September
3rd 2009
Hooray! A win for the good guys.

Posted under: happy endings, jobs, students

facultyprocessionalLet’s all give the faculty of the University of Illinois a round of applause for standing up for academic values over commercial values!  They shut down their bogus online “global campus” via Inside Higher Ed.  (Paging Baa Ram U. “global”:  are you listening?  Good…)

The initial vision for Global Campus was akin to that of the most successful of private for-profit institutions: The project would appropriate syllabuses and course materials from its professors, reorganize them into its course management system, then hire outside instructors totally off the tenure track to teach. But that plan was rejected by the faculty senate at each of the three campuses. The professors insisted on a not-for-profit model that would not seek independent accreditation and would offer courses through existing programs on the university campuses; they also insisted on supervising their courses.

While it made economic sense to take course content from top-flight professors and hire outsiders to deliver it for less than half the price, it did not make pedagogical sense in the eyes of the faculty, Burbules said. “Teaching is not a delivery system, and I think most faculty were just not interested in giving up their course content to be ‘delivered’ by adjuncts with whom they might have little to no contact,” he said. “…You can’t divorce the syllabus from the delivery.”

Read that second sentence in the first paragraph again:  The project would appropriate syllabuses and course materials from its professors, reorganize them into its course management system. . .  What the heck does that mean?  Oh, I guess it means that the project would appropriate the years of education, training, and expertise of its regular faculty, deny them ownership of their intellectual property, and then sell their syllabi and “course content” to people whose primary contact will be an adjunct hired to answer “student” e-mails.  Gee, I wonder why the faculty didn’t just love this “business model,” which is a means by which the university profits from their expertise without paying them, and then exploits the underpaid labor of the adjunct  Awesome:  it’s a management twofer!

A very smart neighbor and friend of ours recently finished his undergraduate degree through a combination of on-line and traditional courses.  He told me that although the on-line courses saved him a lengthy commute to and from campus and long evenings in class after his full-time job, he said that there was no comparison to having a faculty member and other students in the room in real time in a traditional college classroom.  What are on-line students getting for their money, anyway?  No access to a library, no access to other campus facilities–it seems like a college experience sold by a carnival barker or a snake oil salesman.  I think there is value in the way education has traditionally been done in universities, and faculty will follow the on-line frenzy down the rabbit hole at their own peril.  I know that many of you have taught on-line classes, mostly for the money–and believe me, I get that, and I’d be interested in hearing from you about your experiences.  My instinct is that if we follow the logic of on-line courses as outlined by the University of Illinois experiment, they have the power to further weaken if not destroy the notion of regular faculty and tenure.

Oh, and one more thing:  think twice before you post your syllabi and PowerPoint slides on-line, friends, even (or especially?) if it’s just through a software program or server at your own university and/or visible only to your students.  Just because they don’t pay us well doesn’t mean our work doesn’t have value.  It’s a jungle out there.

43 Comments »

43 Responses to “Hooray! A win for the good guys.”

  1. Dr. Crazy on 03 Sep 2009 at 8:12 am #

    I agree that faculty need to have control over their course content, and I applaud the faculty at U of I for resisting the demand to farm out courses. On the other hand, I think there is a middle ground between “online is bad” and “online is great!”

    I teach one course online, mainly because it’s a way of having a more manageable schedule on a 4/4 load. But to do it well (and it’s been a HUGE learning curve) has been something that I’ve been committed to, and it involves 1) real-time interaction with the students as a class in chat; 2) asynchronous class interaction through a blog; 3) a lot of one-on-one interaction between me and individual students. Is it “the same” as when I’m in a “real” classroom? No. But I have the same values (interaction among students, discussion, improvement in their skills and understanding) whether I’m in the online classroom or the traditional classroom.

    Also, a correction: online students enrolled at my university have access to the library and all of its materials. Many of these they can access online from home (not only journal articles but also books available electronically) but they also have access to the campus library, as well as to all consortium libraries with which we are affiliated in our region. They can get assistance from librarians through IM or email or phone consultation; they can get IT assistance; they can get assistance with disabilities or other issues that affect their schooling. On the other hand, if they live in a rural area, or if they have reasons why they can’t make the commute, an online class can allow for flexibility.

    I should also note that most of the students whom I teach online are “traditional” students primarily. Typically they end up taking a few classes online to balance demands of internships, work, etc. later in their academic careers.

