Our colleagues, ourselves

GayProf is back, and he’s got another hilarious quiz for all of you proffie types, “Collegial is as Collegial Does.”  Here’s a little flava:

My office:

Best: “Is a place where I work quietly.”

Fair: “Is a place where I meet students from time to time.”

Bad: “Is a place where I can really turn up the volume on my music.”

Evil: “Smells suspiciously of sulphur.”

.       .       .       .       .

The role model who influenced my career:

Best: “The hardworking professors who took an interest in me as a student. They not only taught me the knowledge that I need for this job, but also what it means to be a committed educator.”

Fair: “Wonder Woman.”

Bad: “I did it on my own. Nobody ever helped me and I was always falling through the cracks.”

Evil: “Pope Benedict XVI.”

Honestly?  I would rate myself “fair” for the most part.  (But that only means that there’s room for improvement, right?  We all need goals.)  Tell me how you’d rate yourself.  Also, per yesterday’s conversation, I missed Jonathan Rees’s two posts on the New York Times article on Coursera I linked to yesterday.  Just read it and weep, and then carry on the conversations at Jonathan’s blog and/or in yesterday’s post on the deja-vu quality of the online ed hype.

(Something else I forgot to mention w/r/t the enthusiasm for This Year’s Model:  does anyone remember when video simulcasts were going to revolutionize distance education?  This would have been in the early 1990s, I think.  I remember hearing about deans who were all excited about broadcasting large lecture courses to  even larger numbers of students, who would assemble in yet another large lecture hall in order to see the proffie on a video link.)

Now, I’m off to the office in which I meet with students from time to time.  Stay cool, friends, and make sure your horses have plenty of water. And speakng of This Year’s Model:

11 thoughts on “Our colleagues, ourselves

  1. GayProf: Ever since you had Snow White dispatched, it is axiomatic that you are the fairest in the land.

    And of course, Perpetua is The Best, no question. Please put in a good word with your new employer on my behalf. Consider taking the opportunity to hire all of your friends. (Just a suggestion!)


  2. Never thrived to be more than fair teacher and a serious researcher. I don’t even understand what best means. Does it mean as good as Bill Clinton or best in the department or the best I can be?

    A comment on Rees: he treats online courses as if they were AIDS. That is not helpful. If we seriously intend to destroy college education in this country, Rees’s approach will help.


  3. Hey, there are effective treatments for AIDS and HIV infection. For MOOCs and other online experiments, all we have are the brave women and men like Jonathan Rees who stand astride history and yell “STOP!!!”

    Here’s something to chew over from the IHE story I linked to yesterday. Many of the advocates of MOOCs and online courses are very clear about their goals. Here’s commenter “Observer:”

    The Coursera model makes complete sense from a business point of view. Why should thousands of smaller universities and colleges offer similar online courses developed by thousands of individual instructors? That’s a wasteful duplication of effort. Instead of this unpredictable, variable education cottage industry, the online education business model centralizes and standardizes course offerings by having just a few MOOCs, taught by top professor-entrepreneurs, available to all colleges and universities.

    The model solves two problems at once: it standardizes course offerings and course rigor across all colleges and universities, and it destroys any remaining justification for tenure. Clearly there will continue to be a need for graders, markers, and test proctors, particularly in the courses that cannot be assessed by multiple-choice alone. It may be desirable to have teaching assistants in these courses monitor discussion sections, and even offer help to struggling students. But these functionaries can be hired and trained by Coursera. They need not be “professors,” with all that implies. Their hourly wages can be set quite low, as, initially, there will be a great demand for these positions. $10-$15 per hour is standard in online tutoring centers. I wouldn’t expect online assistants to make much more.

    This model reduces sharply the current functions of colleges and universities. All that the college of the future will need is a testing center, a few computer labs, and a small staff for record-keeping and maintenance. Community colleges will keep their technical education, or at least that part of it that is hands-on. The rest will disappear.

    Just don’t expect the courses themselves to come cheap. Once there’s a monopoly, the courses will become extremely expensive.


  4. It’s hard to know what irony or earnestness to attribute to the analysis of “Observer,” but presuming the latter, is the “standardization” of offerings and rigor (I can only think of “mortis” as following that word) really a desirable thing? Maybe so to produce a generation of shovel-ready actors for global competitiveness initiatives, but if the pretense still has anything to do with the search for “truth,” isn’t the “Hundred Flowers” movement a better model than the assembly line?

    In any case, my particular concern in all this yesterday was the journalism in all this, and the journalism in all this should be less about ga-ga over “tsunamis” and “tipping points” and more about, you know, inquiry. Like, what kinds of due dilligence are institutions doing before joining up in these coursortia? With what result? Because even the colonially-chartered private institutions that have led the charge so far are in legal senses charities and public trusts, answerable to public authority in most states through attorney generals’ offices and the like. And beyond that level of purview, as an ethical matter, they’re playing with institutional knowledge capital accruing from literally generations of intellectual practice and experiment. I don’t think invoking some institutional version of “academic freedom” to shield against the wider gaze would be too becoming. I think I may have mentioned this before, but at Penn this spring the provost apparently “just announced” the Coursera initiative, without involving the relevant sub-bodies of the Faculty Senate, leaving the latter to hope that this might be addressed *next year*. That’s a pretty piss-poor excuse for academic governance, shared or otherwise. If the Times doesn’t find this kind of stuff as compelling as the worldwide Libor dragnets, maybe the hacker communities could take a look under the covers?


  5. I saw this and thought of you. This describes an EU project at Jacobs University, Bremen:


    The EMOTE project will design, develop and evaluate a new generation of artificial embodied tutors that have perceptive capabilities to engage in empathic interactions with learners in a shared physical
    space. Overall, the EMOTE project aims to (1) research the role of pedagogical and empathic interventions in the process of engaging the learner and facilitating their learning progress and (2) explore if and how the exchange of socio-emotional cues with an embodied tutor in a shared physical space can create a sense of connection and social bonding and act as a facilitator of the learning experience. This will be done across different embodiments (both virtual and robotic),
    allowing for the effect that such embodiment will have on engagement and empathy to be explored.



  6. Hey Historiann and Posse…

    I think I’d also rate myself as Fair overall. I think there are some areas where I can fit into “Best” like my interactions with students and advising. I am always working hard to drum up business for my colleagues in other specializations and disciplines since their diverse approaches to the past will help my students. I am kind of a slacker in the service department. I could do better in terms of preparing for meetings. I actively shirk new committees and service commitments, but that would change if I could exchange my old assignments for new ones.

    I think that on-line education is going to replace the liberal arts education at public universities and colleges, especially at the RIIs and lower. This is because people have given up on education as a public good. Instead its seen as a private benefit, so the student-consumer is going to be asked to bear the brunt of the costs, same as if they were buying a car.

    That said, I am sure that the new on-line stuff will be just as expensive as the way we do things now, but administrators are salivating because that money will come out of a different budget line, so they can shrink the payroll. And remember, payroll is the biggest expense in higher ed. The goons in the state legislature are always bitching about how much money goes to ‘teachers’ and desperately want to slash the state payroll to pay for tax cuts.



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