January 27, 2015
You don’t have the time to read this post. Why not:
Reason #1 - Higher Education is a Competitive Industry: The days of working to maintain a higher ed status quo are long over, if they ever existed. Did it always feel that demands outstripped resources, that the amount of work to do is more than the people around to do it? Living through an age of economic constraint is exhausting. Our lives combine an environment of constrained resources, brought on by the fact that higher ed costs are growing faster than revenues from all sources, with the need to constantly innovate. You don’t have time to read this post because you are working too hard to figure out where your school can differentiate, where you can build on your strengths to raise new revenues, and where you can find some savings to fund your innovations. Your calendar is totally booked. Your nights are spent catching up on e-mails. Reading this post will take away precious time and energy from the work that you need to get done.
Reason #2 - Teaching Is the World’s Most Time Intensive Occupation: I miss teaching. Most of my academic career was spent in physical and online classrooms. It was only in the last few years that I moved over to a job where I am not teaching. Someday I hope to return the classroom. The reason that I’m not teaching now is that teaching is enormously (stupendously, ridiculously) time and energy consuming. To teach well requires the teacher to be fully present. Present in the preparation of the overall course and the planning for the individual classes. Present during every interaction with the students, be it in class, in a discussion board, or during office hours. And present when giving feedback and coaching to students in the form of verbal and written feedback, grading, and individual mentoring. You don’t have time to read this post because you are devoting your time and energy to your students.
Reason #3 - Research Is All Consuming: The other half of the life that I miss from moving over from a faculty to an administrator role (although it has been years now) is getting lost in my research. I made the shift pretty quickly after finishing my PhD, as the first wave of edtech excitement (during the first dot-com boom in the late 1990s) offered more excitement at the time than the world of low-wage workers that I had spent the last few years studying. Still, I miss those weeks and months when I dived deeply into a question. When I spent hours and hours figuring out the proper methods to test a hypothesis. When I knew the literature on my topic back to front. I miss the process of preparing a manuscript, of pouring all my energy into an article. And I miss the elation of those first publications. Nowadays, I write for speed. Fast e-mails. Fast blog posts. The challenge is to be as concise as possible, not as thorough and complete as the subject requires. You don’t have time to read this post, your research is calling.
Reason #4 - Your Networks Have Expanded: We probably underestimate just how profoundly digital communications have expanded our networks, and hence ratcheted up the demands on our time and energy. How many e-mails did you send and read today? How many of those e-mails were from colleagues outside of your institution? We collaborate with partners and potential partners from all over. This collaboration takes place at the speed of typing. Online communications have opened up amazing opportunities to do great work across every geography. Before e-mail and Google Docs and online meetings we were more limited to working with the colleague down the hall, or maybe across campus. Today, we may work with people in another state (or another country) that we have never met - or maybe met only once. At the same time as our off-campus networks have grown, our on-campus connections have also gotten more numerous. Again, blame (or credit) e-mail. Our academic work is largely collaborative, and e-mail is how most of this collaboration occurs. How many e-mails have you sent and read today? You don’t have time to read this post - your e-mail is waiting.
Reason #5 - Everything Else is Competing for Your Attention: You don’t have time to click on this blog post because there are far more interesting things to read and watch just a click away. You don’t have time to read this post because you are too busy creating and contributing. You not only have tweets to read, and links to follow, but your own tweets create. You could read this post, but wouldn’t it be better to spend the time to write your own comment on the article that caught your attention today in IHE? You could read this post, but it would take away your time to spend with that edX or Coursera course that you are excited about. On the phone or tablet or computer that you have in your hands is the world of Hulu, Netflix, the NYTimes, and every other destination ready to entertain and edify you. Every sort of content has moved from scarcity to abundance. E-books have brought the price of newly published books to down to what we once paid for paperbacks. The proliferation of channels and networks of content creators (which now includes Netflix and Amazon) has resulted in hugely superior TV than what we grew up with. And it is all a click away. No wonder you don’t have time to read this blog.
Why don’t you have time to read (or comment) on this post?
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