There is no light at the end of the tunnel.

31 08 2012

I thought I’d write a little more about this tweet of mine from a few days ago:

If you imagined that conversation ending in some kind of shouting match or fistfight, you’re about to be very disappointed. All I said was, “I prefer to spend my time doing other things.”

There was actually a brief moment in his long pitch that almost swayed me. It went something like this: “If you don’t do, they’re just going to hire some adjunct from the middle of nowhere. If you do it, we can keep control of our product and assure its quality.”

This is where I started to remember all the wonderful things that people are doing with online education out there, and I briefly wondered if I might want to do it their way too. Then I remembered that I work for the State of Colorado, which is chronically short on cash for higher education (and many other things) and that online courses in my system are nothing but a means to backfill brutal budget cuts brought about by politicians who don’t really care whether students learn anything in college or not.

Nobody teaches in a vacuum. You may be the best online educator in the world and that the money will come pouring in once you and all the other potential superstars out there prove its potential. I hate to break it to you: In the age of permanent austerity there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Apparently, my institution will be offering 30% of its courses online by the year 2020. That leaves 70% left for me to teach before retirement, or perhaps by then American higher education will have come to its collective senses.

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8 responses

31 08 2012
Rohan

Even setting aside the other problems you point to here, I’d have thought that a senior seminar would be the *last* course a department would want to offer online.

31 08 2012
Contingent Cassandra

My reaction is the same as Rohan’s: unless you have a whole online degree program, with students gaining experience in effective online interaction as well as the skills associated with the field along the way, I can’t imagine putting the senior seminar online.

I also can’t imagine handing the course over to an adjunct (a non-tenure-track full-timer, maybe, if there are multiple sections of the seminar, and (s)he can offer up-to-date instruction in a specialty the department doesn’t otherwise offer). A department that does that is, to my mind, declaring pedagogical bankruptcy.

31 08 2012
Jonathan Rees

To be fair, it’s not the department’s (or the depattment chair’s) idea. The last provost signed us up for a program intended to provide online degrees to the military without asking the department first. If you can’t get a CSU-Pueblo history degree entirely online then the university forfeits a lot of money.

Tenure may not be worth what it once was these days, but it does give me the prerogative to not make that my problem. Besides, the administration undoubtedly prefers having that class taught by adjuncts for the reasons outlined in the post above.

2 09 2012
Historiann

Well, if it was the LAST Provost, then why are you bound to hir promises? If it was done without the department’s approval, then it seems like a sit-down strike is in order.

This is what gives me hope: administrator churn is much higher than tenured proffie churn. We may be able to wait out the storm–but in the meantime, faculties have to hang together lest they will surely hang separately. I don’t believe your chair is being fully honest with you. I don’t buy the “our hands are tied” line–and who are “they” going to hire to teach a history course without hir approval or the department’s input?

The whole thing reeks of a hinky scheme, Jonathan!

2 09 2012
Jonathan Rees

You are wise in the ways of academic office politics, Historiann, but the last thing I’ll say about this in this venue is that I picked an extremely good semester to be on sabbatical.

1 09 2012
J Liedl

Wow, that’s a scary prospect. Our distance ed people have been pushing for fifteen years for us to authorize the senior seminars as online courses. We resist but the result is that determined students take the equivalent (hah!) courses from a Canadian university that specializes in online education. I’m not convinced they’re getting an equivalent experience to our students at all. . . .

On the other hand, I have taught two seminars online for various complicated reasons. It can work well but both the instructor and the student have to work really hard to keep the energy flowing and the high-level analysis sparking off of each other. Too many students try to take the easy way out and fake their way through it – the challenge is to make real skiving off impossible or as close to this as can be but that takes an enormous amount of effort on the part of the faculty.

27 09 2012
Why don’t we just cut to the chase and start selling “A”s? « More or Less Bunk

[...] administration-imposed movements towards offering an all-online history degree. [I described them here.] Perhaps my foremost objection to these efforts isn’t that these courses are going to be [...]

8 11 2012
You’re on your own, kid. « More or Less Bunk

[...] I spent much of Election Day at a training session for people in my department who will be teaching online soon. No, I haven’t changed my mind about anything. However, my friend Robert Bromber was our [...]

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