Is online teaching the future for elite university education??

Greetings all.

I was recently reading an article by David Brooks in the New York Times, titled: The Campus Tsunami.

Is there a tsunami taking place on college campuses? and now at the elite universities such as Harvard and MIT?? Basically Brooks wrote that now the elite universities are envisioning their future in offering online education.  He equates it to the revolution that took place in the newspaper/magazine industry where much of the content if not all has gone on-line and the publishing/news business has suffered greatly.  He wrote, “What happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education: a rescrambling around the Web.”  He adds, “Many of us view the coming change with trepidation. Will online learning diminish the face-to-face community that is the heart of the college experience? Will it elevate functional courses in business and marginalize subjects that are harder to digest in an online format, like philosophy? Will fast online browsing replace deep reading?”  What will happen to those professors who are not the “star” lecturers to millions? What will happen to the day to day face to face dialogue, discussions and discourse?? what about academic standards – will they remain rigorous? He asks many questions for us to ponder and think about since this mode of teaching will definitely be part of our future.  He challenges American universities to set up an excellent strong presence on-line and that actually, it will be hard to hide mediocrity and offer sub-quality poor education in front of the whole wide world – the web.  Good opinion piece to share with you.

Here are some of the comments posted about the article:

To the Editor:

David Brooks imagines “a blended online world” where privileged academic stars supply content and local professors are relegated to tutoring and conversing with students. Mr. Brooks’s ostensible goal is “quality,” but this corporate supply-chain model would diminish, not increase, knowledge.

Because knowing is a process, not a product, it is vibrant through the variegated scholarship of many local scholars. Students are inspired to learn by seeing scholarship enacted locally; their education will be badly compromised by accelerating their association of scholarly authority with a video screen image.

Denver, May 4, 2012

Famous statement by Pastor Niemoller

This was mentioned in class tonight and here are the details — Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

“First They Came for the Jews”
By Pastor Niemoller

“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

An interesting resource: Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Greetings all. I found this link below and information about a journal that would be of interest to all of us.  A faculty member of the Political Science (PSCI) department here at VT is one of the editors, Professor C. Brians.  All the best wishes.
The International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (ISSN 1812-9129) provides a forum for higher education faculty, staff, administrators, researchers, and students who are interested in improving post-secondary instruction. The IJTLHE provides broad coverage of higher education pedagogy and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) across diverse content areas, educational institutions, and levels of instructional expertise. The specific emphasis of IJTLHE is the dissemination of knowledge for improving higher education pedagogy. Electronic distribution of IJTLHE maximizes global availability.

Open Sesame

Greetings all –

Holly recently wrote about how scholarly journals get articles from academics (whose time is paid for by their universities and in many cases by our tax money if it is a state university) and then turn around publish them and charge the higher education institutions exorbitant subscription fees to get access to journals.  I also learned from a friend who is a professor at VCOM that he and his colleagues have to pay the journals from $500 to $800 per article to get their research published! In most cases, the universities pay for their research professors the fees to get their work published.  I was not aware of this at all! So last week’s Economist magazine there is an editorial precisely about this topic (they must have been reading our minds and/or present in the New Media for Faculty Seminar when we were having this discussion).  Here is the editorial below and I look forward to your comments:

Academic publishing

Open sesame

When research is funded by the taxpayer or by charities, the results should be available to all without charge

Apr 14th 2012 | from the print edition


PUBLISHING obscure academic journals is that rare thing in the media industry: a licence to print money. An annual subscription to Tetrahedron, a chemistry journal, will cost your university library $20,269; a year of the Journal of Mathematical Sciences will set you back $20,100. In 2011 Elsevier, the biggest academic-journal publisher, made a profit of £768m ($1.2 billion) on revenues of £2.1 billion. Such margins (37%, up from 36% in 2010) are possible because the journals’ content is largely provided free by researchers, and the academics who peer-review their papers are usually unpaid volunteers. The journals are then sold to the very universities that provide the free content and labour. For publicly funded research, the result is that the academics and taxpayers who were responsible for its creation have to pay to read it. This is not merely absurd and unjust; it also hampers education and research.

Publishers insist that high prices are necessary to ensure quality and cover the costs of managing the peer-review process, editing and distribution. High margins, they say, are evidence of their efficiency. Clearly the cost of producing a journal is not zero. But the internet means it should be going down, not up. Over the past decade many online journals and article repositories have emerged that are run on a shoestring. Some have been set up by academics who are unhappy with the way academic publishing works. (Since January some 9,500 researchers have joined a boycott of Elsevier.) In several cases the entire editorial boards of existing journals have resigned to start new ones with lower prices and less restricted access.

