On Sharing and OERs (Open Education Resources)

with Katelin Kaiser

January 8 2013 to January 8, 2013 year overview of visits

January 8, 2012 to January 8, 2013 year overview of visitors at Writing Commons

In past blogs, I’ve argued academics, particularly tenured faculty, should consider self-publishing their pedagogical materials. Today I wish to further explore the benefits of open textbook publishing.  For this blog I’m joined by Katelin Kaiser, a graduate student in Ethics and Medical Humanities at the University of South Florida College of Medicine as well as one of the editors at Writing Commons.

Clearly, for academics there are meaningful obstacles to self-publishing OERs (Open Education Resources), including open textbooks or open courseware.  First despite counter arguments such as Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered, Salary, Tenure, and Promotion Committees still prize the scholarship of discovery over the scholarship of application or teaching. Traditionally, hiring, tenure, and promotion are driven by obsolete notions of scarcity: academics relinquish copyright to distinguished university presses or journals in exchange for academic rewards, not worrying that forevermore their work will be locked behind passwords, controlled by powerful knowledge management companies such as Elsevier.

Continue reading

The Early Days of the Digital Dissertation

This is a guest post by Virginia Kuhn, associate director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy in the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California. Her article, “Embrace and Ambivalence,” appears in the newest issue of Academe.

Digital dissertations are sometimes said to be commonplace; however such talk usually refers to an artifact that is digital but is not dependent on being digital. In other words, it could also have been published on paper without losing anything in the translation.  My research uncovered only one previous dissertation that was media-rich and born-digital: Christine Boese’s The Ballad of the Internet Nutball: Chaining Rhetorical Visions from the Margins of the Margins to the Mainstream in the Xenaverse which she defended at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1998. Unsurprisingly, Chris earned her doctorate in rhetoric, as I did. Also unsurprisingly, her rationale for this approach was quite similar: for a project to be justifiably digital, it must achieve goals that could not be realized otherwise. Continue reading

Interview with Author Marjorie Heins

Marjorie Heins, founder of The Free Expression Policy Project, is the author of the new book Priests of Our Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge (NYU Press, February 2013). In her book (watch video interviews with her), Heins examines the critical Supreme Court cases of the 1950s and 1960s that first upheld and then later struck down loyalty oaths, and established the legal right of academic freedom. John K. Wilson interviewed her via email for Academe Blog.

Continue reading

Academic Ethics — Inaugural Post

Just what is the right thing to do, the right thing to do morally?  That is not always so easy a question to answer, maybe hardly ever is it such an easy question.  In higher education there are many situations that pose just that sort of question.  Moral issues, questions and dilemmas have existed and new ones continue to arise in higher education as they do in the very profession of education. Members of board of trustees and administrators, faculty and students all face situations with a moral dimension, or two, involved where decisions need to be made.  This is the first of a continuing series of posts on such matters that in one way or another involve academic ethics.  These posts will give consideration to and invite discussion of the moral dimension of quandaries and ordinary challenges and will make perspicuous the interplay and conflict of social and institutional values, academic values, professional values and both moral values and ethical principles in attempts to achieve elucidations and, perhaps, possible resolutions.

Continue reading

A New Proposal for Student Aid

Last week, I attended a presentation by William Doyle, a professor at Vanderbilt University, about his proposals to change the way student aid works in America. His analysis was sponsored by the Committee for Economic Development, who also hosted the presentation. You can read the report on CED’s website.

Professor Doyle’s ideas center around one basic principle: federal and state aid should be going to students who would not be able to attend college without it. This sounds like a fairly basic idea that most people would agree to, but it would mean some pretty significant changes, the most dramatic of which (in my opinion) would be a significant scaling down, or even elimination, of merit-based aid. According to Professor Doyle, merit-based aid generally goes to students who would be able to afford college without aid, and so the money would be better spent on students who currently cannot afford college. The same goes for the $18.2 billion spent by the government in tax credits for students attending college. Continue reading

The Education of Corporate America

The leadership in America’s colleges and universities spends a great deal of time making the case for the kind of education that reflects the people, programs and facilities already in place.  It is an understandable position; indeed, on most levels many of us often wish that the argument had more legs.  Much of the defense centers on the value of a liberal arts education.  The liberal arts teach us to think by training us to write, articulate, work cooperatively, employ technology and use quantitative methods.  It’s the right argument to make.  The problem is that the right argument is also an insufficient one.

Today American education is facing a “not only . . . but also” moment.  On the one hand, the argument for the liberal arts is the moral high ground that produces an educated citizenry.  On the other hand, the knowledge-driven economy driving the future of the United States speaks profoundly to the need for workforce preparation to maintain a competitive edge.  And the effect is that higher education and American business have been speaking past one another thereby imperiling the global franchise that American higher education holds.  It also creates the gap noted by Anthony Carnevele, Stephen J. Rose and others between whom and how we prepare and what the American economy will need in the 21st century.

