Who wants to be a superprofessor?

1 02 2013

Who wants to be a superprofessor when that requires having Coursera step all over your traditional prerogatives? Here’s Karen Head, who’s working on a Freshman Comp MOOC at Georgia Tech:

We quickly discovered that we must also negotiate with some unexpected outside constituencies. A representative from Coursera (the platform we must use) contacted recipients of the Gates MOOC grants asking all the recipients to form a collaborative led by a Coursera representative to discuss course design. While the explicit message was one of helpfulness, the implicit message felt intrusive and seemed more about Coursera’s desire to ensure a certain continuity of experience for its users…

While all university instructors are subject to certain parameters, like established regulations regarding curriculum, I have never had to concern myself with any kind of conformity of delivery.

I’m really glad she’s going to be blogging this experience at Wired Campus for the next few months as I’m really interested in MOOC design, but since failure is not an option for Coursera and the Gates Foundation I predict this will not end well from Head’s point of view.

Who wants to be a superprofessor when, according to NBC News, Philip Zelikow had to spend “hundreds of hours” preparing for a course that he’s been teaching for 16 years? I’ve seen enough of his course to know that’s accurate.

I’m not just talking about the polish of Zelikow’s lectures here. Think about it: If I want to change what history I cover, all I have to do is edit my online syllabus and talk about something different that day. Zelikow probably needs to get Coursera to change the website for him, as well as a camera crew. It would be like trying to do a three-point turn with an ocean liner.

There’s a line in that NBC News story from the amazing Siva V. that’s sure to become an instant classic:

“Imagine taking a university and removing all the really fun stuff,” Vaidyanathan said. “And all you’re left with is me talking to you through a camera. That’s not that good for anybody.”

He’s obviously talking about MOOCs from the student perspective, but the very last part of that quote suggests that this sentiment applies equally well to the superprofessors.

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4 responses

1 02 2013
Contingent Cassandra

I’m experiencing pressure toward conformity of delivery in my online (upper-level comp, bigger-than-they-should-be-but-nowhere-near-massive) classes, but the pressure is coming not from the Gates Foundation, but from our accrediting body (or, rather, I suspect, from our online learning office, which gets to decide how it will prove to our accrediting body that our online courses really do cover the same material as our face to face ones). I thought that wasn’t going to be a problem, since pretty much everybody who teaches online in my program also teaches face to face, and it’s pretty easy to show that we use the same assignments, exercises, etc. (or very close variations thereon) in both modes. But somehow we’re ending up having to conform to some common methods of delivery recommended by another foundation, and what the instructional designers think we should do, and it’s all being done in the name of assessment for accreditation.

1 02 2013
Contingent Cassandra

Come to think of it, my traditional prerogatives seem somewhat under threat in my face to face classes as well, also in the name of accreditation/assessment, and also in the direction of a greater conformity to methods and standards not actively created by the majority of the faculty involved, or even a representative sampling of those faculty. But I tend to attribute that to being a non-tenure-track faculty member who doesn’t do service in a program that is staffed almost entirely by non-tenure-track faculty members who don’t do service. Because online programs are new, and require start-up money, administrators have more leverage to shape them in the direction they’d like to see much undergrad education go. Whatever happens with MOOCs in particular and/or online education in general, that pressure will only increase, especially but not exclusively in general-ed courses.

2 02 2013
Historiann

AHahahahaha! Love that final quotation.

You might be interested in the current conversation over at Tenured Radical, in which she permits a guest post from a historian who writes about how she uses technology in her classes and why she defends the value of lectures.

30 04 2013
“You may say to yourself, ‘My God, what have I done?’” | More or Less Bunk

[…] Seriously, who wants to be a superprofessor? […]

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