Archive for the ‘academia’ Category
Arizona State has been in higher ed news a lot this week. The Atlantic just published a fairly fawning article on ASU’s partnership with Starbucks, featuring trenchant critiques of traditional colleges like, “The customer service is atrocious.”
Today, the news is ASU’s announcement that it will offer its entire freshman year online, through MOOCs. (Just when you thought they were dead!) Here’s the deal: ASU is partnering with EdX, the nonprofit Harvard-MIT collaboration, to produce the MOOCs. Students don’t have to apply, and they don’t have to pay in advance. But after they complete the class, if they decide they want college credit, they can pay ASU $300-600 (the final price is not set) and it will show up on a transcript indistinguishable from any other class.
Of course, people love to hate on ASU president Michael Crow. Dean Dad pointed out that Maricopa Community College, in ASU’s backyard, only charges $250 a credit and provides library access, among other amenities. John Warner focuses on the importance of the first year to student persistence, implying that disadvantaged students will be hurt. Jonathan Rees amps up the rhetoric, calling ASU the first “predator university.”
The Chronicle’s analysis focuses on what it sees as the catch: ASU’s MOOC students won’t be eligible for financial aid. Because students won’t officially enroll until after they’ve completed the MOOC, what they’ve learned is considered “prior knowledge,” making them ineligible for federal aid. ASU admits this is an obstacle, but suggested that “the university hoped to find some way to make aid possible in the future.”
What the Chronicle doesn’t point to, though, is where this road ultimately leads. There’s no way ASU is committing to this if it doesn’t see a pathway to federal aid down the road. Who among the underemployed folks ASU is targeting can cough up $600 to pay for a single course? That’s more than two weeks’ work at minimum wage.
And indeed, noises about how to solve this problem are already being made. Conversations are underway in the Senate about finding ways to give accreditation — and thus access to aid — to “nontraditional providers” like (drumroll…) EdX.
Truthfully, I’m not that worried about ASU and EdX. I think it’s going to prove hard to get the disadvantaged students they’re aiming for to finish MOOCs, even with financial aid, and even with ASU’s well-publicized innovations in data analytics. And I think that the nonprofit EdX, with its close ties to Harvard and MIT, is unlikely to launch a race to the bottom in extracting revenues from students.
But you know who would be happy to suck at the teat of the federal financial aid system? The edutech disruptors, who talk a good game about transforming higher education but will quickly enough start tranforming student loans into company profits once it’s time to raise the next round of venture capital.* When we have the opportunity to channel our financial aid dollars not only to the University of Phoenix but to the Disruptive EduBadge Academy, then we will have fully corrupted the system. The reason, if it needs to be spelled out, is that there is no reason to think that their courses will require learning, that pesky obstacle between them and those tantalizing financial aid dollars.
I’m not anti-technology, or anti-innovation. And I think traditional colleges are deeply flawed. But I am very, very much against expanding the money-laundering side of our financial aid system. And that is the coal mine into which the ASU-EdX canary is being lowered.
* I just Googled “silicon valley edutech” and got the San Francisco EduTech Meetup Group for — you can’t make this stuff up — “connecting folks who are passionate about the education space.”
The blog Savage Minds discussed a survey of anthropologists. The focus was race and gender. Predictably, there is the complaint that racial issues are ignored or downplayed. The more surprising finding is that the field appears to have internal gender and racial stratification of practitioners. From Karen Brodkin:
White anthropology faculty are clustered in anthropology and departments with anthropology as part of their title, while racialized minority faculty are more likely to be in ethnic or gender studies departments and in departments without anthropology in their title.
As a discipline that has had an obsession with race and cultural diversity, I am a little surprised at these findings. This suggests to me that there might be a broader social process where major letters and science disciplines out source topics and people that the mainstream doesn’t like. Discrimination is one hypothesis. Another hypothesis is selection effects. Do minority or women faculty in anthropology use the same methodological tools as others? One observation is that it is very easy for an intellectual group to be marginalized because it openly attacks the mainstream on methods. For example, pragmatist philosophers are relegated to margins, while analytics rule the major departments. In economics, neo-classicals have effectively banished heterodox economists.
In addition to the survey cited above, it would be important to look at publication patterns and co-authorship. One of my hypotheses about inequality in academia is that much of it is driven by co-authorship networks in elite graduate programs. How often are women and minority doctoral candidates writing papers with the senior faculty? This would lead to differences in output, which leads to differences in placement. Of course, that issue is related to the overall point that anthropologists under value research on race and gender. Anthropologists, please use the comments.
