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Sat May 4, 2013, 01:56 AM

Professors at San Jose State Criticize Online Courses

San Jose State University has publicly committed to using online courses to bring in more students — and bring down costs — but its philosophy department is balking. Faculty members issued a blistering statement this week about why they will not use materials from an online course called Justice, taught by Michael Sandel of Harvard, an academic superstar.

Mohammad H. Qayoumi, the president of San Jose State, has pushed his university to experiment with new online technologies through pilot projects with both edX, the nonprofit Harvard-M.I.T. online collaboration that offers Dr. Sandel’s course, and Udacity, a company producing the massive open online courses, known as MOOCs.

But this week, the philosophy department sent Dr. Sandel an open letter asserting that such courses, designed by elite universities and widely licensed by others, would compromise the quality of education, stifle diverse viewpoints and lead to the dismantling of public universities.

“The thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy depts. across the country is downright scary,” the letter said.

The letter came as a surprise to the provost, Ellen Junn, because, she said, no one had demanded that the philosophy department use the Sandel course. “All we ever did was let the deans know that these courses were available, and if they were interested in integrating any of the edX materials into their courses, they should let us know,” Dr. Junn said. “We’re never telling faculty what to use. They control the content of their courses.”

Several philosophy professors, however, said that there was administrative pressure to offer the Justice course. Indeed, the department chairman, Peter J. Hadreas, said that administrators had now arranged to offer it through the English department, reinforcing his concerns that it would be taught by professors who are not trained in philosophy and would be especially reliant on the edX materials.

full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/education/san-jose-state-philosophy-dept-criticizes-online-courses.html

and the full letter is at http://chronicle.com/article/The-Document-an-Open-Letter/138937/

Wow. The New York Times actually made a whole story about professors at the university I go to? I've yet to see either the San Francisco Chronicle or San Jose Mercury News report on this letter.

I read Sandel's "Justice" book and watched some of his lectures on PBS a few years ago. While they make great class supplements, it's not a good idea to create entire carbon-copy courses out of THAT particular product.

Based on comments I've heard from another friend in college who's been actively defending the use of MOOCs on campus, I suspect that MOOCs may be a method of union-busting (he was complaining about the university faculty union criticizing MOOCs). But with budget cuts making fewer sections available, what other solutions are there? And then there are students who can find the time to learn but whose schedules or life circumstances prevent them from being physically present on campus at all.

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Reply Professors at San Jose State Criticize Online Courses (Original post)
alp227 May 2013 OP
Hissyspit May 2013 #1
mbperrin May 2013 #2
Starry Messenger May 2013 #3

Response to alp227 (Original post)

Sat May 4, 2013, 02:11 AM

1. Not all courses are created equal. Some things in traditional higher education cannot be taught

online. There are pluses and minuses to online teaching. It is not a panacea or a solution to everything.

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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Sat May 4, 2013, 02:14 AM

2. The idea that online or brick courses are inherently better than the other

is silly. There are very good and very bad online AND brick courses.

10 years ago, I took an online course in HTML, and it was EXCELLENT! Instructor was 1500 miles away, the students were from different states, each one of us, and it was a blast, and I learned a lot.

I took a brick course in government years ago where all I learned was that Henry B. Gonzales once visited that very room and stood on this very spot and answered questions about banking regulations.

So some folks worried about job protection need to stop worrying and start teaching well - that will make your career, wherever you find it. And yes, I teach both brick and online courses - my master's is in online instruction and design, and I have very good results at both.

It would be positing that either zippers or buttons should be used on everything.

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Response to alp227 (Original post)

Sat May 4, 2013, 11:45 AM

3. MOOCs are probably not going to be a budget saver

Fighting budget cuts and saving sections is necessary. Once MOOCs are fully integrated into curriculum they will be fully as expensive for schools as other classes. I can almost guarantee it.

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