walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
Professors Pushing Back Against MOOCs in CA

Virtualized

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.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Eliza Qwghlm

    Wow. If even professors working in San Jose can’t grasp the importance of adapting to a changing technological world, it doesn’t speak well for their profession as a class. No wonder teachers instituted tenure protection.

    • AD_Rtr_OS

      If you can, do;
      if you can’t, teach.

      • Tom

        In many cases–not all, by any means.
        And no, I’m not a teacher.

    • free_agent

      Nobody with any brains is eager to embrace a technological change whose ultimate purpose is to reduce demand for his services. Even if the change is inevitable, a delay of a few years may be enough to get you to retirement.

      • Eliza Qwghlm

        I get your point. But there actually have been folks with brains who decided to take part in the revolution, instead of standing on the beach protesting the tide.

  • RedWell

    To quote VM from 2 days ago: “Math, science and business are easier to teach online than liberal-arts subjects like English and philosophy that rely more heavily on in-class discussions.”

    The rest of the post describes the limitations of MOOCs and how new formats like blended courses–in which real-life faculty interact with students–is probably ideal.

    It’s a fascinating read. I suggest the folks here read it: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/11/19/is-the-mooc-hype-dying/
    Sure, some faculty are protesting against a possible threat to their way of life, but they are also protesting an oversimplified policy that replicates the worst aspects of the lecture format without adding much in terms of actual student learning or human interaction with a professional.

  • Corlyss

    “a remedial math course at the university—one of the earliest examples of for-credit MOOCs being offered on college campuses for credit.”

    In what twisted universe does a college give college credit for re-teaching the slow what they should have learned in high school or more likely jr. high? If these remedial credits are not in addition to, and not part of, the # of credits required to graduate with a degree, everyone is being cheated by this arrangement.

    • GodisanAmerican

      The remedial courses are not for college credit. They are for students who have not satisfied ELM (Elementary Level Math) or EPT (English proficiency test) requirement. Most courses have ELM or EPT as prerequisites.
      Conservatives are excited about MOOCs because it hits their favorite enemy, professors but they shouldn’t be.

      The jury is still out on MOOCs but it will be a sad when a course, say on classics , is taught the same way, by the same professor, following the same syllabus all over the US even the world.

      • John_Marmalade

        Phooey. Wherever you turn these days you have some left wing crack pot wasting time quibbling about chicken manure.

        You know very well what the guy meant when he talked about universities re-teaching material that lazy, incompetent, over paid teachers should have covered at lower levels. He didn’t need to read your gibberish.

        And as for your claptrap on MOOCS and the classics it’s just that.

        Across the board when it comes to all the brain washing on politically correct subjects (e.g. gender preference), every bushy beard wacko professor in the country is reading from the same curriculum guide. So these days whether it’s one cluck doing the teaching or 10,000 is irrelevant.

        The teaching of Classics is the same. If any student sets out, with the idea that they’re going to get something other than the flavor of the day, that student is going to get the academic wipe out they deserve, be it MOOC or live hot bushy marxist breath.

        • GodisanAmerican

          lots of name calling just for clearing up a point. And I am not even against MOOCs or online education. It is inevitable and might be good for society.

          No one likes remediation. But without it, a significant numbers students won’t succeed and most of them are minorities and poor and first-generation college students.
          “overpaid teachers….”
          I think you are living an in alternate reality Faux News and Talk-radio. Just go to some campus. See what you find. Check, how many faculty are foreign-born. More prestigious the university, more foreign-born faculty. There are NOT many American who willing to go through any (5-7 years after 2 years of Masters) reasonable ph.d. program, then another 6 years for tenure, if they are lucky to get it. Even after that, the pay barely affords a middle-class existence . Forget respect iIn a society where expertise is elitism and anti-intellectualism is norm.

  • wigwag

    “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.” (Via Meadia)

    Putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum is never a good idea.

  • AD_Rtr_OS

    I suppose it’s unreasonable to require all students transferring in to pass the Bonehead Math, and Bonehead English, courses prior to admittance? Perhaps than the high-schools and lower-division colleges they’re coming from could be held accountable for their educational malpractice.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service