Inhabitants of the Ivory Tower

A conversation about issues in higher education

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The only commodity people are willing to pay for and not get

The only commodity people are willing to pay for and not get is education. This is a favorite observation of a colleague and friend. He is referring to American university students. I think he is right.

That is not a generalization about all students. Most are very conscientious and concerned about performing up to their potential. But there is a growing number who expect us to hand them degrees with little or no effort on their part. And we, in the Ivory Tower, play right into it by dumbing down the curriculum, relaxing or eliminating standards, and acting like the truck farmers of higher education.

The problem has gotten worse with the advent of the internet, online learning, and the most insidious pedagogical abomination of all, compressed video. I teach a couple of online courses and I have pretty high standards, the most taxing on student commitment being participation in discussion boards where I and the students engage in structured processing of case studies. This activity accounts for 60 percent of their grades and is based on frequency and quality of contributions. In a semester course this means that students make an appearance several times a week -- each case study has a time limit of 3-4 days. Of course, one favorite complaint is, "I shouldn't have to show up more than once a week, just like in a regular on-campus face to face class" which is the schedule for graduate level classes.

Conducting an introductory on-campus orientation session for students is also a source of hostility. They resent the idea of having to get in the car and drive to campus; some refuse and then complain when I scold them for not following directions (and no, online orientation is not as effective).

Of course there are many other examples of "willing to pay and not get" behaviors. Professors everywhere probably have examples. But I don't know what to do with it other than tell students, "Hey, you don't want to do the work? Then pay the consequences."


Thursday, August 24, 2006

A professor's woes in Tel Aviv

Yael K. an American Jewish girl who made Aliyah to Israel a year ago, is a half time professior in communications who is being a bit taken advantage of in her academic load. Her specialty is social psyhology and she may be on the verge of getting another half-time assignment in her chosen discipline. Good for her.

In the meantime, she has posted a rant about the situation with her current assignment. It is interesting to hear about the acadmic life of professors in other countries. We have much in common. Yael is also feeding half the stray cats in Tel Aviv and recently tried to train her own to dash downstairs to the shelter in the event air raid sirens might sound off in Tel Aviv.

Click on the title of this post to visit her rant.