An Ethics of the Seminar Table

I have a lot to learn. I’m not an expert, and maybe never will be; I’m sure my views will change. But right now, I don’t like what’s happening to teaching and learning in higher education.

Public funding is drying up. Tuition is rising. The tenure track is disappearing. And corporations, backed by venture capital, have smelled blood.

In the past couple of years, Coursera and edX and Udacity have partnered with wealthy institutions and begun to develop MOOCs (massive open online courses), which they are now licensing to less wealthy institutions as cheap replacements for homegrown courses. The end-game: lower instructional costs at public universities, fewer tenured professors, higher percentages of contingent faculty.

Like many other academics, I see this kind of corporatization as a threat to college classrooms. Students without the resources to attend a private school should be able to take courses designed specifically for them – courses conceived and delivered by full-time, on-site researchers and instructors.

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“We Are Creating the Walmarts of Higher Education”

Via The Atlantic, an account of the political pressure on colleges to increase efficiency at the cost of quality. State legislatures want to raise graduation rates. They also want to reduce funding. So the obvious solution is not to do a better job of getting students engaged (because that would require more and better paid teachers) but to make it easier for half-engaged students to earn their degrees.

Badass sound bite #1: “Anything that creates distance in the teacher-student relationship will hurt the student.” (Mayra Besosa)

Badass sound bite #2: “In the end, education is an interpersonal endeavor.” (Karen Arnold)