Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do MOOC Faculty Have a Responsibility For How Courses are Used?

I have been looking at the way that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have begun to affect the control relationships between faculty and administration over the control of course construction and program development.  (See, e.g., Debating MOOCs: Shared Governance, Quality Control, Outsourcing, and Control of Curriculum at Harvard, Duke, American, San Jose State; MOOCs at Penn State; An Update).

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

The issue of MOOCs raises a more interesting issue--the effects of MOOCs on more sharply drawing the hierarchical structures among universities.  One of the consequences of thisvertical ordering of universities is the potential that MOOCs could be used to substitute the faculty of higher reputed schools for those of universities of lower reputation; or as the Philosophy Department faculty at San José State put it in "an open letter, the philosophy professors warned that such collaboration could mark beginning of a long-term effort to “replace professors, dismantle departments, and provide a diminished education for students in public universities.”" (Steve Kolowich, "MOOC Professors Claim No Responsibility for How Courses Are Used," Chronicle of Higher Education, May 21, 2013). 

It is clear that issue of the use of MOOCs to displace faculty raises important ethical and operational issues for administrations at all universities--both exporting and importing institutions.  But it also raises the related issue: "Are professors who develop and teach MOOCs responsible for how those MOOCs are used?" (Steve Kolowich, "MOOC Professors Claim No Responsibility, supra.)

This post suggests emerging views.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Debating MOOCs: Shared Governance, Quality Control, Outsourcing, and Control of Curriculum at Harvard, Duke, American, San Jose State

Many universities are looking to massive open online courses (MOOCs) as part of the technology infused future of education.  Penn State, for example, has partnered with Coursera, to develop and deliver these courses, and the programs which may inevitably be built around these. (See also MOOCs at Penn State; An Update; (List of Penn State MOOCs HERE). "Looking to the future, Penn State’s MOOC professors are optimistic about the benefits that teaching the courses will have for both the university and their fields of study." (Stephen Shiflett, Penn State Professors Excited About Possibilities of Massive Open Online Courses, Centre Daily Times, April 6, 2013).

("Sign me up;" Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

But faculties across the country are increasingly raising doubts, and organizing opposition to MOOCs. (e.g., Dan Berrett, Debate Over MOOCs Reaches Harvard, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 10, 2013).  There are two distinct bases for this opposition.  The first goers to shared governance--faculties have raised serious objections to the introduction of MOOCs as an administration initiative, usually with little or no faculty consultation, viewing this as a way of end-running faculty authority.  The second goes to substance--that MOOCs do not deliver quality or substance to a necessary minimum extent.  This post looks to recent oppositional statements by faculty governance organizations at Harvard, Duke, American, and San Jose State

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Name Same Mission: Introducing "Monitoring University Governance"

My year as Chair of the Penn State University Faculty Senate has ended and with it this blog as it was formerly constituted as "The Faculty Voice". 

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

With this post I am pleased to announce the successor blog--"Monitoring University Governance" to which I welcome you today.