November 28, 2013

"The job of the college professor as we know it will continue to exist in elite institutions, but in most cases it will cease to exist."

"I predict that the change will come more rapidly than we can structurally or emotionally accommodate."

32 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

A good change. This would end the system of imposing massive indebtedness on kids for the sake of the idiot leftist indoctrination. Can't happen soon enough.

pm317 said...

I'm one of the lucky ones. I landed a tenure-track job at a liberal arts college,

This line made me laugh -- yeah, you landed a tenure-track job. You have not got tenure yet.

Khan Academy!

Carol said...

There may be more adjuncts and "facilitators" in the future, but MOOCs are a flop so far.

I still like classroom learning. It is hard to stay interested in an online course without others to compare yourself with. Of course, competition is a Bad thing.

MomRunningFromCancer said...

That was an interesting article. I follow Penelope Trunk, who has decided to 'unschool' her two children. I don't agree with everything she says about our education system, but I appreciate her opinion and it ALWAYS gets me thinking.
I believe that our entire education system (kindergarten through college) must change and self directed, online courses have a place, but I also believe that we still need a structured system, for those not willing or not able to follow a self directed process. I agree with her that many of our elementary schools act as little more than baby sitters, all for the convenience of the working parents.

chuck said...

Let's look at some of our elite colleges.

Some 96 percent of faculty and staffers at the eight universities who donated wrote their checks to Obama, and at Brown University, just one professor contributed to Mitt Romney's bid, according to a study by student political advocacy group Campus Reform. In all, the employees of the prestigious schools sent more than $1.2 million to President Obama and just $114,166 for Romney’s campaign -- a ratio of more than 10-to-1.

Apparently the faculty of these elite institutions aren't all that brilliant. No doubt their IQs range upward of 160, but their smarts are down there in the cellar with the potatoes.

The Godfather said...

When the last professor leaves the university, it will not be necessary for her/him to turn out the lights -- there'll still be plenty of administrators left.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Getting our microaggressions through a microcomputer won't be the same.

MadisonMan said...

I agree that MOOCs, once the wave of the future, are crashing on the shores of reality. They are great for a small subset of students who do well wherever they learn. For most? Not so much. Universities love 'em 'cause they're a nice source of income (So are online courses). Their existence betrays the fact that Universities are hurting for money, so some kind of adjustment is coming once all the money sources are wrung dry.

For something like chemistry, or Engineering, I don't see how professors can go away. Who will supervise the laboratory exercises that are required? There are some things that simply can't be done remotely.

Bruce Hayden said...

A lot of different issues there. One important one that was slid over is that the costs keep going up, up, up, while the results are stagnet, if that. And, we found yesterday a school that was dumping its physics, English, and history departments. Apparently no administrators though, nor climbing walls, etc. More and more of the higher ed money is going to places other than the classroom. When my kid started their undergraduate education, the cost of a year at many private schools was maybe $50k. 5-6 years later, and despite being in a recession the entire time, the cost is now nearly $60k.

Think of the economics. If the students take maybe 8 classes a year, that works out to maybe $4k per class (attributing the rest of the $60k to room, board, etc). Paying an adjunct $2400 to each one of those classes leaves $1600 to cover the physical overhead of the class - heat, rent, AC, etc. And, then you have the money from the other, maybe 15-30 students in the class. You have huge quantities of money coming in, and a sliver of it being spent in the classroom. Even full, tenured, profs like our glorious leader here, prof Althouse, are paid a fraction of the tuition money raised by their teaching, and yet, non-tenure track teaching slots have risen overall apparently from 1/3 to 3/4 since I was in college.

Then, you have the problem that in many departments, research is the way to get tenure, and not teaching. At least in STEM, there is a big split between those who do research, bring in grant money,, and get tenure, and those who do best in the classroom, and survive as adjuncts and lecturers. At the university that my kid is at as a grad student, there was a scandal a decade or so ago, when it was disclosed that the average tenured prof taught 1 1/2 classses a year. But, and not surprisingly, the class that my kid is taking where the students are struggling the most is taught by a long tenured full professor who would rather be researching.

The real questiion that seems always to be ignored there is what is the real purpose of the university. Is it to teach the next generation? Or to do research? Obviously, they cannot be totally separated, because, esp at the doctorate level, training the next generation of reseachers is important.

Which gets me to my next point - some people teach bettter than do research, and some people are super-stars in the classroom. And, that is what we are starting to see in Internet learning, that some of the best teachers are making their names in this venue. I think that this is more true in the K-12 realm, so far, but expect that utimately colleges and universities will start competing on their ability to teach effectively on-line. And, the more we see of this, the more that in-class lecturing by tenured faculty will become a luxury, available at Harvard, but not nearly as often at lower ranked schools (Not to say that law schools are going to change as quicklyl, since I would argue that professor/student interaction is much more critical there than in many cases)..

David said...

This is unfair to dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs did not create their own asteroid.

Bob R said...

When you read an article like this (there have been plenty before, and there will be more to follow) always look to see if they mention grading. In this one, the line is, "and have their tests graded by computer." The lectures are the easy part. But the key to quality has always been evaluation - making the students perform in lots of different ways: papers, tests, math and physics problems, labs. The constraint on the quality of online education is online evaluation.

Paddy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paddy O said...

"No doubt their IQs range upward of 160"

I don't know if there's a correlation of faculty and IQ like this. I think most faculty are smart but very few geniuses. Getting a PhD is mostly just putting in the time and persevering through the work. It's paint by numbers in a lot of respects, keep jumping through the hoops and you'll have the letters.

