john-belushi-college

Where does your tuition go??

It seems that it goes to administration…

The growth in the number of administrators per college student is similar to the decline in the number of full-time faculty members per student.  The rest of the teaching is done by “adjunct” faculty — or “term” faculty…i.e. faculty members hired for a specific period, to teach specific courses.  In most cases (not MnSCU two-year schools…which are a rare exception), it costs much less per section taught to have an adjunct teach a class than a full-time faculty member — because of both lower pay and usually a lack of benefits.

Also, it used to be the case that full-time faculty members often did part of their work as administrators, so they’d both teach and administer — as a result, the administration needed to get the cooperation of faculty members in order to complete a project.  Since there were plenty of full-time faculty members, this worked.. BUT, as the number of full-time faculty positions declined, administrators simply hired full-time staff to do that stuff — thus eliminating the pesky need for faculty involvement.

Administrators will counter with a few arguments; that the increased regulation of state and federal money means they need more staffing in order to be in compliance, that students come in with more needs and as a result they need more services, and that the new IT demands of a modern college require more staff to fulfill them — a piece of chalk and a blackboard aren’t sufficient to teach classes anymore..

The trouble is that there is developing a group of professional administrators who have no connection to the classroom.  IF they have teaching experience, they no longer want to teach.  As a result, every semester spent outside of the classroom makes them less connected to the realities of the classroom.

Think about it this way, I’ve been in the classroom at Century for 10 years now — and students and their needs have changed significantly in that 10 years — as have the expectations about the use of technology.

For example, to an administrator, online education seems pretty simple — put stuff up on D2L, students do work and earn credit.  There is no need to schedule a classroom — presto, instant tuition.  The thing is, they don’t see how much effort goes into the preparation for an online course — it’s pretty time-consuming to find electronic resources, write quizzes, put up discussion questions, write paper prompts and the like.  Then — to get it right for a completely online course, the professor has to figure out how to convey what they’d normally do in person.  That’s tricky — and I’m not sure I have it right yet.. (the latest version is your reading quiz… hitting what I see to be the highlights…).  Before my first online courses, I spent several meetings with an instructional design expert — just to make sure I had something worthy of the credit hours my students would be earning.

The trouble with the use of adjunct faculty is simply that they aren’t getting paid enough to do this kind of work.  The national average per-class payment is so low that I don’t want to put it here — so as not to embarrass my friends and colleagues… as a result they end up working for multiple schools, taking other jobs and generally trying to live on poverty wages all in the hope of getting a full-time position.  Asking them to invest more of their time in the preparation for an online class is asking them to work for free— or, at a minimum it’s taking a huge risk that their preparations won’t be sufficient for good student learning.

Now administrators all across the country are buying into the MOOC model of online education… essentially, these are pre-packaged online courses in which a “star” professor provides video lecture material to thousands of students each semester.  The students either take exams that can be graded by the computer or they give peer feedback on written work.  The instructor is explicit about NOT answering student e-mails from all of those students… and, really how could they?  Those of you who are in my current classes know that’s not how this all works — at least, when my college-provided laptop is working :)…

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June 10, 2013 · 11:04 am

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