There is a compromise position between the moral and the practical.   When you think about it, both sides are arguing from the same platform.  Global employers want engineers who can write and speak.  Higher education believes that its defense of the historic value of a liberal arts education is a line in the sand.  Yet, business leaders will admit freely that they value the foundation that a liberal arts education provides; in fact, a liberal arts background is the edge that secures the applicant the job.  What business leaders have forgotten to do, however, is to say so. 

The first step in the negotiated settlement may be for America’s business leadership to hold out the olive branch by word and action.  So many of them sit on college boards of trustees and advisory councils that business leaders should be perfectly positioned to seek common ground.  Many of them already live in both worlds.  They now need to connect the dots. 

These business leaders can speak not only to the number of engineers needed but also the types of skills needed to attract successful engineers.  To meet their workforce needs, America’s business leadership should be the most articulate about the value of the education that they received, whether at public or independent colleges and universities.  After all, business leaders are where they are today in large part because of what they learned and who they became in their formative years in college.

The second step is equally critical to development of a common agenda.  It is no longer enough for business leaders to support programs that advance high school completion and workforce preparation because these programs largely treat those not bound for college.  This is necessary but insufficient support to develop a well-trained workforce.  For the millions of workers beyond current graduates that Carnevale and others estimate will need a college degree to qualify for the work produced by a knowledge economy, America’s corporate leadership now reach beyond what were minimum education requirements in the last century to find their workforce.  The American middle class will be built upon how successful we are at providing access to a college degree.  It’s a little like global warming.  This debate is over.

The key is access.  For companies that think strategically about how to develop and improve their workforce, the first step is to open the door.  They must support programs that encourage early identification, readiness, informed mentorship, and outcomes assessment.  These programs must complement the work that they and the federal government undertake to increase high school completion but most go further to identify promising candidates for two-year or four-year degrees.  And for those students who complete a public or independent two-year degree, corporate support must bridge the gap to expand the concept of access to include a four-year degree.  It’s the only way to get at how best to find the millions of American workers they will need.

In the 1950s, the knee-jerk defensive reaction to the Russians launching of Sputnik paved the way for a greater concentration of American resources to support science education.  John Kennedy accomplished the same by balancing science with public service.  Lyndon Johnson followed with support for the arts and humanities.  These programs enjoyed wide public support and yet broke new ground. When tested or inspired, America – including corporate America – can move the agenda. 

If there is to be a new American education agenda, America’s business leadership must step forward to work with higher education to prepare a well-educated workforce.  Its foundation is the liberal arts.  Its pathway is access to higher education.  And its future will determine where the American economy – and American society – will stand by the middle of the 21st century.




Biting off more than we can chew.

As Aaron has noted, he and a group of other professors will be taking and writing about Coursera’s “E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.” I will not be one of them – not because I wouldn’t find it interesting, but because I’ve already been down the road, having taken a World History course last semester (and blogged about it here – scroll down a bit to get to the posts from when the course was still going).

That doesn’t mean I’m not tempted to join them. I’m also tempted by the other World History Course that I’m signed up for now, the Science of Gastronomy (whenever that comes around again), English Composition (because I have no idea how that could even work) or anything by Udacity just so that I can see how their MOOCs work.

Continue reading

Faducation? The MOOC

In today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman writes:

I can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world.

The column, which seems to be more PR for Coursera than legitimate commentary on education, comes a day before a group of us professors will be attempting to explore the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that Friedman sees as the savior of higher education by actually taking a MOOC ourselves, Coursera’s “E-learning and Digital Cultures.” As experienced educators, we want to learn about MOOCs. We want to see if they do, indeed, offer something that can improve the education we are offering.

Continue reading

Rigging an Election Is Possible, But Trying to Rig an Electoral System Is a Fool’s Errand

In 2010, Republicans won the governorships and control of the legislatures in states across the Rust Belt. Because it was a census year, the GOP engaged in extreme gerrymandering that, at least at first glance, seemingly insured their control of those states for at least the next decade.

In a previous post, I suggested that their extreme gerrymandering might actually accelerate, rather than forestall, their current and growing demographic challenges in those states. For the gerrymandering has in many cases eliminated the possibility of meaningfully contested general elections. As a result, the primaries will encourage radical conservative groups to put forward candidates whose views will seem increasingly extreme and anachronistic not just to Democratic and independent voters but also to mainstream Republican voters.

Over the past two weeks, a GOP scheme to alter the electoral college system by awarding electoral votes in certain states by congressional districts has received considerable attention in the national media. For the most part, commentators have focused on the risk to the party in so blatantly attempting to rig the electoral system in its favor. Certainly, the GOP’s largely unsuccessful attempts to use supposed voter fraud as a cover for measures intended to suppress Democratic turnout in the 2012 elections has severely compromised the party’s ability to sell changes in the allocation of electoral votes as anything but an attempt to rig the system in its favor.

Continue reading