techfaculty

Babson Survey Research Group considers changes to annual report on distance education market

Section: 
Smart Title: 

With the federal government tallying students in online courses, the Babson Survey Research Group considers changes to its annual report on the distance education market.

The Pulse podcast features highlights from mid-Atlantic eLearning conference

Section: 
Smart Title: 

The Pulse podcast offers highlights from a regional conference on distance learning.

Free Community College? Why Not Free Freshman Year?

As President Obama sells his proposal that community college should be free, one philanthropist is arguing the idea should extend to the first year of college in general. Steven B. Klinsky, a financier who founded the private equity firm New Mountain Capital, wants students to be able to take freshman-level courses through the massive open online course provider edX and -- if they pass subject exams -- start college as sophomores. Klinsky on Wednesday announced a $1 million donation to support the effort, The Washington Post reported.

Hiring, training staffers for 'new normal' tops list of IT priorities for 2015

Section: 
Smart Title: 

Some university IT offices are struggling to keep up with the pace of change in technology, which a report describes as the "new normal" for higher education.

Essay on how podcasts could be a way for philosophy to reach a broader public

About 10 years ago, I was an admissions officer at a university in London, where (typical of the British system of admitting major by major) I read essays from those who wanted to study philosophy. To be honest, the essays were largely indistinguishable from one another, presumably because the applicants were all given identical advice about what they should say.

But my interest peaked when the applicants mentioned what drew them to philosophy in the first place. Often, they cited a work of “popular” philosophy, perhaps Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, or something by A.C. Grayling or Alain de Botton. The students would not be reading such works once they arrived to do their degree. Rather they would read the philosophical classics – Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant – and cutting edge philosophical papers from the more recent past. They had been pulled in by popular philosophy, but at university they would experience professionalized philosophy, learning its special jargon, conceptual tools, and history.

There has long been a gulf between the public experience of philosophy and philosophy as it is pursued among the experts. Like other academics, philosophers focus on sharing research with colleagues, and draw on it when they teach the students who have shown enough aptitude (and paid or borrowed enough money) to get into their classrooms. Only a minority of academics try to speak to a broader audience, and when they do, the link to what they do in their professional life is presumed to be rather indirect. Knowledge trickles down from the ivory tower to the public sphere, but what comes out has typically been just that: a trickle.

This is beginning to change. The reason can be summed up in an unlovely, two-word phrase: “new media.” With tools like blogs and podcasts, platforms like iTunesU and “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), academics now have the opportunity to reach an enormous audience of people who need only an Internet connection and a modicum of curiosity. There are online interviews with leading philosophers (Radio 4’s “In Our Time,” “Philosophy Bites,” “Philosopher’s Zone,” “Elucidations”) and themed series like my History of Philosophy podcast. You can also find free philosophy instruction on YouTube and on iTunesU (traditional university lectures recorded and put online), while many conferences and professional lectures are also appearing on the internet (for instance from the Aristotelian Society, or the Center for Mathematical Philosophy in Munich).

It’s an unprecedented opportunity. So why don’t more academics take advantage of it? Many of the podcasters who host series on topics in history, for instance, are not university lecturers but independent scholars. I know, because I met them on Facebook (of course).

Of course there are plenty of practical explanations for this reluctance. New media projects require a certain degree of fearlessness when it comes to technology, and can be very time-consuming. With the heavy demands of teaching, research and administration, it’s no surprise that launching such a project may not rise to the top of an academic’s “to do” list. In theory, there could be rewards to balance the costs in time and energy. We are frequently asked to demonstrate the wider social “impact” of our work these days, on grant applications or in the Britain’s Research Excellence Framework survey. But “impact” is a rather ill-defined notion. When I first launched my own podcast, I was warned that it would not necessarily make a good impact case study in the REF: how exactly does one document the “impact” of a podcast? In any case, hosting a podcast is unlikely to help your career as much as writing a good journal article or two, which could easily take less time.

Beyond the practical issues, I suspect most academics still assume that media projects are inevitably “popular,” in the pejorative sense of being strictly introductory. A podcast or blog isn’t the place to do real philosophy or history – this view holds -- that happens in the classroom, or in the pages of peer-reviewed journals and monographs. But such worries miss the promise of new media. With no time limits and no editorial constraints, academics can make any ideas they choose freely available on the Internet. If that content isn’t for everyone, so what?