    There are some courses that I would never teach online. Anything in my field of specialization, for example. But seriously: how much of my intellectual property is involved when I teach a survey course out of an anthology? Not much, I’m afraid. And that’s true whether it’s in the traditional classroom or the online one.

  2. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 8:29 am #

    Crazy–thanks for sharing your experience. I totally get your reasons for participating in on-line teaching. It doesn’t sound like it saves you any time, though–because you’re a consciencious teacher. (Unlike one of my neighbor’s econ instructors, who never answered questions, and never did much more than assign textbook readings.) This is one of my problems with on-line courses: they’re sold to both students and participating faculty as a way of doing more in less time–but I don’t think that’s possible, let alone desirable. Why should universities be selling the fantasy that a college education or a Master’s degree can be pursued without effort and sacrifice?

    I think you’re selling yourself short on your intro classes, too. I’m sure you give lectures that are informed by your particular expertise and point of view–how else to make a massive anthology or textbook interpretable in one semester? It’s a mistake to think of our survey classes as “throwaway” or generic classes. (If they are then we’re not really doing our jobs, IMHO.)

    My point about the library was with reference to the truly “global” student (that is, non-local to your uni)–how can ze use your library? (Aside from on-line offerings, of course–and in book-intensive disciplines like ours, that’s only going to get them so far.)

  3. ej on 03 Sep 2009 at 8:44 am #

    I’m surprised that the faculty at U of I actually had a say in the matter. I was under the impression that these new “global campus” programs were designed by the administration, who then foisted them on the faculty, willing or not.

    Did the faculty at Baa Ram U have a say?

  4. Dr. Crazy on 03 Sep 2009 at 8:45 am #

    Oh, you’re right – teaching online does not take less time. It does, however, make it possible for me to have a 2 or 3 day a week teaching schedule (and thus not to be on campus unless I have mtgs on those other days) without totally killing myself, and I can control my level of interaction with online students more than I can with F2F students.

    You’re right about my expertise and point of view informing, for example, the survey. I suppose what I mean, though, is that I can comfortably excise anything that I think of as “mine” that I do in the traditional classroom if I were to teach that sort of class online. Nothing I do in there is directly related to my research, or to my deep areas of expertise. In contrast, though, I’d never teach Intro to Lit online because I don’t teach from an anthology and pretty much all of that course is Me Me Me. Basically, because our online offerings are so small, I get the freedom to do only what makes me feel comfortable, and I’m not giving away my expertise by any sort of mandate.

    (Note: my online class is actually a writing class for another department and has nothing to do with literature. This is one of the reasons that I agreed to do it.)

  5. Dr. Crazy on 03 Sep 2009 at 8:47 am #

    EJ – I’m not sure about Historiann’s place, but at my university, faculty had a lot of say in how online programs would be rolled out. The administration is encouraging us to do more online (mainly because of space constraints on our campus), but faculty are driving how this is happening, and many full time faculty teach at least one course online – this is not primarily something we’re using adjuncts to do.

  6. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 8:54 am #

    ej–I don’t know what role if any the faculty play in BRU’s “global campus.” It’s a limited range of degrees that are offered–none of them through the Liberal Arts college as far as I can tell. Most seem to be in some branch of business, management, or educracy. They even offer a M.S. in “Teaching and Learning,” which looks to be a degree in on-line course development and administration. No joke! (I mean, yes–a huge joke, but it’s for real.)

    Good god. Shoot me know.

  7. Mark K. on 03 Sep 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Historiann:

    “My point about the library was with reference to the truly ‘global’ student (that is, non-local to your uni) – how can ze use your library?”

    At the university where I am a librarian, we mail library materials to distance students for no charge (beyond the regular tuition and fees, natch). Ordinarily they end up paying the return postage, but if a student asks us to cover that as well, we will.

    Reference services are available via phone and email, and we participate in a collaborative 24/7 realtime chat reference service with other institutions.

    We can get interlibrary loan articles directly to the students. For interlibrary loan books etc., we will mediate with their local public libraries if they don’t feel comfortable going in and asking for that standard service themselves.

    Online resources are what they are, obviously.

    We can’t claim complete parity between local and distance students, but the goal of achieving that parity is right there in the library’s strategic plan.

