Adopt a superprofessor today!

18 03 2013

Are superprofessors (i.e. the people who run MOOCs) enemies of justice in academia for faculty at all levels? You might think so by reading the results of this Chronicle of Higher Education survey of superprofessors in all disciplines:

Many of those surveyed felt that these free online courses should be integrated into the traditional system of credit and degrees. Two-thirds believe MOOCs will drive down the cost of earning a degree from their home institutions, and an overwhelming majority believe that the free online courses will make college less expensive in general.

And those savings will come from where exactly? Or then there’s this:

A number of the professors in the survey said they hoped to use MOOCs to increase their visibility, both among colleagues within their discipline (39 percent) and with the media and the general public (34 percent).

This opportunity was not lost on Mr. Sedgewick, the Princeton professor. “Every single faculty member has the opportunity to extend their reach by one or two or three orders of magnitude,” he said.

And at who’s expense will your visibility and reach improve?

I could go on for pages fisking this thing, but I won’t because I want to get to my action plan before I have to start teaching today. I propose a superprofessor education project. Everyone reading this should pick a superprofessor in their discipline and start e-mailing them immediately, explaining the employment situation at their home institutions and why they’re afraid that the widescale acceptance of MOOCs might leave them or other colleagues at their home institutions jobless.

Trust me, I’ve got two historians covered already, but I figure the more the merrier! After all, if, as the Chronicle suggests, 79% of superprofessors surveyed really do think MOOCs are worth the hype, then it’s time for the MOOC backlash to generate some grassroots hype of its own.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting any kind of harassment here. It just strikes me that an awful lot of people running MOOCs or who will be running MOOCs or who are considering running MOOCs need to learn a few things about how these courses are already playing out in the real world. This kind of reasoned dialogue can only help us all.

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4 responses

18 03 2013
undinenotofgeneralinterest

Thanks for the link (previous post), Jonathan Rees.

One of the most interesting things about that article was the graphic: 72% believe that participation in a MOOC course shouldn’t give students credit at the superprofessors’ institutions. Two-tier education? You bet.

19 03 2013
Superprofessors have a lot to learn. | More or Less Bunk

[...] wanted to follow up my call for a superprofessor educational campaign with a post about something besides academic politics [...]

19 03 2013
VanessaVaile

The MOOC generated Superprofessor syndrome is disturbing on other levels ~ cult of personality, hero worship from a distance ~ as unlikely as true rock star level might be. At least I haven’t noticed electronic keys or underwear being thrown on the state, Time spent in the company of academics should generate immunity or at least be something to be gotten past in graduate school, but many of the students in MOOCs don’t have that immunity and are susceptible.

The other, also part of direct experience, is that they are not necessarily better teachers than less famous counterparts. I saw that in Fantasy SF, all the near swooning over Rabkin and what a great lecturer he was, how lucky we were, blah, blah, blah. I would think, he’s OK but doesn’t compare with Sal Allosso (Dan’s father) as a teacher. Again, experience and exposure. Perception of the prof as a superprofessor shuts down critical thinking too. Whatever he says, the fans will insist that all must agree with.

Technology and scale aside (but not denying their importance), SPS (super professor syndrome) is bad for students, bad for learning, worse for critical thinking and not good for the SP’s themselves..

28 03 2013
“My MOOC is a pale imitation of the class I teach on campus.” | More or Less Bunk

[...] against all superprofessors, instead I want to reiterate my call for a campaign of moral suasion. Adopt a superprofessor today! And while you’re explaining to them how their choices might affect your future employment [...]

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