But the incumbent journals are hard to dislodge. Researchers want their work to appear in the most renowned journals to advance their careers. Those journals therefore have the pick of the best papers, remain required reading in their fields and have strong pricing power as a result. What is to be done?

There is a simple way both to increase access to publicly funded research and to level the playing field for new journals. Government bodies that fund academic research should require that the results be made available free to the public. So should charities that fund research. This would both broaden access to research and strengthen the hand of “open access” journals, since many researchers would then be unable to publish results in closed ones.

Publish or perish

There are some hopeful signs. The British government plans to mandate open access to state-funded research. The Wellcome Trust, a medical charity that pumps more than £600m ($950m) a year into research, already requires open access within six months of publication, but the compliance rate is only 55%. The charity says it will “get tough” on scientists who publish in journals that restrict access, for example by withholding future grants, and is also launching its own open-access journal. In America, a recent attempt (backed by journal publishers) to strike down the existing requirement that research funded by the National Institutes of Health should be made available to all online has failed. That is good news, but the same requirement should now be extended to all federally funded research.

Open access to research funded by taxpayers or charities need not mean Armageddon for journal publishers. Some have started to embrace open access in limited ways, such as letting academics post their papers on their own websites or putting time limits on their pay barriers. But a strongly enforced open-access mandate for state- and charity-funded research would spur them to do more. The aim of academic journals is to make the best research widely available. Many have ended up doing the opposite. It is time that changed.

from the print edition | Leaders

Meet the new so-called “Leisure Class” in America = professors??

Greetings all.  We were discussing hours worked, salaries, and workload of professors in the PFP course and this issue came up of professors being considered the “new leisure class”?? Here is one of several articles about the so-called “new leisure class” professors??  It is hard to believe that these articles were written/published.  So it seems that there are some grievances out there.

Meet America’s “New leisure class”: High-paid professors who don’t teach

By Tom Nugent on August 31, 2001 12:00 am in Voices

After 14 years as a “migrant worker” in higher ed, I recently resigned
from my full-time, $12,500-a-year job as an “adjunct” journalism professor
to begin a new career as a full-time, free-lance writer.

Why quit college teaching? For starters, I can no longer survive on $12,500
a year — not with three children to raise.

Nor can I continue to teach without health insurance, life insurance, disability
coverage and the promise of at least a small pension when I reach retirement

Like most of the other 350,000 “adjuncts” in American higher education
today, I was slowly starving to death as a college writing teacher — while
the tenured professors, who teach far fewer students than the adjuncts, continued
to enjoy salaries of $50,000, $60,000 and even $80,000 per year for the senior
members of this very exclusive club.

Protected by the “tenure” system, and “safe” from firing,
most of these pampered profs teach only one or two courses a semester.

How outrageous is the continuing ripoff of the U.S. university system by what
the Wall Street Journal recently described as “The New Leisure Class?”
According to several authoritative surveys, the fat-cat profs are stealing shamelessly,
as follows:

The average university professor today spends fewer than nine hours a week
teaching, according to data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI).
The typical prof these days puts in fewer than eight hours a week in one-on-one
“office” sessions with his or her students.
Although the average U.S. college professor today spends fewer than 20 hours
a week working with students, the average annual paycheck is more than $40,000
a year in 1998 — with “full” professors averaging more than
$65,000 per year.

Shocking, isn’t it?

But you can be sure that there’s a price to be paid for this “professorial
gravy-train” — and that it’s being paid in college classrooms all
across America. How? According to many critics of American higher ed, these
inflated pay scales and midget-sized workloads frequently combine to cheat students
out of services to which they’re fully entitled, after paying for most of these
steep salaries (through tuition and taxes) in the first place.

Of course, the professors invariably attempt to blunt any attacks on their Royal
Perks by insisting that they’re required to “spend endless hours in research,”
in addition to teaching.

Yet several recent higher ed surveys show that for almost half of the professoriate,
such research consumes no more than five hours per week — while a full
45 percent of the nation’s professors publish no scholarly writings, whatsoever,
during any given two-year period.

In addition, a 1996 HERI survey found that more than 60 percent of all college
faculty members have never written or edited a book — and one-third have
never published a single journal article.

