The Florida Senate passed a measure Wednesday designed to allow outside groups, including the providers of massive open online courses, to offer credit-bearing courses to Florida public college students. The measure has been amended significantly since it was first introduced by a Republican senator as a way to take on the accreditation system. The new version of the bill, which the Senate inserted into a digital education bill the House had sent the Senate earlier, substitutes the phrase “Florida Approved Courses” for the old phrase “Florida-accredited” courses and adds requirements that outside course providers must meet to qualify their courses for the new pool, including limitations on the subject areas that MOOCs can be used for.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Pacific Lutheran University has become the latest to object to a possible union of non-tenure-track faculty members, saying that collective bargaining could infringe on the institution's religious mission, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported. Several other religious universities are currently making the same argument in various cases before the National Labor Relations Board. They cite court rulings limiting NLRB authority at religious institutions. Union organizers argue that adjuncts want to negotiate over pay and benefits, not religion.
In today’s Academic Minute, John Ragosta of Hamilton College explores the historical roots of the National Day of Prayer. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Dining hall workers at Pomona College voted Tuesday, 57 to 26, to unionize and to be represented by Unite Here, The Los Angeles Times reported. The vote followed a three-year campaign, marked by numerous campus protests by students backing the workers.
Adjuncts and their supporters are rallying today around a Mayday Manifesto that calls for a minimum payment of $5,000 per course. "The majority of college teachers in the United States today — over a million individuals — are contingent. Most of them are so-called 'adjuncts.' They are paid poverty wages, earning an average of $2,700 per three-credit semester course. Most adjuncts make $10,000 to $20,000 a year, often working more than 40 hours per week. An estimated 80 percent lack any health or retirement benefits, and academic freedom is meaningless in the absence of any job security," says the manifesto, which was organized by Peter D.G. Brown, president of the faculty union at the State University of New York at New Paltz. The manifesto also calls for longer contracts, health insurance and other benefits for non-tenure-track faculty members.
Amid widespread reports of increased numbers of college students taking (and, in some cases, abusing) medication for attention-deficit disorders, some colleges are cracking down, The New York Times reported. These institutions are becoming more rigorous in their evaluations of students, and making it more difficult for students to obtain diagnoses that lead to drug prescriptions.
The American Educational Research Association issued a new report Tuesday recommending best practices and policies for schools and colleges to address bullying. Prevention of Bullying in Schools, Colleges and Universities includes 11 briefs addressing topics such as gender-related harassment, legal rights related to bullying, and school climate. The AERA task force that wrote the report was asked to identify the causes and consequences of bullying, highlight training opportunities for faculty and staff, evaluate the effectiveness of current bullying prevention programs, and asses the connections between legislation and current bullying research and interventions.
"Bullying — a form of harassment and violence — needs to be understood from a developmental, social, and educational perspective," the report reads. "The educational settings in which it occurs and where prevention and intervention are possible need to be studied and understood as potential contexts for positive change. Yet many administrators, teachers, and related personnel lack training to address bullying and do not know how to intervene to reduce it."
An open letter from 1,000 Australian academics to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, published today in newspapers across that country, calls for an end to cuts in spending at universities, The Australian reported. "Universities have made by far and away the largest saving contributions of any federal budget line item," the letter says. "We feel betrayed and taken for granted. Your government's cuts fundamentally jeopardize the future of our sector."
Coursera, the Silicon Valley-based provider of massive open online courses, is entering the teacher education market. The company is partnering with teachers colleges and other educational institutions to provide online professional development courses for K-12 teachers and parents. The company described the new effort as its first foray into early childhood and K-12 and its first partnerships with non-degree-bearing institutions, including art museums.
With this, the company may be eyeing a professional development market that includes about 3.7 million teachers in American plus millions more across the world. “We want to help K-12 students by helping their teachers,” Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said in a statement announcing the new program. “Many schools just don’t have the resources to provide teachers and parents the training and support they need. By providing free online courses on how to teach, we hope to improve this.”
A revenue plan was not immediately clear. The company has been committed to offering its courses for free but is charging some users who want bona fide certificates of completion. A company spokeswoman said in an e-mail that Coursera will be working with school districts to see how the courses could be used for required professional development training and she said teachers are also encouraged to talk to their administrators to seek approval.
Gordon Brown, the United Nations special envoy for global education said in the company statement that Coursera’s plan is “an important and crucial innovation” to meet the “global challenge of training and supporting over 2 million more teachers” by the end of 2015.
Coursera's partners in the venture are University of Washington's college of education; University of Virginia's school of education; Johns Hopkins University's school of education; Match Education’s Sposato Graduate School of Education; Peabody College of education and human development, Vanderbilt University; Relay Graduate School of Education; University of California at Irvine Extension; the American Museum of Natural History; The Commonwealth Education Trust; Exploratorium; The Museum of Modern Art; and New Teacher Center.
Cherian George, an associate professor of journalism at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has lost his appeal of the decision to deny him tenure, Yahoo! Singapore reported. George, who researches press freedoms and state power in Singapore, was denied tenure for a second time in February despite rave reviews from international colleagues and current and former students. Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University and an external reviewer of George’s tenure application, told Inside Higher Ed that George’s teaching and research records are “stellar… so much so that he could easily get a full professorship elsewhere in my estimation.” Theodore L. Glasser, a professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and George’s dissertation adviser, wrote in a letter that George’s “studies of journalism in Singapore set an agenda – for himself and for others – for research that extends far beyond Singapore.”
“Finally, I want to be unambiguously clear about what I think is at stake here," Glasser's letter concludes. "Cherian George’s career is on the line, and that’s obviously very important to him and to his friends and colleagues. But just as important is NTU’s reputation as a university of international standing. Many of us view this case as a measure of not only NTU’s commitment to academic freedom but its commitment to apply its promotion and tenure standards fairly and equitably.” Although George was promoted to associate professor in 2009, the promotion was de-coupled from the awarding of tenure.
George did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for NTU declined to comment on George's case, "as it is NTU's policy to keep all employment matters confidential."