    On the other hand: a lot of this is coming from me and my staff. The higher administration is happy with and supportive of our efforts, but I’ve never had a conversation where anyone has said, “We really need to do more to reach students beyond our main campus, as far as the library is concerned.” The incentives haven’t been there to make it a higher priority. I don’t hold that much against them; part of my job is to worry about these things so they don’t have to. But in a different institution, with different players at whatever level, it could go pretty bad.

  8. Mark K. on 03 Sep 2009 at 9:12 am #

    Oh, and as a followup on global students: at a summer intensive for low-residency students, I was doing my typical introductory library presentation, and a hand went up when I got to the part about mailing library materials. Turns out the student will be resident in a South American country during at least part of their studies. Do we mail to South America? I had to take a big gulp and say, yes, our policy is that we mail to distance students, so if the institution has accepted students who are in South America, then absorbing the cost of that postage is something the library is going to do.

  9. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Thanks, Mark K.–that’s interesting to know. You are going out of your way to help the “global” students out.

  10. Julie on 03 Sep 2009 at 9:33 am #

    For the very same reasons you cite, Historiann, I agree that this Global Campus thing is good riddance, but my wife is enrolled at U of Maryland University College, which is designed for returning adults, and it’s a whole different kettle of fish than the way the Global Campus was described.

    Her teachers have, by and large (there’s been I think one exception, but that’s probably likely in a classroom as well) been not only rigorous but have designed things to require interaction and collaboration among the students despite not being in a room together. They’ve clearly designed their own syllabi, they respond in detail, and they make students really push their own thinking.

    In online learning, as in everything else, mileage varies widely.

  11. Dr. Righteous on 03 Sep 2009 at 9:48 am #

    Having taught as an adjunct (for the fun, certainly not the money!) I can say absolutely and unequivocally that it is not possible to “deliver” someone else’s syllabus.

    I once interviewed for a job at Weird U and once it became clear that I could not plan my own classes I withdrew from consideration. Not because I have all this great integrity, necessarily: It just didn’t look fun. In fact, it looked miserable.

  12. Another Damned Medievalist on 03 Sep 2009 at 9:53 am #

    totally commenting without reading … But anyway, I have taught hybrids and online both. My online courses take more time to set up, but a little less to maintain, than f2f. They take about the same amount of time for the students, because there is a LOT of required online discussion, partially because asynchronous discussions are hard to manage without their being a big part of the grade and requiring checking in at the level that most of us check in and comment at blogs!

    I’d rather teach f2f, in part because the schedule is less difficult.

    Having said all that, when the online model is likely to be an updated version of the old-fashioned correspondence course, online sucks.

  13. John S. on 03 Sep 2009 at 10:49 am #

    Historiann: I can see your point about being careful posting syllabi and resources on, even with our course-sites et. al. But that comes up against one of the other great things raised many times here: course evaluations.

    There are ways in which posting syllabi online is more convenient for me (students can look at it during drop/add, which means I don’t need to lug them to class every day for two weeks) and more convenient for them. But outside of convenience, students will ding me, sometimes in a major way, in course evals if I don’t do it. Now that posting these materials is *expected*, I have to weigh the consequences of non-conformity. I am already worried about the next phase: I have had students ding me on evals for *not posting podcasts of all the lectures*!

    It’s kind of ironic in a way. The students pushing for more and more materials to be posted online are, in some ways contributing to the devaluation of their own education–esp. for those demanding things like podcasts. (Don’t they get it–I part of the reason I don’t post lectures as a *reward* for those to come to class!)

    In the big picture though, some of the people pushing for “distance” learning are those pushing for a consumerist view of student-faculty interactions and commensurate reliance on metrics that encourage us to make our intellectual property more available electronically.

  14. Janice on 03 Sep 2009 at 10:49 am #

    I’m thrilled and impressed with the UofI faculty. Having developed two courses for distance education (and served as a content reviewer on two more), I’m pleased with my institution’s approach.

    The department has a controlling role in what courses can be developed for distance ed and who can develop these courses. Distance ed can suggest courses but the program retains the right to decide. So we don’t offer senior seminars (and, hence, no four-year degree) since we believe these seminar experiences aren’t yet something that distance ed can properly deliver.

    When a course is approved, the development is reviewed by academics inside and outside our institution. And only scholars accredited by the program can offer the course and that only when the program approves. So, if we decide we don’t want distance ed running a section of the European women’s history survey the same term as we’re offering the course on campus, they don’t.