There is a symposium for early career management doctoral students. You should apply!
he Southern Management Association (SMA) is pleased to offer a Pre-Doctoral Consortium which will be held October 28th at the 2015 SMA Annual Meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida. The Consortium is designed to help those who are committed to, or seriously considering, earning a doctoral degree. The goals of the Consortium include: (1) helping students to gain a better understanding of key factors to consider in applying to doctoral programs, and (2) to provide students with a “realistic preview” of life as a doctoral student and beyond as faculty. We are seeking applicants and we hope that you will help us inform students who may be interested in pursuing a doctoral program.
The Consortium will award $500 stipends to invited participants. In addition, breakfast and lunch on the day of the Consortium will be provided, courtesy of SMA, and there will be a networking reception in the evening.The deadline for consortium application is June 28, 2015. All applicants must submit(a) An application form (attached),(b) A recommendation letter from a current or former faculty member,(c) A copy of their vita (resume), and(d) A photocopy of their government issued ID in order to verify that they will have attained the age of 21 on or before October 27th, 2015.Please send any questions or submit consortium registration materials electronically to Dr. Aaron Hill, Oklahoma State University, at email@example.com.
On Twitter, Brad Spahn asked:
What would you change about your dept to make faculty & grad students happier and more productive? Hold U-wide rules fixed.cc @fabiorojas
— Brad Spahn (@BradSpahn) March 20, 2015
I actually had two answers: First, eliminate the monthly/weekly faculty meeting. But our department already did that!! Except for “big” issues like hiring or curriculum rewrites, we leave most decision making to our elected executive committee. Also, we genuinely try to reduce required meetings.
My real answer, though, was “make all dissertations three chapters.” One of the biggest time wasters in academia is this belief that dissertations are the huge, 500 page master works. That is WRONG, but you do get bonus points for being brilliant in a thesis. The REAL purpose of the dissertation is to show the faculty and wider scientific and scholarly community that you have (a) mastered the current literature/techniques of your field and (b) you can produce new analysis and knowledge. Thus, the standard for a dissertation is “scholarly competence,” not “highest level mastery.” This is true for all programs from the most humble to the top of the profession.
Once you buy that, then the question becomes: what format is the most efficient way to teach scientific competence? Three chapters is probably the best. Since half of PhD don’t teach or do research, there is no point in doing more. Even when people go into university positions, almost all science disciplines require articles. History is the only social science that is not primarily article based. Even in the humanities, many fields are article based (philosophy, linguistics, etc). And even if you are in a book oriented field, like English, why not write a few articles unless you are gunning for the R1 market?
The policy of “three article default” makes people happier and productive. Students have a concrete expectation. There is a stopping point to the dissertation. If they do academia, the format will help them. It is easier on faculty in that we no longer need to manage these mongo dissertations. More time for other work.
Brad thought I was slamming book. I am not – I have written two academic books! But most people don’t do what I do for a living so why not let them default to three articles? And remember, it’s a default – not a rule. If you really, really have a book in your dissertation, you can do it. But most students would be way happier doing three articles.
The organizational sociology of higher education is having a moment. Elizabeth Armstrong and Johanna Massé have written about it recently (and even more recently here), Michael Kirst and Mitchell Stevens have a new volume out on the topic (I’ll be writing more on that soon), and Amy Binder, whose work is very organizational, is chair of ASA’s generally strat-heavy Education Section.
Maybe it’s because there are so many changes going on in higher education right now that simply can’t be understood without thinking about organizations and the fields they are located within. From the Wisconsin budget cuts, to the effects of proliferating rankings, to the internationalization of universities, to the impact of organizational culture on student experience, tons of organizational questions are begging for answers.
Anyway, I’m editing a volume of Research in the Sociology of Organizations on “The University Under Pressure” with Catherine Paradeise, to be published in January 2016. We’ve got some great contributions from a trans-Atlantic group of authors including Dick Scott, Georg Krücken, Philippe Laredo, Christine Musselin, Amy Binder, Daniel Kleinman, Joe Hermanowicz, and others. And while the volume has mostly come together already, one free slot has opened up.
So if you have a paper in the works that you think makes a contribution to the organizational sociology of higher ed, send it my way. There’s some focus on comparing the U.S. and European experiences, but many of the articles look at a single country. And despite the title, it doesn’t have to be about universities: writing about community colleges from an organizational angle? Great.
The catch is that it needs to be either written already or ready for review quite soon — say, within the next month. On the plus side, if it’s accepted, you can expect it to be in print within the year. (And if it’s not, you’ll know quite soon.)
Just about all of us care about the future of the university. It’s time for organizational sociologists to do a better job of helping us understand it.