Monday, November 19, 2007

OpenEd week 13: TenureTrek, The Next Generation

I think that the future of Higher Education will move to be more open in more ways than just items that result in the change from open educational resources. David Wiley paints an interesting picture of the future of Open Education. I like the future that it portrays from dealing with license issues of the NC clause and the LLL to the "trib" features of open educational resources. I particularly like the part where publishers finally lose power and students start scanning textbooks to stick it to the man. TAKE THAT, man.


Let me paint a more bleak picture....(jokingly?)

One trajectory that higher education is on right now (at least at research universities in the USA) is the increase in difficulty of qualifying for a job. Many long-time (and even some short-time) professors have mentioned to me that they would never have gotten a job in today's academic world. This trend is likely to increase and to create a more exclusive, rather than inclusive, culture in academia.

Students emerging with a PhD must have several publications, presentations and a lot of experience. And they must increasingly do it all to the same set of specifications and in the same way. In the future, Students will have to have 50 publications to graduate and at least 100 a year. They will have to have received a grant for at least 10 million dollars too. Those who do not have these qualifications will not even be remotely considered for a job and will end up working at Super Star-Mart (the future successor of Wal-Mart, the biggest store will be the size of Mexico City, offering more cheap plastic crap) as a bagger with a PhD. Students who can attain this high level of publications and grant money are those who are rich and powerful enough to hire an army of writers to do their work and have friends and family with money to grant them.

Another trend at research universities is the increase in difficulty of getting tenure. Many long-time professors have also admitted that they would not have received tenure with their credentials in today's world. Tenure makes you compete against your peers so there will be an increase in the competitive nature of the academic world. Those who receive tenure will be increasingly limited to people who have little personal life and no families, giving them more time to work on research, publications and presentations.

Having inherited money or being independently wealthy will also help since budget cuts seem to be on the rise and armies of writers aren't cheap. Tenure will depend on more and more of less and less factors (grants and publications only, not teaching or service, etc.). Professors wishing to receive grants will be pitted against those who have friends and family in the now corrupted granting institutions. Faculty who do not have money or power will not receive grants or write their 100 peer-reviewed publications in thier first year and will be removed from their positions.

With these two trajectories, faculty will increasingly become more exclusive, wealthy and childless. These "virtues" will be taught to all new students who go through the education system and higher education will soon become even more of an ideological mass production factory than it already is. Rich and powerful faculty in higher education will soon influence legislators to make laws that limit the freedom of those who are not "smart" because they think that knowledge should forever govern ignorance.

Of course, I hope that this doesn't happen but some of the trajectories are there, at least as I see them in my own associations here in the US. I think other places are quite different.

Here is what I hope happens. Higher education becomes more open to change, allows more time for faculty publications and grants, gets more money, and tenure becomes open to more diverse values than just publications and grants. Teaching in higher education becomes more open to techniques besides lecture and powerpoint, allowing students to "trib" a lot more.

Open education may help the tenure and job problems listed above by adding to the options for a faculty member to get tenure. Contribution to Open education could be one more thing to do in academia that can help with tenure along with many other neglected values in higher education (how about quality teaching, for starters). Open education will play a big part in online type higher education institution, and competency based programs like Western Governors university.

I think that higher education will get to this good future by listening to students and responding to their needs. Higher education will need to become less unwieldy and more open to change or I think it will get more and more behind.

1 comment:

  1. I like the mp3 ad. I went to that link, and saw the commie and bin laden ads from the RIAA, too. Great.

    I agree that higher ed needs to be more responsive. It's understandable with the layers of committees to go through and the amount of time expected to be spent on research, that it is difficult for many to find the time and desire to make real changes. Technically, to change a course syllabus, it should be approved by a committee. Maybe next time I have to submit a syllabus, I'll just email the link to my wiki, along with the disclaimer at the bottom that it is subject to change at any time, and if it is approved like that, I'll never have to resubmit.

    It is interesting, that even though a syllabus should be on file somewhere for every class being taught, I don't know of an easy place to go and get a copy. Maybe it's available and I just don't know who to ask. Maybe a GRAMA request would get it. Maybe I'd have to join the committee to get access (NOT).