    All of these rights didn’t come out of nowhere. They were a result of the faculty senate standing up for academic programs and their integrity. Which, I’m glad to see, seems to be the same idea that the UofI professoriate has in their stand against the wholesale “Global Campus” approach to “market a course”.

    Really, it’s insidious to think that my syllabus could be enough for someone else to mount the same course! When I wrote the distance ed manuals for my course, I did a lot more than assign readings. I wrote a chapter for each week that included a lot of material that might normally come in the classroom scheme of things, from content lecture information carefully reworked to make sense on the inanimate page to a varied series of questions and exercises designed to have the distance student make those leaps of understanding you can nurture a bit more readily in the classroom.

    As Dr. Crazy noted, this is hard work to teach well when you don’t have the traditional classroom with its face-to-face meetings. To think that someone else would be able to do this from my syllabus, however thoughtfully someone else interpreted this into the new format (and likely not a specialist in the same field but an online education expert)? It’s chilling, that’s what it is!

  15. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 10:59 am #

    John S.: Ugh. Tell your students to sign up for an on-line class, if that’s what they want. If they see no value in showing up 2 or 3 times a week to listen to you and to talk with their classmates who are reading and thinking about the same material–fine. They shouldn’t take your classes. But many students DO find value in classes like yours (and mine), and quite frankly, I think they’re better served by us. But, just tell the complainers and whiners to get the hell out. (They know that the lectures are the reward for showing up to class–they clearly just don’t want to show up to class.)

    Do they take communion on-line? Do they just ask their families for a Podcast of Thanksgiving dinner, or an MP3 of their little brothers and sisters opening up their Christmas presents? Do they orient their computer monitors to Mecca instead of going to the mosque? I’m glad to hear from Julie and ADM about some positive on-line courses, but sometimes I wonder why our students are enrolled in college at all.

    I will say this: my students (2 weeks in) are awesome this term! Even my survey students are showing up to lectures and e-mailing me questions about actual course content. I know they’ll start breaking my heart as the semester goes on, but my students in both my lower-level and my upper-level courses appear to have a new seriousness of purpose this term. I wonder if their parents sat them down and informed them that if they wanted to stay in school, good grades will be required of them? I wonder too if some of them are starting to worry that their GPAs might be very important in a more competitive job market…

  16. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 11:03 am #

    Janice–it sounds like “UR doin’ it right.” You and Dr. Righteous have convinced me that teaching someone else’s syllabus just isn’t the same–in fact, it just seems unnatural!

    That said: I think in the case of a sick or maternity leave, which we were discussing yesterday in another thread, having a substitute come in and do hir best is sometimes what has to happen. If it’s a colleague who knows the professor on leave and can get hir advice/ask questions, it probably works out OK. But planning by design to take the expert’s ideas and replace the expert with a more poorly-compensated stand-in is what it is: education on the cheap, if not on the lam!

  17. Kathleen Lowrey on 03 Sep 2009 at 11:38 am #

    I agree with Dr. Righteous and Janice, too — other people’s syllabi on their own are like hieroglyphics without the Rosetta Stone.

    I also just think the best way to counter this trend toward the commodity-packaging of everything existing (we will record your mom’s lullabies and your dad’s bedtime stories and deliver them via a lower-cost flexible just-in-time parental unit…) is *more openness*.

    DO post your syllabi on-line. Make your stuff open-access before your university can grab it and turn it into copyrighted property of the uni. My syllabi are unique like rainbow unicorns, but they are also cobbled together from everything I’ve learned from teachers and colleagues — parts of my syllabi are “pirated” for free from pretty much every intellectual encounter I’ve ever had. And they keep changing every year out of the same process. I love love love looking at others’ syllabi and appropriating bits of them for free and I’m nothing but flattered if people do the same to mine.

    These “university property” syllabi are dead letters. We shouldn’t fight them by killing our own syllabi, locking them away, etc. We should fight them by pointing out how useless and stupid dead letter copyrighted privatized uni-trademarked “educational” packets really are.

  18. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 11:43 am #

    Interesting points, Kathleen–I’ll have to sleep on them. My initial comment was with regard to a scenario in which one’s own uni would lift a syllabus and turn it into an on-line course taught by someone else. I’m very much in favor of people sharing their work with peers and colleagues–but I think that kind of sharing is best done through direct contact with the authors of other syllabi, not by googling syllabi by strangers. So I must admit that I don’t see the value added in putting all of our stuff on-line.

