Comments on: Surprise! History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Sat, 20 Sep 2014 01:22:40 +0000 hourly 1 By: Sowing the Links of Love « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Sat, 30 Jul 2011 07:38:50 +0000 [...] am not alone in my desire to never ever teach online.  I just don’t have the TIME, besides disagreeing with it philosophically.  Check out the [...]

By: Contingent Cassandra Fri, 22 Jul 2011 01:47:36 +0000 I’ve taught composition (writing in the disciplines) online, and I do think the format can work, especially for a class that already involves a lot of workshops, group work, and other step-by-step exercises aimed at teaching students how to approach a fairly long, complex research-based paper. However, instructors do need help in finding ways to do something equivalent to what they do f2f online, *and* the best online course is always going to be one that’s designed and taught by the same person (or by a designer and an instructor working very closely together), tweaked semesterly, and more comprehensively updated every few years.

As far as I can tell, that’s not at all the model that administrators, legislators, and others who see online courses as a more “efficient” way to “deliver” “instruction” are envisioning. Instead, they think an “expert” can design a “course,” and it can then be taught by people who are much less experienced (or at least more desperate) and therefore cheaper. Really, they seem to be envisioning an online “course” as a multimedia, slightly more interactive, version of a textbook with accompanying exercises and answer key (and, indeed, instructor’s copies of textbooks are beginning to come with all sorts of “extra content” that can be uploaded into a Learning Management System, just as they started coming with canned powerpoints a decade or so ago). That may work for some large intro courses with fairly standardized content (though I have my doubts), but it’s not going to work where students’ individual, often idiosyncratic, responses to class activities and assignments, and the teacher’s response to those responses (and so on) are a key part of the learning process.

And yes, the ads for online classes invite students who already underestimate the sheer amount of time and energy a college class requires (and should require) to be even more overoptimistic about how much they can realistically juggle. So those of us who teach online classes (at least those of us who still have the freedom to do such things) send emails spelling out the time commitment and warning students of the need to check their schedules and make sure they really can complete the work of the course, hit them with enough work to serve as a further warning early in the term, while they can still drop, and still see much higher attrition than in f2f classes. For those for whom the format works (often a disciplined, mature-for-hir-age or non-traditional-age student with good time management skills and family support), it works well. But there are, indeed, far more students taking online courses than should be taking them, and for many it’s a waste of whatever time they do manage to put into the course before giving up, and of money.

By: Janice Thu, 21 Jul 2011 16:12:14 +0000 Samantha, you’re very right that it takes a certain skillset to design a good online or distance education course. When I’ve created these, I’ve been fortunate to work with a team of people who’ve helped me see how to improve the course experience, from editors and education consultants to secondary readers. Currently I’m acting in that position for a course in our a related discipline: helping to catch points where I know students require more background or context, for instance.

Designing a good distance education course takes effort. Teaching it takes a lot of effort, every time you offer it. Taking it as a student takes a lot of effort, too!

My husband’s doing a CC-style program to get a certification he needs for his work. Every term he takes one or two online courses for this degree. Some of them are better than others and it’s not all down to the particular instructor. If you don’t design an online course well, it tanks very easily, no matter how good an instructor’s on board!

But as long as administrators have a vision that it’s cheap and easy to offer courses online to fill in the gaps when permanent faculty leave or programs need some sort of expansion? We’re screwed: faculty, students and communities that expect better from their colleges and universities!

By: Cloud Thu, 21 Jul 2011 15:46:03 +0000 Matt_L, I actually agree that a BA should be more than job training, but I sympathize with the people who are stuck in a job and can’t move to the next level without the BA. It seems completely reasonable to me that their motivation in getting the BA is going to be job-related.

However, in my ideal world, once they go for a BA, the actual education would be broader.

What is happening right now is that many of them end up at for-profit universities, which don’t always include anything broader in the degree. This is a shame on many levels: the student and society miss out on the benefits of a broader education, and the student will probably hit a new ceiling in his or her career, and may never really understand why.

I totally agree that the reputation of an online degree might rightly be less than the reputation of a F2F degree. My solution to this is to create a new degree program (heck- maybe even an entire new “university”- grant the degrees from My State University Online). Sure, people will think the degree is “less” than the regular F2F BA- that sort of ranking already happens at all levels of education. But if the programs are done well, they will rate the state university online degrees higher than a BA from one of the for-profits. Honestly, I already differentiate amongst the various for profits when I’m reviewing resumes, because my experience has taught me that some of those programs are more likely to correlate with critical thinking skills than others.

I’ll stop hijacking this comment section now. I just feel strongly about this topic because I happen to hire people in a field that has a lot of applicants with degrees from for-profit programs, and in many cases, I think the student got cheated by the program he or she chose. “Buyer beware” only gets you so far if there aren’t any other options available for these students.

By: samantha Thu, 21 Jul 2011 13:00:27 +0000 I create online high school courses. I teach them at least once myself to work out any bugs and then pass them off to F2F high school teachers to teach. The online school I work for tried having F2F high school teachers create online courses themselves, but there is a different skill set required to create successful online curriculum. The learning process is different, and the teaching process needs to be different, too. One of the complaints that we get from teachers who are used to teaching F2F is that teaching online is much more time consuming, and they are absolutely right. While you may be correct that colleges and universities outsource online teaching positions to adjunct faculty to save money, in at least some instances they do it because traditional faculty members don’t have the mindset or the skill set to move into the online teaching mode. It is particularly true of professors who rely mostly on lecture as their teaching style. They often have difficulty making the transition.

