February 9, 2015
Jeff Grann @jeffgrann
I love Jeff’s tweet about my piece 20 Questions at ELI 2015 on so many levels. The Jay-Z reference. That he jumped off the IHE platform, and pushed the conversation (and his critique) into Twitter. (Should all comments be tweets - and vice versa?) The fact that much of the community following #ELI2015 is physically together at the Hilton in Anaheim.
I love Jeff’s tweet because he made me think. Why weren’t faculty mentioned in any of the 20 questions that I’m trying to get to the bottom of at ELI?
3 responses to Jeff:
1. Faculty / Student Relationships:
I don’t have questions about faculty because I assume that the learning value add comes from faculty. The only education worth paying for is one where an educator and a learner are able to form a direct and personal relationship. Teaching may be able to be scaled, but scaled teaching will have a price point of zero. I don’t have any questions about faculty because I think that faculty, and the work that faculty do with students, are the most valuable part of the educational equation.
The recalcitrant faculty member is largely a myth. All faculty want their students to learn as much as they can. All faculty want their teaching to be as good as possible. Faculty, however, face very real constraints around incentives and institutional structure. The change that needs to happen is not in the minds of faculty, but in the incentives and organizational structures of our institutions.
The second reason that I don’t have questions about faculty is that I believe that faculty are rational actors. They respond (like all of us) to incentives. The question about faculty adopting practices to promote effective learning really comes down to incentives. Are status and career rewards aligned with evolving teaching and learning practices? Are there proper incentives for learning about new instructional methods, for taking teaching risks, and for investing the time necessary for the redevelopment of courses.
In my experience the inhibitors for faculty participation in teaching innovation are seldom on the faculty side. They are on the institutional side, and they have very little to do with faculty reluctance and everything to do with incentives.
3. Organizational Structure:
The final reason that I don’t have questions about faculty around advancing learning is that I don’t think that it is faculty who need to change. I think that it is our organizational structures that need to change. We need to find a way to provide faculty with the right sorts of resources, teams, and environments in which they can meet their teaching goals. For those of us who have worked in online learning, we know that the move from residential to virtual courses enabled an opportunity to rethink the organizational structure around teaching. We were able to introduce teams of folks to work with faculty on their course designs and teaching. Instructional designers and media professionals and librarians and assessment experts.
That shift, the move from teaching from an individual effort to a team sport, is now coming to residential education. MOOCs have raised the bar on teaching, as any course model built on knowledge transfer must compete with free online courses. The widespread efforts across the postsecondary sector to redesign larger enrollment classes is one of the most underreported stories in all of higher ed. The real question is how are our colleges and universities going to find the resources to invest in our large enrollment classes. These were the classes that have always made the small seminars economically viable (through revenue sharing), but are now requiring investments commensurate with their size.
What else besides relationships, incentives, and organizational structure should we be talking about at ELI?
What role can we play to create conditions that support faculty / student relationships, as well as incentives and organizational structures that best promote authentic student learning?
What do you think is the big story so far of ELI 2015?
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