  19. Kathleen Lowrey on 03 Sep 2009 at 11:54 am #

    well, let me just admit I don’t quite walk the walk myself — I don’t post my syllabi for small classes (under 60 people) just because it’s a hassle. But my basic sense is that information does want to be free, and that really these plans by universities are cash-grabs and the best way to place obstacles in that path is to undercut the cash incentive by making access to syllabi not just cheap but free. I also think it’s worth really hitting the point again and again and again that the world of scholarship is about exchange — every syllabi I have made is a result of a series of intellectual gifts from others and I have no right to hoard them. Neither, of course, does any university profit-making unit.

    I just think our first reaction to these grabby moves shouldn’t be to hang on that much tighter to our bit of the pie but to say, hey, grabbiness is not groovy.

  20. Hotshot Harry on 03 Sep 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    I think only a faculty at a place like U of I could ever shut this kind of thing down. For many of us, the train will leave the station regardless of our many legitimate concerns. So we’re left trying to make sure the programs remain as close to the non-virtual university as possible.

    The question of intellectual property is a great one, and one that I suspect very many campuses are struggling with. I have no problem posting my syllabi on line, as I’m not sure this constitutes a great deal proprietary information. In fact, I don’t even print syllabi any more–I tell the students to fetch them on blackboard. I’ve posted PPPs, but these generally consist of maps and pics that can be obtained through a modest Google search. Notes (lecture or book) fall into a different category for me, and I don’t ever post them.

    I’ve taught online courses before, and in lieu posting lecture notes, I post podcasts. But I’m quick to remove them from the site as soon as the course has ended. (Not sure if they’re archived elsewhere, but I’m also not sure why someone would use them again, as they are not entirely generic.)

    I would echo some of the sentiment above–my jury on online education is out. There are positive aspects to it that I would not have anticipated (often more thoughtful responses from students) as well as some negative aspects noted above. In the end, though, it simply lacks the intimacy required of real learning–the learning of one person from another. Online education can do information exchange and even an exchange of ideas. But can it cultivate wisdom? I doubt it.

  21. Dr. Crazy on 03 Sep 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Perhaps one way that putting syllabi and maybe some assignments online (and not just pw protected like on blackboard but really and truly open access online) is that it really demonstrates that those documents don’t actually equate to a classroom situation. Sure, you could read all of the books, articles, and chapters on my gender theory syllabus, but you could do that without my syllabus. Doing that reading – or even attempting to do the assignments that go along with it – doesn’t mean that you’ve taken my course or learned what I taught the students who did. In some ways, maybe making all of that stuff completely free demonstrates that fact? (Not sure I believe that, but I think it’s a potentially good argument in favor. Also, I’ll note, my online class involves a LOT more than just a syllabus of readings and assignments online. And no, I’d never make all of those materials free.)

  22. Susan on 03 Sep 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    This morning I was talking to a colleague who had just looked at her teaching evaluations, and she commented that a new thread (added to the “you assign too much reading” and “this class was too hard”) was “why don’t you post the outline, terms, and all slides from the class on the web. As she noted, the translation is, why should I have to go to lectures. This is done now in the sciences, and students don’t want to take notes.

    So we had a long conversation about focusing on the learning objectives for the course/program as a way of explaining WHY taking notes was useful.
    Yet another part of not posting stuff. I do post the syllabus on the course website though — but it’s not publicly available.

  23. Historiann on 03 Sep 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    Susan–those new complaints should be filed along with the “you assign too much reading” complaints. Tough luck! Get to work or get out of my classes.

    Dr. Crazy: that’s a really interesting point–of course you’re right that reading the same books doesn’t make it the same course. I guess I was just spooked by that description of how syllabi would be ” reorganize them into its course management system…” Like it will be assimilated into the borg or something. But I’m sure it’s nowhere near as complicated or as thorough as that.

  24. Dr. Crazy on 03 Sep 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    Oh no, what they described about the “global campus” at U of I was diabolical sounding. It’s also diabolical because either a) they could ostensibly offer the course as “Professor Fancy’s Intro to Biology” even though Professor Fancy had nothing to do with the grading, administration, or actual instruction of the course or b) they could just slap the syllabus and other course materials up there without giving Professor Fancy credit. Putting my own syllabus up online and available to the whole public makes those two things impossible, though, which is what makes it an interesting argument in favor. The argument against for me is that I teach so much I’m always out of date on what I’ve managed to get up online :)

  25. The Bittersweet Girl on 03 Sep 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Here at Unnamed U., we are REQUIRED to post our syllabuses online — there’s no faculty discretion allowed, so concerns about privacy/copyright/authorship are squashed from the outset.

