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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Crisis at UVa

   
Author Topic: Crisis at UVa
Destineer
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UVa's regents recently decided to fire their president, Teresa Sullivan, who used to be our provost at Michigan and was generally well thought-of here. To the outsider, it looks like she was dumped because she didn't get into management buzz-word newspeak enough for the board's taste.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/question-in-u-va-tumult-what-should-premier-public-universities-be/2012/06/23/gJQA1o6qxV_story.html


From Inside Higher Ed:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/06/20/e-mails-show-uva-board-wanted-big-online-push


quote:
E-mail messages were flying among leaders of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia in the weeks leading up to the ouster of Teresa A. Sullivan as president of the university. The e-mail messages show that one reason board leaders wanted to move quickly was the belief that UVa needed to get involved in a serious way with online education.

The board leaders traded articles in which various pundits suggested that online education is the only real future for higher education -- and the e-mail messages suggest that board members believe this view. On May 31, for example, Helen Dragas, the rector (UVa-speak for board chair) sent the vice rector, Mark Kington, the URL for a Wall Street Journal column about online education. Dragas's subject line was "good piece in WSJ today -- why we can't afford to wait." The column, a look at the MOOC (massively online open course) movement in higher education, has the subhead: "The substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labor (which is expensive) can vastly increase access to an elite-caliber education."

The column argues that the MOOCs have the potential to change the cost structure in higher education, as long as institutions are willing to replace some in-person education with online education. "[I]n this way, college X might have its students take calculus, computer science and many other lecture courses online from MIT-Harvard (or other suppliers), and have them take other classes with their own local professors for subjects that are better taught in small seminars. College X can thus offer stellar lectures from the best professors in the world — and do locally what it does best, person to person," the column says....

[T]he e-mail records suggest both Dragas and Kington are committed to a major push into online education.

Both took time to comment on a major donor's e-mail in which he suggested that university leaders study the way Stanford and Harvard Universities, among others, were having success online. The donor wondered in his e-mail if these developments are "a signal that the on-line [sic] learning world has now reached the top of the line universities and they need to have strategies or will be left behind." Dragas replied: "Your timing is impeccable -- the BOV is squarely focused on UVa's developing such a strategy and keenly aware of the rapidly accelerating pace of change."

Another article -- this one forwarded from Kington to Dragas -- was the "The Campus Tsunami," by the New York Times columnist David Brooks, predicting massive change from the MOOCs, and also predicting that the new model will involve much more learning from professors who are not at the college or university a student attends.

Seriously, these guys were reading David Brooks and making their decisions on that basis. What a farce.
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Destineer
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More broadly, there's a major threat to a lot of public universities from regents and state legislatures who want to make actual universities work more like the University of Phoenix.
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Itsame
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Dragas decided to make use of a PR firm in articulating her response to all this. http://www.donkeylicious.com/2012/06/did-pr-firm-vp-john-ullyot-write-dragas.html

I do not think that the president of a university should need to use a PR firm to talk about her university, and that she would do so says something quite negative about her competence. (Also, see the comments for an interpretation in which her use is less extensive).

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Destineer
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Point of clarification: Dragas is the chair of the board of regents, not the president of the U.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
work more like the University of Phoenix.

Sued frequently and settling cases for millions of dollars?
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Foust
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The Declaration of Independence
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Samprimary
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Online courses are the 'future' of higher education, sure. In that the system is collapsing enough to make it seem like a wonderful stopgap measure to control costs.

Sure, they suck in terms of that whole 'educating people' part but we have imploding budgets in a maligned system to think about here, people! We don't have time to consider the efficacy of the system!

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kmbboots
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Not necessarily. Some courses are taught online just fine. Large lecture courses and such. We do some of that here to free up time for students to take more courses and for our long distance students - for example, when students from our Qatar campus take courses taught on the Evanston campus.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Some courses are taught online just fine. Large lecture courses and such.

Agreed. Certain types of small classes work well online too, at least with instructors with teaching styles that translate well online.
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Itsame
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My bad about Dragas; I've only been skimming most of the things that people are posting and for some reason thought she was interim president supported by the chair.

I have mixed feelings about online courses. On the one hand, for some people they're very effective in lower level lecture courses. On the other hand, for most people who take them, they're not nearly as effective as in-person courses.

Some people they can be even better for, though. The Qatar campus example is apt, but also people who are going to school part time and are working an hour away from the university. In these circumstances, the student may be able to learn better by being in a class but simply is not able to be.

All this is to say that in any circumstance where an in-person class is possible, it ought to be the default.

The reason that I have become more sympathetic to online courses over time is Khan Academy, which most agree is wonderful. It's still not as good as regular courses, though, as I have had questions while watching videos that I have been unable to ask. This isn't a problem in online courses, where questions are possible, but I imagine that few people are as good at teaching effectively in online courses as he is.

Just some thoughts.


Kmbboots, I didn't know you were at Northwestern.

[ June 26, 2012, 02:27 PM: Message edited by: JonHecht ]

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kmbboots
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Yep. In the School of Communication.

Just as (some) professors have learned how to use various tools - smart classrooms, email, mimeographed handouts - they will learn to use online teaching more effectively where it is applicable.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Not necessarily. Some courses are taught online just fine. Large lecture courses and such.

yes, I cannot categorically piss on online courses. They're an excellent supplemental part of education, and can be situationally convenient and appropriate. Not .. usually, in the course of how colleges are trying to use them as stopgap money earning methods.
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Destineer
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The thing is, though, big lecture courses are the most ineffective college courses in the first place. I worry that online ed encourages our worst vices.
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Strider
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Sullivan was reinstated yesterday by a unanimous vote by the Board of Visitors.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
The thing is, though, big lecture courses are the most ineffective college courses in the first place.

I don't agree with that, not as a general rule. I took 350-person classes that were great, and 15-person classes that were amazingly horrible.
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Orincoro
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You don't agree with a general rule because of a specific experience? :sigh:
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rivka
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No, because of many specific experiences -- my own and others'. Those were examples.
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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
You don't agree with a general rule because of a specific experience? :sigh:

Sorry. My stats class was a large lecture, so I'm not quite sure how to go about this sort of reasoning.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
The thing is, though, big lecture courses are the most ineffective college courses in the first place. I worry that online ed encourages our worst vices.

online ed classes have turned out to be so notoriously terrible that it really makes me unsure about whether or not KHAAAAAAN academy will accomplish anything, ultimately.
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Dan_Frank
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The more Khan Academy tries to model itself as "online courses" with all the trappings of school (a recent glance indicated it has already taken big steps in this direction compared to the old style), I think you're right, Sam. It won't be very effective.

I mean, online learning is pretty much the best way of learning in the entire world. But online classes? Meh.

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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
I mean, online learning is pretty much the best way of learning in the entire world.

See http://scholar.google.com/


Edit: Speaking of which, if this is going to be the catch all "academia" thread, I'd like to talk about open access journals and why they are ubiquitous in various hard sciences but not in the humanities.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
I mean, online learning is pretty much the best way of learning in the entire world. But online classes? Meh.

You mean like in the sense of "I sit down at a computer and learn stuff off the internet" or what?
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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
The thing is, though, big lecture courses are the most ineffective college courses in the first place.

I don't agree with that, not as a general rule. I took 350-person classes that were great, and 15-person classes that were amazingly horrible.
http://www.npr.org/2012/01/01/144550920/physicists-seek-to-lose-the-lecture-as-teaching-tool

http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/lectures/

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rivka
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Without even following those links, I'm guessing they're about "flipping" classes? It's a teaching method I'm in favor of, for the most part.

But the studies are more mixed than most proponents admit.

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