Big Numbers Impress

Reports of the college and university professors who have taught MOOCs consistently cite how the teacher is impressed with having reached so many students at one time – more than the sum of their entire career. Tens of thousands or more of students. Others are impressed as well.

Soon professors will add to their resume a new category: number of students taught – just like McDonald’s (“over 500,000 students served”). A big number will surely mean a better teacher than a small number, right? Big numbers have always impressed people. But do the big numbers actually translate into anything meaningful? Or, is the number itself the total meaning?

In Lean, we prefer to process things one-at-a-time or in small batches. In teaching, this means small class sizes consisting of tens of students. This, and many other things that must be done in parallel, helps assure knowledge and learning outcomes that customers desire. In Lean, big numbers do not impress.

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