So much for the “research” argument.

So how does the professoriate attempt to refute these embarrassing numbers,
which now loom as the dirtiest little secret in higher ed?

Ask the blowhards on campus that question, and they’ll immediately begin to
huff and puff about “The glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was
Rome” — while scrambling to hide their yawning indolence behind “the
glorious tradition of the Humanities, which require endless reflection and meditation,
along with yearly, all-expenses-paid trips to Honolulu for academic conferences.”

The Great Student Ripoff seems especially outrageous when you realize that these
“royal privileges” work to undermine good teaching … since the Leisure
Class profs enjoy their idle hours only because a huge percentage of the college
teaching load is carried on the backs of the “part-timers.”

The adjuncts are the university equivalent of “Kelly Girl Temporaries.”
And these days, nearly half of the nation’s 800,000 college teachers are
wearing Kelly green.

Because the “temporaries” uniformly make about one-fourth of the wages
paid to the Leisure Class, and because they receive almost no “benefits”
(health insurance, for example), many wind up racing from one campus to the
next … with some teaching eight, nine and even 10 courses per semester to

And because the “temps” only work from semester to semester, their
contracts can be “cancelled” the moment a particular course falls
short of maximum enrollment, leaving them without expected income virtually

The impact on students is easy to observe. Just ask any harried freshman
to describe what it’s like to study under a platoon of exhausted part-timers
who never seem to have a moment to spare.

Meanwhile, the Privileged Profs go right on taking their opulent lifestyles
for granted — while frequently treating their students with snooty contempt.

Example: One evening a few semesters ago, a graduating senior at my former
school, the University of Maryland, made the terrible mistake of calling a veteran
English Department professor at home.

Because he faced a dilemma that might prevent him from graduating that semester,
the worried student dared the unthinkable: He telephoned the prof about 9:30

And the result?

“Who the hell do you think you are?” roared the supposed teacher,
“to call me at home like this? Do you know what time it is?”

Stunned, the student quickly apologized and hung up.

Too late, the shell-shocked senior realized that he should have replied with
a question of his own:

“Say, prof, who the hell do you think is paying that salary you don’t
earn, anyway?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Nugent is the author of “Death At Buffalo Creek,”
published by W.W. Norton. He is now a free-lance writer living in Hastings,

Paulo Freire and Empowerment of Women Workers in Morocco

Freire and his critical pedagogy philosophy were our guiding light in working with women workers at a canning factory in the city of Agadir on the Atlantic ocean in Morocco.  These women worked long days (14 hours or longer) in horrible working conditions without the necessary safety equipment to protect them from injuries.  They complained bitterly about their working conditions, high level of disease and debilitating injuries.  So at my previous job, we embarked on a two-year empowerment and learning journey using Freire pedagogy and adapting it to women who did not know how to read and write.  We worked very closely on practically a daily basis with these women and built the trust between us. This project culminated in that the women were able to identify the issues at work and articulate them in a successful manner to the management to make significant changes. We took theory with practice and made teaching into a process of learning reflection. It brought in the women’s experiences with the effective pedagogy theories. The women learned that they were indeed powerful and they learned that they could reflect, act and then reflect again. The women became even more creative and saw that these methods were successful in improving their working lives and ultimately their lives.  This is particularly instructive since Moroccan culture is very hierarchical and these women were on the lowest rungs of society.  They moved from the “naive to a critical consciousness” as Kincheloe wrote in Critical Pedagogy.  I believe that we learned as much even more from these gutsy courageous Moroccan working women.


A resource to share: Listening to Students About Learning

Hello! here is a “new” idea 🙂 listening to students about learning! I thought this related to what we were talking about in class on Wednesday.  I hope you find it of interest.  Thanks.

Listening to Students About Learning

Publisher: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Publication Author: Andrea Conklin Bueschel
Abstract: In “Listening to Students About Learning,” Bueschel explores how students can become partners in innovation and inquiry, more engaged in the classroom, and better positioned to succeed when educators listen to their students talk about learning.

