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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lessons to be learned

Hi folks. I realize it's been quite a few days since last we talked but life has a way of getting in the way.

Since last we spoke I've learned a couple of valuable lessons that I would like to pass on to those who visit our little corner of the internet. The first is that Ideology and Vindictiveness will trump almost everything, particularly at a university.

Last January our department became a part of the College of LLSS. Our erstwhile chair became an associate dean and an interim chair was named. The interim chair did an excellent job but did not want the job on a permanent basis having held the position for ten years in the past. I applied and the department voted 10-0 to let me do the job. We were told the vote was not legal because a member of the dean's office had to be present. We reheld the vote and again I won, 10-0. No one else was interested. The department then waited and waited and waited. Finally in June, the Dean called me in for a chat and said the Provost's Office had found me "too negative" for the position. I have written the Provost for a further explanation and after many weeks have not received an answer. Surprise, Surprise. (Another faculty member did step forward and is doing a marvelous job.)

As many of you know I have been a vocal critic of the administration. I do not agree with many of the things that have happened here. Ideologically, we are in different worlds. I do not see the connections between STEMM and economic growth. I believe it to be similar to the building of a huge stadium for a professional sports team and claiming huge economic benefits. I was a member of the Roundtable, the extended roundtable and various and sundry meetings that discussed the Arts and Sciences report that eventually found its way to the A & S Council. I voted against accepting the report. I believed that too much emphasis was being placed on technology and not enough on the hiring of high quality faculty. I believe students in the humanities, social sciences and liberal arts in general are getting the short end of the stick.

The goal seems to be to teach less expensively and claim it's better for them. If all that's being "too negative" then I plead guilty as charged. After all the effort that went into the A & S report and our 100 year celebration the administration broke us up anyway. Those of you who remember the vote of no confidence will now understand the vindictiveness part of the story. If you spend your money on technology and not on high quality faculty no organizational style will save you or your students.


Linda Rouillard said...

David: Your case clearly points out the lack of shared governance on this campus. Department faculty voted unanimously for a chair, twice, and their voice was ignored. We are currently a campus run by fiat, not by what is best for the students.

I respect your courage and your dedication.

Anonymous said...


(Part 1 of 2 because of length)

Despite all the predictable negative PR about online education from old school (and self-interested) academics and education bureaucrats and administrators – who all naturally regard themselves and everything they think and do as indispensable – those who really understand the issues know that online ed is the inevitable way to offer universal access to high quality education for everyone at a tiny fraction of the cost of the current model.

Free or VERY inexpensive universal online K-PhD education is totally doable right now.

The only reason face-to-face brick and mortar classrooms have prevailed since the time of the ancient Greeks is that no other viable option was possible.

The Wired Age has changed all that forever.

Those who are resisting this inevitable sea change in education are guilty of the same sort of head-in-the-sand mentality that caused people at the turn of the last century to say things like “If God intended Man to fly, he would have given us wings.”

Most academic disciplines are based entirely on teachers and students reading, writing, speaking, illustrating, demonstrating and testing course content. Online ed can accommodate all of this better, faster, cheaper and more conveniently and effectively than classroom teaching.

Simply have the best teacher construct the best material into the best course – ONCE.

Then put it online and let it run automatically 24/7, in many cases for years, with only minor tweaks and adjustments as needed.

Those students who need any direct personal interaction with a teacher or professor to complete the course (and they will be very few and far between if the course is constructed effectively with all the FAQ’s posted online) – can contact a course administrator on a blog or in a chat room.

Preliminary self-testing is an effective learning tool. But formal, final testing needs to be fraud proof – which means strictly monitored face-to-face testing centers with I. D. required will probably be needed initially. (A computer camera could be too easily circumvented – just have someone else with a keyboard off-camera answering all the test questions).

Gen X, Y, Z-ers are already online for everything and free comprehensive quality education in most disciplines streaming over a free national Wi-Fi network to student laptops around the country 24/7/365 should already have happened.

(Hey Bill and Melinda Gates – stop dumping billions of your foundation dollars into politically correct black holes and get THIS done instead!)


Anonymous said...


(Part 2 of 2)

The reason the national online revolution has not already happened is not because it is not better for students but rather because of the predictably stiff resistance from vested interests i.e. those in the multi-hundred-billion-dollar public sector education business (as well as profit-minded entrepreneurs in the private sector who also want to make a buck instead of making education a free public service).

The disappearance of brick and mortar higher ed for everything except advanced hands-on lab work and training etc. is 100% inevitable.


And that is a GOOD thing.

Sadly, given the way things have become so politically and economically mucked up in the
U. S., we may have to just sit on our hands and watch Europe or Asia do it first.

And one more thing.

It is likely this transformation will build up irresistible pressure (due in no small part to the economic unsustainability of the present education model) and then burst onto the education scene on a very large scale in a sudden deluge, in the very near future.

I means, seriously. How long would it take someone like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, or Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to put together an online university, once the decision has been made?

It is quite surprising that Apple's Steve Jobs never did it.

For this reason, individual institutional efforts to corner small pieces of the online higher education market are probably misguided.

The big players are going to step onto the field soon and at that point it will be game over for everyone else.

Techno Phil said...

That will indeed be the Golden Age! When Jacobs and Kasich and Bow Tie Guy and their ilk are long gone and the economy improves we righteous surviving professors, students and staff at UT can finally get down to it and count monkeys flying out of your long-winded neoliberal fanny for a living.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:59

Precisely the sort of "cutting edge, visionary" academic commentary we should expect from your ilk.

You can go back to sleep now - the future won't be needing you.