College teaching is transitioning from a craft model where a single faculty member designs, delivers and evaluates a course to a model that encompasses a range of professionals. This shift has been led by online courses, but is filtering out towards hybrid and on-ground classes. In this model a faculty member (subject matter expert) works with a team of learning designers, library subject specialists, media experts, and technologists to create and deliver the course.
A team approach for developing and delivering effective online courses is a necessity. The online environment is unforgiving of poor pedagogy and course design, and requires the introduction of multimedia content and collaborative platforms to succeed. The business model of online course delivery, namely eliminating the need for physical classrooms and the ability to grow enrollment, has facilitated the funding of the course design/delivery team approach.
As on-ground courses evolve to leverage more of the tools and techniques of online learning, such as robust use of the LMS's collaborative features and the incorporation of media, the team approach to course development will also become more prevalent. Here the business case revolves around increasing the effectiveness of learning, measured in terms of student evaluations, class-pass rates, and other evaluative research. Leveraging technology for teaching is essential for large classes to feel and act like small classes, a goal shared by both faculty and students.
As we shift to a team course development and delivery model, an approach that lends itself particularly well to traditional lecture classes, the metrics to evaluate colleges and universities will ideally evolve as well. Currently, the U.S. News & World Report's college rankings methodology gives the student-to-faculty ratio a weight of 20% in its ranking process. This ranking fails to capture the investment of colleges and universities in academic computing and librarian staff who work directly with faculty members on course design, development and delivery.
We should lobby for list makers such as U.S. News to add an "educator-to-student" ratio into their ranking methodologies. Classifying subject matter experts (faculty), learning designers, subject specialist librarians, media professionals and others who work directly on courses all as "educators" best describes how these professions are oriented. Giving weight to an educator-to-student ratio will provide incentives for colleges and universities to invest in the academic areas of computing and the library. A system that recognizes and values the contributions of a range of educators to the student learning experience, one that encompasses faculty and staff, would reward those institutions that have devoted more resources to teaching and learning.
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