That's why while there are some really brilliant scholars, a lot of academia really is more politics than ideas, networking and such.

Roger Sweeny said...

MadisonMan, I hope you don't assume that nowadays tenured professors "supervise the laboratory exercises that are required [in chemistry or engineering]." That's for TAs.

Joe said...

The article conveniently ignores the fact that most college courses are a giant waste of time. They are busy work intended to extract money from students and give jobs to people who otherwise would have to productive work for a living.

Mountain Maven said...

The rate of change in higher ed will be moderated by employers still wanting a traditional 4 year degree from job applicants.

Paddy O said...

I teach online and classroom courses (good evals for both), at the graduate and undergraduate level. And I think change is going to go much slower than expected.

Schools compete and whereas some corner the market on online, these aren't elite schools yet. Online degree is still the GED of college ed. It's a great supplement but misses out on key elements that students look for and which requires a standard professor.

Online classes are great for gen eds or basic material. They aren't so good at dynamic interaction or advanced content. For online teaching the key element is for a person to answer questions and provoke learning. A TA, MOOC can't do that.

What else do schools compete with? Class size. Professor student ratio. Students look for the personal interaction, especially in the American model of college.

Also access to libraries and other learning facilities. It's not that hard to find full-text journals, but it's not easy to find access to other research texts. People still want to sell information, and having access to a library pools that cost.

Paddy O said...

"give jobs to people who otherwise would have to productive work for a living."

Not necessarily. A lot of those people would work for the government instead.

David said...

This was a large part of my thinking in recently taking a job at an elite liberal arts college.

Michael K said...

"Who will supervise the laboratory exercises that are required? There are some things that simply can't be done remotely."

The solution is simple. Medical schools have done away with labs. Some of them involved animals when I was a medical student so the decision helps to reduce lefty anxiety. Second, labs take room. When they are gone, there is room for twice as many students per class. Medical school have doubled and tripled enrollment the last 50 years. The stuff about the AMA trying to limit doctors is nonsense. However, medical schools are expensive. They are cutting costs per student by doing away with labs; students no longer have microscopes; they don't study bacteriology like we did and anatomy has been reduced a lot.

St. George said...

Someone recently predicted that in the future there would only be five universities...Harvard, Cambridge, Google, Gates, and something else.

Presumably all the nation's bucolic little private schools will be gobbled up or disappear the way military boarding schools in the South did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Keystone said...

A fatal flaw in many online courses is the potential for cheating. You don't know who is really doing the work and who is taking the exams. That greatly reduces the value to employers.

Hagar said...

Degrees have no "value" to employers. Competence does.
Everybody gets hired "on probation," and salaries get adjusted according to performance.
So, not a great problem.

pm317 said...

Everybody gets hired "on probation,"

Except Obama..

somefeller said...

The logic seems to be: "Why hire your own Ph.D. when you can show pre-recorded lectures to students hundreds of miles away, and then have their tests graded by a computer?"

If the other option is to sit in a lecture hall with 400 other students while taking a scantron or short answer exam graded by a TA, why indeed?

I doubt we'll go down to 5 or so colleges, but there really isn't a need for thousands of them, like we have now in the US. About 200 schools (elite private universities, flagship state universities and regional colleges, many of which have religious ties) already do most of the serious education and research in this country and there isn't a need for much more. That's doubly true if tuition costs don't drop.

somefeller said...

This line made me laugh -- yeah, you landed a tenure-track job. You have not got tenure yet.

Yeah, but as a point of fact, he is lucky to have gotten that far. He's better off than most people in his job market, at least as of today. So the laughter is misplaced.

Khan Academy!

Khan Academy is a great supplement for those who already are seeking education, which is to say, the sort of people who end up at good colleges. And it is being embraced by such places. It's no accident that the founder of Khan Academy did commencement speeches at Rice and MIT a couple of years ago. But it won't replace such schools.

Zach said...

It seems odd to single out MOOCs for the decline of tenure-track positions:

1) It's a trend that's been going on since the '80s.

2) At the moment, MOOCs are clearly inferior, and treated as such. Nobody tries to get a job with a degree from Khan Academy, and it's not likely to happen in the near future.

3) To my knowledge, MOOCs are targeting entry level gut classes, rather than liberal arts classes.

4) Interaction with professors and individual attention is what liberal arts colleges sell. That's their pitch, right there in the brochures. It's going to be really tough for them to sell a branded version of an online course.

somefeller said...

Zach: All true. But MOOCs are likely to get better over time and can easily replace the humanities or natural science 101 courses as they are structured at most non-elite (and many elite) schools. And regarding your fourth point, you're very right, but it's hard to see people being willing to pay $40K+ per year for that privilege, except at schools whose name also buys social sorting cachet. Either prices drop or the schools do.

Regarding the job market for PhDs in academe, read this and weep (or not): http://alexandreafonso.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/how-academia-resembles-a-drug-gang/

rhhardin said...

Derrida Professors profess the truth, commit to it, declare it openly.

rhhardin said...

Curiously, I have a real audio file of Derrida giving the talk of which that is supposed to be a transcription. 1:46:50 long.

MaxTruth said...

"If higher education continues down its current path, full-time professors — already an endangered species — may become extinct."

And it can't happen too soon. In over 70 college courses (all levels), I had 1 teacher and the rest, at best, were lecturers. Lecturing is a commodity and you purchase commodities based on price,

Unknown said...

There seems to be a perceived 2-axis function, traditional education versus online education. I think the formulation is a fallacy; online and traditional are not orthogonal. The final solution is not likely to be one displacing the other, but rather some amalgamation of the two. One example:

http://www.mne.ksu.edu/big12ne