Friday, November 5, 2010

Class dismissed

Adjunct blogger, David Ruccio teaches economics, blogs ~ links, excepts, keen commentary thereon, invariably illustrated to perfection ~ and never fails to come with the best of images: art, photos (frequently of public art), cartoons, graphics, illustrations, sketches, charts,and so on. I may be a lit person. but most of the blogs I reach for (figuratively speaking) are by historians or economists. David's is worth following for either copy or images alone ~ both is a twofer treat ...

Class dismissed via occasional links & commentary by David Ruccio on 11/5/10

In the brave new world of the cost-cutting corporate university, students can stay in their pajamas and earn course credits. Right in their dorm rooms, by viewing on-line courses.

It may not be learning. Or learning much. But students are able to accumulate course credits, and therefore consume what the new corporate university is supplying.

The New York Times reports that universities are teaching thousands of students who never have to step foot in a classroom to earn course credits in Economics, Spanish, Psychology, and so on. And they're not the usual distance-learning students, students who for some time have been offered the opportunity to purchase the education commodity without setting foot on a college or university campus. No, these are on-campus students who, because of budget-cuts, are being forced to purchase course credits by taking-on-line courses.

A single professor, sitting in an office (at home or on campus) can "teach" thousands of students, many more than can fit in a lecture hall, via a relatively simple computer hook-up. Students stay in their rooms, without ever meeting the professor or other students in the course, and attempt to learn the material via on-line lectures and exams.

On-line education represents a fundamental change both in the labor process (it is a form of speed-up) and in the commodity being produced (since one of the distinctive features of consuming the commodity higher education is that students have to work—alone, with the professor, and with other students—to realize the use-value of learning).
It is the future of higher education—and the end of the university as we have known it.


  1. This has been on my mind a lot lately. At an adjunct recruitment event yesterday the facilitators made a big deal of the fancy technology (with NBC sponsorship!) used for online teaching (web enhanced/hybrid/full online). There was obviously a push towards using this stuff as much as possible but very little reflection on the pedagogical implications.
    The thought was merely "These are wonderful new technologies and imagine what you could do with them!" Which is fine, perhaps, if you just want to design a website, but an education?
    Adjuncts are, for better or worse, bound to be the pioneers of this "brave new world" as the author puts it. The attitude that education is the consumption of credits is as true for in-class learning as it is online. But given the limits of genuine human interaction online, how do we change this?
    It is far too easy to logout (or drop out), or simply to multi-task online and forget the learning. The attrition rate for online courses should speak for themselves. But as some students drop out, more will join.
    We all do a lot of online research and there are many fantastic and important educational uses for computers, but I'm inspired by people like Jaron Lanier ("You Are Not a Gadget") who notes that our computer use is shaping how we view ourselves, and not always in the best way. We're reshaping our values to fit the technology, rather than the other way around. Exactly what is happening, I would say, with online courses. Thanks for the blog post. JD

  2. Thanks ~ very encouraging. On my mind too. I've been following this since the early 90s: history too, the utopian/dystopian thread has been there since the git-go. I also do a lot with social media and have had both positive and negative experiences teaching on line. Great for some but not for every learner, yet the least suitable are too often those most targeted. Too often the technology is not being use to its advantage for innovation. The best configurations still haven't been worked out ~ and when they do, will still keep changing. I admit to a personal weakness for edupunk.

    Sometimes I get the impression that neither advocates nor opponents really get all the implications or how much of a game changer all this is going to be. Neither seems inclined to use the other's perspective to synthesize something new.

    That means I need to post more like this one (more a matter of picking the one I liked best).

    Adjuncts as pioneers reminds me of the origin of "infantry" and the practice of putting disposable youth on the front line. Technology as a means of Taylorization too, and you recall what that did to skilled manufacturing and craft labor.

    Thanks for the Jaron Lanier reference. Stephen Downes is another interesting thinker too.


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