend money on other educational resources, such as course-packs – the price average of which is about 450-500 rupees – and Nearpeer, at the end of the day, is another educational resource. Claims have arisen that the only TA’s that are currently working as TA’s for the subjects they offer on Nearpeer made their videos before the start of the semester. Additionally, as part of the Nearpeer contract, TA’s are not allowed to market their courses. Another point which must be noted is that whilst Nearpeer is compared to “cram schools” and tuition centers of the sort that kids go to in their O/A Levels, it is at the end of the day a business idea with a profit motive and people do have the freedom of choice to either avail this service or not. You can choose to be against rote learning via the use of past papers and quizzes, but if another person chooses to go down that route, you can’t put them or the service down.
Things got pretty heated eventually, with sound reasoning being offered from both sides of the argument. But at the end of the day, what do we have, really? People with strong viewpoints, a great debate (which some people found interesting, thought provoking, or simply amusing), letters to the VC (bringing out the big guns), and a topic that will eventually die down, much like the famed Sibtain Haider phase.
So at the end of all this, what did Nearpeer have to say?
- An interview with Shahrukh Swati, founder Nearpeer - March 5, 2016
- The Great Nearpeer Debate - March 1, 2016
- Politics and Islam in Pakistan: The Structure of Public Reasoning - February 27, 2016