We offer high schools the ability to have students take courses that do not draw enough students in their own schools to make the courses viable offerings, and students the opportunity to prepare themselves for college level online education by taking an online high school course. Many otherwise good students struggle with the kind of time management skills needed to succeed in an online course. Not surprisingly, many of the high school teachers we recruit struggle with the same issues.

By: Matt_L Thu, 21 Jul 2011 12:55:58 +0000 Cloud, I think what is at issue here ( in your 8.46 post) is the role of the BA: is it a credential that lands the student a job or a learning experience that allows the student to explore and master a field of knowledge?

I think a big problem is that people, inside and outside of the university see the BA as a sorting mechanism. You need the degree to get a job (or promotion) – it shows employers you are ‘good enough’ because an external evaluator, the University, said so. This stems from a larger problem where a person who has twenty years of experience in a field, is no longer qualified to be a manager based on experience alone. They need to have the BA, even if the knowledge they get from that BA is extraneous to their actual job responsibilities.

Academics, especially in the Humanities, tend to view the degree as a set of experiences and accomplishments that allow students to demonstrate a mastery of the material in an intellectual field. There is no goal (or at least no measurable one) beyond learning to think through the tools of that field whether its literature, art, biology, history, etc. Now those intellectual tools might help you do a better job in running a widget factory or working the call center, but its not guaranteed.

If people only view the BA as something that gets you a job, well, then its all the same where you get the credits. Public or Private non-profit, it doesn’t matter as long as you tote up the total number of credits to add up to a BA. Just don’t expect a degree from the University of Phoenix or Western Governor’s University to carry the same cultural capital as a BA from Bates College or even the University of Michigan, and you won’t be disappointed. You paid your money, toiled for your credits and got your middle class union card punched.

I think an argument could be made that the public universities have an obligation to serve those people seeking credentials just as much as they serve ‘the discipline’ by teaching students to master the relevant material of their chosen discipline. Land Grant institutions have an obligation to continue their mission to serve the public, and on-line education could be part of this, similar to the extension service.

By: Mary Catherine Thu, 21 Jul 2011 05:16:31 +0000 Can be now halted s/b can now be halted…

By: Mary Catherine Thu, 21 Jul 2011 05:12:50 +0000 Agree with H-Ann’s analysis here, but I’m afraid that horse left the barn about 15 to 20 years ago, apparently when nobody (or nobody who mattered) was listening to the deafening sound of the hoof beats. I really doubt the trend can be now halted, never mind reversed, at this point. The casualization of academic labour (which hurts students and their [contingent faculty] teachers first and foremost, of course, but which also accounts for the stagnation, if not absolute decline, in tt-faculty salaries and benefits, of course] is now a built-in ‘variable,’ to be manipulated in the service of state budget crises, and various ‘cost-cutting’ initiatives.

But cheer up, all! I mean, it’s not as though they could actually outsource *grading*, right?

By: Cloud Thu, 21 Jul 2011 03:46:37 +0000 Historiann, you make good points and I can’t really argue with you. But the net result is that people for whom a fully F2F program is an impossibility (not a mere inconvenience) will be left to the for-profit colleges. You know those people are out there, and you know the for-profit colleges won’t ignore that market. And as those programs gain more acceptance, more of the people for whom F2F is just an inconvenience will go that way, too.

I guess that’s OK. Some of the for-profit colleges do a pretty good job at what they set out to do- i.e., give working adults the bare minimum of education they need to get to the next level at work.

But I think it is a shame. I wish the state universities could find a way to come up with programs that work, and maybe deliver a little bit more than that bare minimum, because I think education is more than just training for work.

I recognize the difficulties, and I can understand how it would be hard to design a program when you are convinced that it is not as good as F2F. But from where I sit on the outside, the problem is that for many of the students involved, the choice isn’t between a F2F program at your university and the online program at your university. It is between the online program at your university and an online program at an institution interested solely in their tuition money and how well they can place them in an initial job (nevermind whether they last at that job or can find the next one). I want those students to have options beyond the for-profit programs.

For what its worth, I voted for the last round of tax increases for the universities in my state. It didn’t help- they still went down to defeat.

By: Indyanna Thu, 21 Jul 2011 03:25:27 +0000 If institutions weren’t so busy flying consultants around from coast to coast; jumping from “Learning (sic) Management (sic) System (sic)” to “Learning Management System” every two years–each one goofier than the last–holding retreats, workshops, “charettes,” webinars, and layering on more “Associate Deputy Provosts for Resource Allocation Analytics,” the plain ol’ branch water program that Historiann outlines above would sound more sensible than utopian. Below is a tech-speak message we got today about a cool workshop for learning how to give quizzes–seats filling up fast, folks, better sign up.

Back in the day, “desire to learn” came to campus free of charge in a station wagon with a battered paperback.
All the university had to provide was a nice tree to sit under and read it. “Where are the cash-stream multipliers in that kind of crap,” my line manager wonders? How did they live that way then?

IT Services is pleased to announce the August and September workshop schedule for the “Desire2Learn Quizzes” workshops. There are also seats still available in the “Content and Navigation in Desire2Learn (Introduction)” workshops. The “Workshops and Training Schedule” is available on the IT Support Center website at… Please select the “Register” link next to the date/time of interest to access the registration form. You will receive a registration confirmation notice via e-mail.