Where state legislators and college administrators see an opportunity, some professors see a threat—if not to their jobs, then to their freedom to teach a course as they believe it should be taught.
–Outsourced Lectures Raise Concerns About Academic Freedom
When I was in my first year of teaching, I was so excited that I was able to design curriculum to deliver to a room full of people who were engaged the greatest journey in the world: COLLEGE. Going through the journey of being a community college student, a student parent, a student with a full time job, a student without a job, and then finally, I graduated with a professional degree, and I was a Professor. Professor L. “Mrs. L”. Every week, I teach what I love: writing. And I get to deliver it in a unique way, sometimes designed that very week for the students who are sitting in my room. We share stories about rejecting food, about analyzing reviews and writing them, the virtues of discovering an article about something they are interested in; and being part of the fabric of their education, part of self discovery, part of their journey, it is an honor to be part of their reach for what I wanted too: a college education.
Every semester, my students thank me. Students thank me on finals day for pushing them, they thank me in person after I conference with them about their progress in class, and they smile at me in the halls awkwardly two years after they took my class, and every once in a while, they see me in the outside world, like a rare deer in the middle of a freeway, and I am doe-eyed, desperate to remember their name, where they sat in class, and why I have the sudden pang of guilt – did we have enough time together? Did I do everything I could? Did they live to tell the tale of the research paper they accomplished? Do they feel prepared for the rest of the Academic world?
My on ground community college class is not a few weeks in a MOOC – a virtual class, a virtual teacher, automatically assessed, pre-purposed phrases and responses. It’s an in your face, where is your journal entry, let me see what you wrote, and let’s work together to get you through my English class, tell me you are alive, raise your hand and get along with your peer for the common good journey. I can ask how they are doing, why they are late, and how can I help them learn. It’s a far cry from anything I’ve done in the MOOC model delivery, compared to the offering and aura of the For-Profit sector. As someone who teaches in this environment presently, the dark side of the MOOC is a reality.
How could I be replaced by a MOOC? Can a Success Center be replaced by a MOOC? Are MOOCs only for those “low” classes, for those people who just aren’t “ready” for “real” college learning?
No Discussion Forum, Online Weekly Quiz, required posts, right bubble in answers, word counts, and mini-lessons can replace the time that one faculty member serves in a classroom. When my adjunct friends and I sit together for coffee, talk about our teaching moments, the moments that carry our souls to the next class, and then the conversation takes sad turns, we sadly complain that we are forced to supplement our income with the “less than” adjunct positions that for-profit sector offers our profession. If you are in the position to fly the freeway enough to avoid this side of our career, keep your tires new and cross your fingers for low gas prices. I cross my fingers with every Full-Time packet I send, and I wonder how any piece of paper can convince a college of my worth. Spending 54 Credit Hours in four months with me at the front of the room might be the only way to tell my worth.
That’s not something a MOOC worries about. That must be nice for the maker of the MOOC, but it doesn’t help me pay my electric bill, which I need to pay so I can check my email every 24 hours for my forced participation in the slope to MOOCville.
Lyndsey Lefebvre is the Vice President of Part-Time Faculty for CCFF, as well as a representative on the negotiating team. She currently teaches various Writing, English, and Literature courses in on ground and online colleges.