The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Be a barrier

The idea of shared governance proceeds from the notion that faculty are uniquely qualified to participate in the decision-making process with respect to academic matters. Since just about everything at a university affects academic matters, a healthy campus would solicit faculty input on just about everything. However, with respect to decisions about awarding credit, you’d think that the faculty would be the first folks who’d be consulted. You’d be wrong:

The clearest path to college credit for massive open online courses may soon be through credit recommendations from the American Council of Education (ACE), which announced today that it will work with Coursera to determine whether as many as 8-10 MOOCs should be worth credit. The council is also working on a similar arrangement with EdX, a MOOC-provider created by elite universities.

Now I admit I had to check, but ACE represents university presidents, not faculty. Now hopefully all of those university presidents might, in turn, consult faculty before implementing credit for MOOCs, but why not bring in faculty representation here at the preliminary stages? You know, like a certain association we all know about that starts with two “A”s and ends in “UP?”

If you find that disturbing, I find this piece of an article also from IHE even more so:

Like machine-guided teaching software, MOOCs occasionally have stoked anxiety among professors that the discovery of “efficiencies” might lead to faculty layoffs.
Martha Nell Smith, the chair of the university senate at College Park, the Maryland system’s flagship campus, said she and her colleagues have not been formally apprised of any research project that involves the deployment of MOOC-centric courses.

But Smith said she does not expect faculty resistance to be a barrier. The rank and file do have “mixed” feelings about certain technologies, including MOOCs, she said in an interview. “I think if anything the [experiment] has the potential to increase people’s appetites for higher education with walls,” said Smith.

I’d be disappointed if faculty weren’t a barrier to MOOCs because that’s what shared governance is all about. For-profit companies like Coursera have an obligation to their investors to make us much money as possible. Faculty have an obligation to their students to make sure that the courses Coursera runs maintain any institution’s academic integrity. Those ideas are supposed to clash. If they don’t, somebody isn’t doing their job.

Without real shared governance, the people not doing their job will be faculty everywhere.

About Jonathan Rees

I am a Professor of History at Colorado State University - Pueblo.

5 comments on “Be a barrier

  1. Les
    November 13, 2012

    @Jonathan, I find the title of your post intriguing. Is it your intent to be involved in the decision making or to just be an obstacle that others have to navigate around?

    • Jonathan Rees
      November 14, 2012

      Les,

      Navigating around is what’s hapening now. Faculty input would make MOOC implementation harder, but it would also make the classes better.

  2. Jonathan, I wanted to clarify an important point raised in your post. While ACE is a presidential higher education membership organization, reviews of education and training for ACE CREDIT recommendations are made solely by faculty with content expertise and teaching experience. Some 160 faculty participated in intensive reviews this past year alone. The credit recommendations that result from these reviews are just that—recommendations—and decisions about whether or not to accept them are left entirely to each individual institution.

    • Jonathan Rees
      November 14, 2012

      Patricia,

      I do understand and suspected that faculty had to be involved in there somewhere. However, are they directly involved on the committee in question?

      On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 2:07 PM, Academe Blog

  3. read the online advocates seriously
    November 15, 2012

    Both Sebastian Thrun and Clayton Christensen, two of the biggest advocates for “creative destruction” wrought by online education, are absolutely clear that they see no future for all but the top 10 universities. Economically, the argument makes sense: if one Computer Science professor can teach 1,000,000 students, what do we need 1000 Computer Science professors for?

    “Faculty layoffs” are not the issue, and anyone thinking that way is not looking carefully enough at the big picture. The consolidation of the entire US college and university system into 10-20 institutions, accompanied by the shutting down of most of them, is the issue.

    I know I’m being paranoid: but that’s what Thrun and Christensen say they want, and I don’t understand how educators can be hopping on the MOOC part of their bandwagon without crediting the destructive economic analysis that comes with it.

    Because I find the economic analysis more credible than the analysis that says online education is a credible replacement for in-person education.

    Higher education is NOT a business. It is a critical part of democracy. It happens in person, including all the things that are not formal parts of the classroom. Anyone who has participated in any kind of online discussion, no matter how richly featured, knows the difference between it and sustained contact with other people, in person, over time. They do not compare. Our democracy depends on this kind of contact, and on it being available to people from all walks of life, not just the elite.

    The AAUP should be at the forefront of resisting the decimation of our existing institutions of higher education that the MOOC providers, and even Coursera and programs like MITx, offer. The consolidation is real, and it will be sudden and violent. Unless we start organizing ourselves to resist now, we are not going to know what has hit us.

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This entry was posted on November 13, 2012 by in faculty, shared governance.
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