  26. truffula on 03 Sep 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    We are directed to post syllabi online and in the corridor outside our department office. This is seen as advertising.

    I create websites for all of my classes but do so in my own way (not using the uni tools). I use my website for ensuring that the syllabus and course schedule are accessible even if you lost the paper one I handed out the first day of class, disseminating data (I am in a science department), sharing worked examples without wasting a lot of paper, linking to key illustrations I’ve used in lectures, and so on.

    In classes where I use a lot of slides, students ask for all of the slides to be available online. I refuse, but make it clear from the start that students are welcome to review materials on a computer set up in my lab for that purpose, and perhaps ask some questions about the content! I once told a group of students that I like to imagine there is some reason why I come to class. Of course I felt horrible almost immediately for having said that. Kinda b*tchy. It may be that at some administrative level it is understood that I am paid to distribute grades to customers but I’m not that cynical (yet).

    MIT has put much of its course content online in their OpenCourseware. The way I see this, they are confident about who they are and what they deliver in the classroom. OpenCourseware just opens the university doors a bit wider.

  27. cgeye on 03 Sep 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    Just a warning to professors out there: Because of preparations for la influenza porcine, colleges are considering putting *all* of their classes online, even if no student uses online resources normally.

    Even if a class is held on campus, course materials might be ported to online systems so students can continue learning even if the campus shuts down. This should be already in the air, for those affected — faculty councils should be in the loop.

  28. LadyProf on 03 Sep 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    Speaking as a lawyer (though not an expert in intellectual property), I suggest putting a small copyright notice on whatever self-created course materials you post on a website (text files or slides) attaching your own name. Just (C)LadyProf 2009 or the like, and update the year regularly. No need to go on about “all rights reserved,” etc. As an amulet it won’t necessarily ward off administrators who might contend that anything you create for class use is a “work for hire” owned by the university, but it takes a stand for ownership and is low-key enough not to provoke most people.

  29. Z on 03 Sep 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    UI forever! I love them!

  30. unconvinced on 04 Sep 2009 at 6:04 am #

    I note that the average class size at U of I is well over 100 students. The idea that classes there consist of an intellectual give and take, etc is nothing but a fantasy. U of I enrolls about 15 times more undergrads than there are seats in the library, and currently registers up to 30 times more people around the state in the extension courses than are at the main campuses. They don’t get to use the library much.
    This is not about quality of education. This is about money. The Faculty don’t like having their salaries undercut. Whether they deserve what they are paid is a big question, but at least it is the right question, not a phoney one.

  31. Historiann on 04 Sep 2009 at 6:38 am #

    cgeye–this may happen. Faculty at CU were apparently telling students with flu to drop their classes already! That seems ridiculous.

    LadyProf–thanks for the tip. I think I’ll do as you suggest.

    “unconvinced” wants to derail this thread–don’t let him.

  32. Clio Bluestocking on 04 Sep 2009 at 11:34 am #

    You won’t believe this, but I was just asked to team up with the other professor at my college who teaches the first half of the U.S. survey online in order to develop a “common course.” In other words, he and I will provide the content for adjucts to teach.

    I’m having visions of the scene in “The Wall” in which the kids are dumped into a meatgrinder.

    Of course, perhaps I’m not looking at this opportunity with mercenary eyes. Perhaps the other professor and I should consider the creation of content as “consulting” work and charge the 1/4 – 1/2 million dollars that our college seems to be so willing to pay consultants.

  33. undine on 04 Sep 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    U of I’s plan is like the evil Big Brother reverse version of the edupunk movement: we scoop up your online content, copyright it, and keep it for our maximum profit.

    One of the scariest parts of this is that couldn’t the appropriating institution, the one who’s sealing up your course content and parceling it out to adjuncts to teach, force you to take down your online syllabus and materials for a course?

  34. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Sep 2009 at 1:25 pm #

    undine — of course they will! That’s the problem with battling copyrights — the university has lawyers and moolah that we don’t. We will lose if we fight on their terms. That’s why we should fight the idea that syllabi are copyrightable *at all*. If we concede that they are, we’re lunchmeat.

