Communication / design / media

As universities rush into online learning, one veteran player looks at its own performance

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As Oregon State's distance education efforts grow, professors raise questions about who does the teaching, how they are paid and whether anyone has figured out how learning compares online and in person.

Legislators target UW-Madison and investigative journalism center

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Wisconsin lawmakers introduced a motion that would expel the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the UW-Madison campus and bar university employees from working with the nonprofit.

Interview with professor at center of 'Jesus' debate at Florida Atlantic

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Deandre Poole, the instructor whose Florida Atlantic U. class exercise involving the word "Jesus" led to death threats and demands that he be fired, offers his first interview on what happened that day, on his faith and on academic freedom.

Debate grows over journalism education

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Many journalism educators are criticizing a foundation letter about their field as simplistic and unfair to Ph.D.s.

Ohio State student newspaper The Lantern contracts with Gannett

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Gannett will run business and advertising at Ohio State's student newspaper. The university says the deal will allow it to focus more on journalism education, but some students and advisers are concerned.

The Future of Media Conference 2014

Date: 
Thu, 07/10/2014

Location

University of Salford, MediaCityUK The Quays
M50 2HE Salford, Manchester (Greater)
United Kingdom

Ten years after cutting it, Texas A&M will revive journalism program

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Ten years ago, Texas A&M cut its journalism program. The job market imploded in the meantime, but the university hopes its interdisciplinary, liberal arts education approach will make reviving the degree a smart move.

Higher ed disruptions doomed to fail without addressing state of the faculty (essay)

Innovation is the catchword of the day. You’ve heard the speeches and read the op-eds. Higher education needs to innovate: teach differently and use more high impact practices, improve completion rates, integrate new technologies, assess student learning, engage in interdisciplinary teaching and research, help students transition successfully to college – among other improvements. 

I have been involved with many such reform efforts in the past two decades, but the same problem emerges persistently as we try to innovate – there are no core faculty to do the work over time, no plans for faculty engagement, no blueprints for professional development.  There are no provisions, in short, to meet these goals.  Great novel curriculums are developed, important new pedagogies tested and codified, and new forms of assessment instituted, but no one there to implement these key innovations.

One large national project after another fails to meet its goals because it does not provide a way to work with the faculty who keep our institutions functioning. 

As we know, the composition of the faculty has changed.  Numbers of non-tenure-track faculty, particularly part-time, have ballooned in proportion to the declining population on the tenure track.  I have never found an innovation-focused project that includes plans to integrate non-tenure-track instructors or consider how the shrinking tenure track faculty members are too stretched with additional research and service work to be meaningfully involved in innovating. 

As just one example, the MDRC evaluation of Achieving the Dream noted how the lack of integration of adjunct faculty negatively affected its success.  Our employment practices are broken. Yet higher education is a service profession relying on human capital for success.

I have reached out to most national foundations, agencies and higher education associations to help them understand that without addressing the faculty role, the funded initiatives will be largely failures – if we are speaking about deep and meaningful scaled changes, not fringe marginal side efforts.  Most foundations don’t want to fund superficial changes, but that is what the current landscape is set up to do. 

We want innovation, but we aren’t willing to examine the capacity issues that thwart important and needed innovation. In fact, higher education’s capacity to innovate in important areas for student success is becoming increasingly hampered by the longstanding and escalating shift to a contingent workforce that is obliged to work with no support.

Others reformers hope to move away from a labor-intensive model – using technology to replace faculty.  Technology, the thinking goes, can be programmed to teach as we want, can assess learning, and perhaps provide student support and guidance now missing at some institutions. 

This is erroneous thinking. Technology alone does not engage students or use pedagogies that can instill critical thinking. Current high-tech pedagogies largely reinforce memorization or cater to highly privileged  learners.

Technology as we know it now also cannot provide the human touch, which sparks learning.  Learning is after all a social process. Technology alone cannot offer complex assessments. The support it provides is rote; it cannot offer career advice, help with time management, or assist students in thinking about life purpose and one’s role as a citizen. 

Technology to replace faculty is magical thinking, an empty promise.  And building technologies that can offer anything close to resembling human capacities is extremely expensive, not cheap. While technology is essential as higher education moves forward, for example, as can be achieved in hybrid classrooms, it is not a substitute for human beings.

If we are to engage in meaningful reform so that higher education can innovate, we need a strategy to develop new faculty employment models. Rather than ignoring the faculty or imagining that we can do without professors, we need a plan that can help redesign the faculty role to meet student needs institutional mission. 

Some institutions are trying – tinkering with turning part-time roles into full-time non-tenure-track positions, providing access to important resources like professional development, creating a promotional track, and elevating teaching within the rewards and incentive system. But these experiments are fragile as there is no national vision for the faculty or support within the system for these new roles.  

Without a funded, large-scale initiative to help connect disciplinary societies, faculty and academic leaders, students, unions, accreditors, business and industry, and policy makers, it is unlikely that any initiative will represent the interests of the key groups in the system. Such an effort would include some of the following steps:

  1. Create a set of Future Faculty Career Pathways through research and vetting with knowledgeable and diverse stakeholders
  2. Develop a major report on Future Faculty Career Pathways
  3. Work with leading scholars on economic models to support new career pathways
  4. Disseminate and achieve buy-in for Future Faculty Career pathway models using a strategic array of existing stakeholder groups,  including trustees, presidents, academic administrators, policy makers, higher education associations, accreditors, disciplinary societies, unions, and faculty associations.

We need the best ideas advanced for redesigning faculty roles, which can come through garnering ideas from all the key stakeholders and having these groups help move that vision into the overall system. We need courageous funders to invest not just in innovations – but in the capacity to innovate.

Adrianna Kezar is professor at the Rossier School of Education and co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. She also directs the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success.

Court overturns ban on alcohol ads in Virginia student newspapers

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After seven years, student newspapers in Virginia achieve First Amendment and financial win with appeals court's reversal of ban on alcohol advertisements.

Tips for connecting with your students in the first class (essay)

Whether it's your first time in the classroom, or you're just looking for new ways to reach the bleary-eyed or disengaged, Matt Eventoff offers tips for turning strangers into engaged students.

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