SPECC Publications
Citation: Listening to Students About Learning

Resource: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-First Century

The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-First Century

Publisher:San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Publication Author:George Walker, Chris M. Golde, Laura Jones, Andrea Conklin Bueschel, Pat Hutchings

Abstract:This groundbreaking book explores the current state of doctoral education in the United States and offers a plan for increasing the effectiveness of doctoral education. Programs must grapple with questions of purpose. The authors examine practices and elements of doctoral programs and show how they can be made more powerful by relying on principles of progressive development, integration, and collaboration. They challenge the traditional apprenticeship model and offer an alternative in which students learn while apprenticing with several faculty members. The authors persuasively argue that creating intellectual community is essential for high-quality graduate education in every department. Knowledge-centered, multigenerational communities foster the development of new ideas and encourage intellectual risk taking.

The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the Twenty-First Century
Related Scholars: Pat Hutchings
Notes: A book highlights publication (PDF) is also available. The table of contents and a chapter excerpt are available from the publisher’s Web site.

That Awful Monday

Greetings all – I had a most awful “OMG” or even more colorful descriptive words of dismay and upset moment or actually several moments in our last class when I realized that much work I did was lost, gone, disappeared into a cyber black hole never to be recovered again! On that fated Monday, I had a great session with our most wonderful Adam who helped me figure out how to use wordpress to prepare my Professional e-portfolio.  So I was so excited and well informed at that point that I decided (before all the new learned knowledge disappears) let me spend a few hours working on the e-portfolio and I might as well buckle down and write a few blogs about some ideas that were swirling in my “technology peasant” head.  After a few hours of work, I was so pleased with myself — I had a good first complete draft of an e-portfolio (including if I may say so a pretty good teaching philosophy statement) and 3 to 4 blogs on the PFP blog as well as one or two on the GEDI. Yay! I had that nice sense of accomplishment and “ticking off” of the many items on my ever-long “to do list”.  Then to my great dismay – I find out that everything was lost! On Monday, 20th February – the system crashed? died? or just plain did not work and all my work was lost.  I felt an utter helplessness and there was nothing I could do to find my lost work.  I have to re-do my work, remember my thoughts, my insights, and re-do my research in order to write a few of those blogs particularly for the PFP blog.  You wonder — well, why were you so upset, felt so helpless?? not a big deal – these are just blog entries, just thoughts, words, etc.. that you can write again! As for the e-portfolio – no big deal – you already have your bio, resume and syllabi saved in word and it was just a matter or re-formatting, cut & paste, and making links “live” or “hot” and you are done.  A confession – it is not easy for me to blog – I am still way too self conscious about laying out my ideas and thoughts out there in the big wide cyber world. I worry about grammar, spelling, logic, of my simple ideas/thoughts and of the judgement that awaits me by the various readers.

I am happy to report that maybe this shutdown of the system on that fated Monday was the cure, kick in the proverbial rear-end that I needed to leave caution to the wind, write this blog and maybe begin a new unafraid blogging life! I am still a bit cautious, I am still going to agonize over trying to re-write those blogs that I posted on Monday, however, it is not the end of the world 🙂 My blogging life is not over, my grade for PFP will not suffer and I can start over and even the blogs will be better??  Cheers! and thanks for reading/listening.  A reformed newcomer to the blogging world.


Blogging by a Technology Peasant 101

Greetings all -this is definitely a new medium (tool) for me to use.  I am a semi-regular “reader” of blogs particularly those dealing with the MENA region, human rights, labor and worker rights, etc… Yet, as an actual contributor to a blog – this I must say is a first (well, after the posts that I have been writing on the GEDI general e-bulletin and a blog for another course).  My hesitation has been worrying about all the things we talked about in class: spelling mistakes, feeling vulnerable to “critical” comments by peers and others reading the blog, etc… But thanks to you all – I am getting the needed therapy to get over my worries and “attack” the blogging world gently, of course.  I found the guest speaker last week, Dr. Gardner Campbell, to be awesome! engaging and very informative.  I am going to think about how I can incorporate blogging into future courses that I teach.  I am very interested in encouraging students to think, comment and analyze issues that we are learning together in the class that I teach now: Politics of the MENA region.  So using a blog could encourage that learning process – thinking, commenting and analysis. Being back in graduate school after 28 years is definitely a huge learning curve for me — I have been in and out of colleges/university campuses for various reasons – mostly speaking engagements so I have not been totally out of touch but as a student now, there are so many technologies, software, advancements in organizing materials, information, references, etc… that just did not exist when I was getting my master’s degree including of course, blogging.  So here I go — Technology Peasant 101 — embarking on a new learning adventure on the road of a learning revolution! in the spirit of Sir Ken Robinson.

With best wishes and happy blogging to all.