In California, one college’s embrace of MOOCs has sent the faculty into open revolt. Under the leadership of President Mohammad H. Qayoumi, San Jose State has spent the year in the vanguard of early-adopting institutions. In January, the school announced a partnership with Udacity to offer a remedial math course at the university—one of the earliest examples of for-credit MOOCs being offered on college campuses for credit. This experiment was largely regarded as a failure after more than half of the students failed to pass the course, but the school made some tweaks and ran a second course during the summer which performed considerably better.
The faculty, however, remained unconvinced. Last April, a number of faculty members at openly refused to teach an edX philosophy class created by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel, decrying the plan in an open letter. Now, the Academic Senate is preparing to vote to forbid any deals with outside tech providers unless the faculty approves it first. More troublingly for President Qayoumi, they are also calling for an official review of the university’s governance system from the state university system in a clear attempt to undermine his power, or at least convince him to think twice about pursuing his current course. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
The Academic Senate’s proposed rules would modify a 2001 policy governing distance education at San Jose State. The proposed policy seeks to expand those rules to include blended online and “technology intensive” courses, while also reining in the administration’s power to unilaterally create partnerships with private companies.
“As departments and faculty control and determine the appropriate pedagogies for their courses, the university will not agree in a contract with any private or public entity to deliver technology intensive, hybrid, or online courses or programs without the prior approval of the relevant department or program through majority vote of the tenured/tenure track faculty,” says a draft of the proposed policy that was provided to The Chronicle.
We can expect considerably more of this as MOOCs continue to pop up on college campuses. Tenured professors, particularly those who either can’t or won’t make MOOCs of their own, have the most to lose from their spread, and due to the administrative setup of many colleges, they also are in the best position to throw serious obstacles in their way.