Timid university administrators bow to bullying system admins, aggressive accreditation institutions, and a political use of FERPA by local IT admins to keep the adjuncts in their assigned place and their LMS contracts sacrosanct.
The problem: mandatory use of a system-sanctioned LMS.
The solution: regaining the discussion, invoking standards of teaching.
The most important standard I would bring to any discussion about what technology should be employed on campus and the faculty role in how it should be employed is that faculty deserve the same prerogatives when they use an online tool as they do when they are teaching in an entirely conventional face-to-face classroom. To suggest anything else defeats the purpose of moving any part of a class online in the first place.
The second standard I would bring to any discussion of how technology like the LMS should be employed on campus is that faculty should be offered as many technological choices as possible and that they should be the ones who make the final decision about which ones they use.
The final standard I would bring to a discussion of the LMS is that the result should be as close to the open Internet as humanly possible. That means faculty have to be able to employ tools that exist entirely outside their LMS if they so choose, like Slack or Hypothes.is, the open source web annotation program.
college campuses are the kinds of places that are supposed to be on the cutting edge of technology since they have so many smart people on them. Treat those smart people like the average corporate peon when it comes to how they teach – the action at the center of their job descriptions – and you are going to have a lot of very unhappy smart people on your hands.
Smartphones and pervasiveness could help us undo the knots education admin created for online learning.
Education administrators who have bought into the various digital-platform models, on the other hand, have long seen their avenues of digital instruction as a way to reduce reliance on teachers by regularizing curricula through digital replication and turning the teachers into overseers, people there simply to solve problems as students take more and more control of their education. The digital, these people dreamed, could make most teachers redundant.
Though student control of their own education is a laudable goal, that’s not the only goal of those pushing online education. Cost-cutting and streamlining are even more important ends. Producing a workforce augmentation implemented seamlessly also is.
The growth of the student as a person and a citizen is not. Education, as we have defined it in the United States (until recently), is not.
Thing is, the digital landscape our students inhabit has changed dramatically since the old assumptions about digital utility in education were formulated. The smartphone has become student interface with much of the world, including families and, yes, classrooms. Anyone simply looking around today can see that the smartphone should be changing all of assumptions about utility of digital tools–but it hasn’t.
Online Ed is a swindle. MnSCU endorses it. Corporate culture endorses it. Some faculty endorse it. Even students endorse it when it serves them to side-step a requirement. Part of the swindle has public ed selling off public resources to corporate interests under the guise of filling a gap. But the gap is between solid face to face education and lower quality DE. It can’t be filled, but there is money to be made in selling filler.
This swindle lies behind Carey’s essay. To save money, many universities are moving more heavily than ever before into online education, charging as much, sometimes, for their new courses as they do for their more costly (to the institutions) on-campus courses. Even public institutions are involved: They charge the same for online and hybrid (partly online and partly classroom) courses as they do for classroom-based ones, though it costs much less for the institutions to offer such courses. This saves so much money that the colleges and universities are loathe to signal that they are providing a lower-standard product through their online and hybrid catalogs. So, they maintain the fiction by charging the same for both. They want to keep that money coming in; they don’t feel they can afford to admit, through a separate pricing structure, that the online and hybrid courses are not on the same level of instruction as what goes on when the focus of education is at least three hours a week of personal “interface.”