My own podcast covers the history of philosophy “without any gaps,” moving chronologically at a slow (some might say excruciatingly slow) rate. (Obviously this sort of thing isn’t for everyone. But my listeners are not just fellow academics and undergraduates. They are commuters, truck drivers, homemakers, retirees, high school students – as I say, anyone with an Internet connection and curiosity about the subject. We should not underestimate how widespread that curiosity might be, even when it comes to rather recondite topics.

Furthermore, just as students in a university setting helping their teachers to see things in a new way, the audience for a new media project will respond with corrections, comments, and other sorts of feedback. So there is a chance here for a democratic and open conversation in which knowledge is shared among many more people, not just those among the academic community. I believe that more and more academics will seize that chance, even if the use of new media raises questions about the role of universities and academic experts.

Why, for instance, should students pay high tuition to learn the same things they could be downloading for free? Yet this worry too, I think, is misplaced.

If anything, following a blog, taking a MOOC, or subscribing to a podcast will bring potential students to fields of study they would not otherwise have considered. I don’t read admissions essays anymore, but I like to imagine that some of the applicants say they’ve been inspired to pursue philosophy because of something they found online.

Peter Adamson is professor of late ancient and Arabic philosophy at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, in Munich, and the author of Classical Philosophy: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, (Oxford University Press) a series of books based on his podcast series.

Editorial Tags: 

Debate Over Michigan Professor Who 'Hates' Republicans

The University of Michigan affirmed its commitment to faculty free speech as well as what it called a “respectful environment,” following calls from conservatives that it condemn the professor who wrote an essay called “It’s OK to Hate Republicans,” The Detroit News reported. The essay, by Susan J. Douglas, the chair and Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies, was published online this week by In These Times. “I hate Republicans,” Douglas wrote. “I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching [Republican legislators] Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’”

Following the essay’s publication, Andrea Fischer Newman, a member of the university’s Board of Regents, wrote on her Facebook page that the essay was “extremely troubling and offensive,” and “ill-serves the most basic values of a university community.” Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party said in a statement that the essay was “ugly and full of hatred” and intimidating to students. He said the university and state Democrats should “join in condemning this disgraceful dialogue by calling for Professor Susan J. Douglas’ resignation.”

In a statement, Rick Fitzgerald, university spokesman said the views expressed in the essay were “those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan. Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institution.” At the same time, he added, “the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal. The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.”

Douglas could not immediately be reached for comment. In These Times has since changed the name of the essay on the magazine’s website to “We Can’t All Just Get Along,” the same title under which it appears in the magazine’s print version. An editor’s note says that the title was changed to the include the word “hate” without Douglas’s knowledge, and that she rejected the former title as not representative of the piece or its main points. The note also says “all threats to the author's life and personal safety” have been removed from the online comment thread.

Academic Minute: Technology Nomenclature

In today's Academic Minute, Radu Sporea, professor of engineering at the University of Surrey, analyzes the way we talk about technology and electronics. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


 

Ad keywords: 

The Pulse podcast features interview with Blackboard's Jay Bhatt

Section: 
Smart Title: 

This month's edition of The Pulse podcast features the first part of a two-part interview with Jay Bhatt, the chief executive officer of Blackboard.

Competency-based bachelor's from Brandman could be glimpse of the future

Smart Title: 

Brandman University goes all-in with a competency-based bachelor's degree that is online, available on a tablet, and not based on the credit hour. Its projected price tag? $10,000.

'Truce' in Battle Over Connecticut State Colleges?

Faculty leaders and administrators of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, who have been engaged in a public war of words over administrators' plans for the system, have reached a "truce," The Connecticut Mirror reported. Faculty leaders have criticized the plan for their lack of input and for what strikes many as an unrealistic view that more online education should be a top priority. The Mirror reported that, at a meeting Friday, administrators agreed that the faculty should have control over curricular moves, including questions of which programs should move online.

System officials were not quoted in the article and did not respond to a request for comment from Inside Higher Ed. Via email, Vijay Nair, a faculty union leader, confirmed the agreement, saying: "In the CSU system faculty has always decided curricular matters, including what is taught online. So this is nothing new. It is important that the Board of Regents president and the faculty leadership have reaffirmed this principle."

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - techfaculty
Back to Top