  35. Historiann on 04 Sep 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    And that, my friends, is called the horns of a dilemma. I think you both raise great points. It’s just very difficult to know what the implications of either course of action will be.

    Then again, considering the pace of action at most unis, this problem may not be worked out by the time I retire (oh, about 25 years from now, given good health and good luck.)

  36. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Sep 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    If I can just put in one more plea to whoever might still be looking at this thread — please, please, please do not copyright your syllabi. Look at the case of Tenured Radical. I am sure she holds the copyright on her Barbie book. It gets plagiarized. Is she personally going to hire a copyright lawyer to get her own back? Is her press going to do so on her behalf? No and no.

    If you are fighting an entity that has more money than you do, copyright is not your friend. Take it from an anthropologist who works on indigenous knowledge.

    The university that wants to market syllabi does not need *your* syllabus. It just needs *a* syllabus. It can pay a lot of money to a prize-winning teacher to produce that syllabus, or to a soulless consultant, or — more likely — a few kopeks to a starving adjunct. It can then turn around and say its syllabus is superior to yours: after all, no-one has paid a dime to buy the rights to your syllabus, have they? And the market knows best, doesn’t it? Ergo its paid for syllabus is better than your free one!

    The only way to fight this is to hammer away at the ethical reasons why syllabi should NEVER be copyrightable by *anyone*: no way, nohow.

  37. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Sep 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    cross-posted, wasn’t backtalking the proprietress… but I don’t think this is a dilemma; a problem, yes, but not a dilemma.

  38. Historiann on 04 Sep 2009 at 2:10 pm #

    Kathleen–I meant that the dilemma was to copyright or not to copyright? To hide one’s light under a bushel, or to publish on the web one’s syllabi, notes, PowerPoint slides, etc.?

    I think you make some really important points, especially in re: the money and power of institutions versus that of individuals.

    And, N.B.: TR didn’t write the book on Barbie that appears to have been plagiarized–M.G. Lord did. TR just wrote the blog post that brought this to my attention.

  39. Kathleen Lowrey on 04 Sep 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    there is a funny joke about misattribution in there somewhere :)

  40. Colonial on 04 Sep 2009 at 4:36 pm #

    Related, Sam Houston State has a fully online M.A. History program, and put together a proposal for a fully online Ph.D. history program that was rejected by the state of Texas. They still have the online M.A. program.

  41. Comrade PhysioProf on 04 Sep 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    The students at my institution *demand* that lecture notes and slide decks be provided to them, the over-entitled little fucks. Rather than listen to their insistent mewling, I give them lecture notes and slide decks, but I make absolutely certain that the notes and slides I provide are completely insufficient to delineate the required material.

    When I was a student, the fucking professors talked and wrote shit on the board, and we took motherfucking notes. It wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years to ask my professor for a copy of her lecture notes.

    Now get offa my fucking lawn!

  42. Indyanna on 04 Sep 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    I wouldn’t even know quite where to find it at the moment, but I believe there’s language in our collective bargaining agreement that impairs or obviates the system’s ability to use the “work made for hire” ploy to appropriate syllabi, so that may be one argument for unionizing. Every time we threaten to strike (which is to say, during every negotiating year) we’re urged to strip our offices of all teaching materials when and if the abandon ship message goes out, and to tell students beforehand that nothing they do for a replacement will be factored into any grades we subsequently give out. But, of course, we never strike [but there *is* one going on at Oakland U. in Michigan right now], and in any case this last angle is somewhat beside the point of “global campus” models, as opposed to strikes.

  43. Matt L on 04 Sep 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    This is an interesting thread. I’m not sure that U of I’s faculty had the purist motives, but clearly they did the right thing. The Global Campus sounds exploitive to students, faculty and adjuncts alike.

    I would take up the issue raised by both Kathleen and Historiann on the question of copyrights for syllabi. There is the Creative Commons form of licensing that allows people to protect their intellectual property, but lets others use that material freely provided they meet certain requirements. Usually the requirements include freely sharing the original work along with any innovations and changes you make with others (i.e. if you got the original syllabus for free you can’t turn around and sell the syllabus or its contents to someone else). This type of licensing is a big part of the open source software movement. I think H-net uses a similar license for its on-line book reviews. A share and share alike licensing arrangement for syllabi might strike the balance between hiding the light under a bushel basket and being the (besieged) city on a hill.

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