Friday, February 11, 2011

Texas Governor Pushes for Online Learning to Save Money

The push to force colleges to deliver online courses to 1000-student classrooms and kill the classroom learning format altogether continues:
Governor Rick Perry wants public colleges and universities in Texas to develop bachelor's degrees that would cost students only $10,000 in total, including the cost of textbooks, KXAN News reported. Perry, a Republican, didn't offer details on how colleges could do this, and some Democrats are questioning the realism of the idea, given that $10,000 would be a small fraction of costs today (which vary among institutions). In the State of the State address in which he issued the call, Perry said that online education and "innovative teaching techniques" could make the degrees possible.
Perry isn't interested in helping to make college degrees cheaper for students to get. He wants to destroy the system of higher education in other to hand out worthless e-diplomas to underprepared students who have hardly seen the inside of a classroom and whose only skill is answering stupid multiple choice questions on-line and copy-paste useless information from Wikipedia. 

Texas is well-known for being somewhat of a joke intellectually. The number of hilarious stories coming out of that state is probably higher than any other state in the union. Texas Republicans militate to outlaw oral and anal sex and promote the idea that beating children is not child abuse but a legitimate and fun activity. Texas has gone so far in its anti-intellectual policies that it even offered . . . online beginners courses in Spanish. As for the kind of research that comes out of this state, it's of such low quality that only the Dr. Phil audience might find it interesting.

I remember interviewing for a Texas university that's considered to be quite prestigious for that state. When I heard how many courses they expected a professor to teach per semester, I started laughing right there at the interview. I honestly though they were joking. Professorial salaries were pathetic and job benefits non-existent. While Texas tries to find a recipe for transforming crap into sour-cream, as we say in my culture, it becomes more and more improbable that intellectual life in that state can be rescued.

12 comments:

eric said...

Wow, the state that gave us great liberal politicians like LBJ (Vietnam notwithstanding), Lloyd Bentsen, and Anne Richards, and commentators like Jim Hightower and the late Molly Ivins, now spits out cretins like Rick Perry with such alarming frequency, you'd think lobotomization were a prerequisite for running for office. UT Austin is one of the most prestigious universities in the West, up there probably with Berkeley and Stanford. Well, say goodbye to that! Texans, you should be ashamed of yourselves!

Pagan Topologist said...

I don't know about other fields, but I know several outstanding mathematicians at universities in Texas. But Texas is not a place I would want to live, except perhaps for San Antonio or Austin.

Canukistani said...

Texas may want to do this but Florida is already doing it for highschool students.

“…Over 7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools are enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A “facilitator” is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems. These virtual classrooms, called e-learning labs, were put in place last August as a result of Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment, passed in 2002. The amendment limits the number of students allowed in classrooms, but not in virtual labs.”

The online courses are provided by Florida Virtual School, which has been an option in the state’s public schools. The virtual school has provided online classes for home-schooled and traditional students who want to take extra courses. Students log on to a Web site to gain access to lessons, which consist mostly of text with some graphics, and they can call, e-mail or text online instructors for help. While most schools held an orientation about the program, some students and parents said they were not informed of the new class structure. Others said they were not given the option to choose whether they wanted this type of instruction, and they voiced concern over the program’s effectiveness. (Yahoo news)

Clarissa said...

I don't have such a great opinion of UT Austin. They tried to kill the language requirement a while ago, and it took a lot of effort to stop that from happening: http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2009/10/there-is-hope-for-texas-after-all.html

eric said...

Historically, UT Austin has been the bees knees. It has (or had) a renowned philosophy department, home to the late Robert C. Solomon, who had a cameo role in Richard Linklater's "Waking Life," one of the few American films to seriously tackle philosophical topics. And much to the credit of that university, they rejected future president George W. Bush when he applied for law school there. But, as with every other university in recent times, it seems they, too, are bowing to "budgetary constraints", and with that goes a massive decline in intellectual integrity. Que lastima!

David said...

As state economies continue to tank I think we're only going to see more and more efforts to cut costs wherever possible. Public transportation, health programs, and education seem prime to be on the chopping block. The place where I went to school initially ,Western Washington University, is cutting staff from programs, cutting programs altogether and forcing furloughs in order to cover a massive budgetary shortfall. Things are indeed pretty shitty out in the real world.

D said...

"When I heard how many courses they expected a professor to teach per semester, I started laughing right there at the interview."

Just as info for those of us who have been out of college for longer than we want to admit - how many courses per semester do they expect? How does their requirement translate to hours worked per week - not just classroom but everything that's involved in preparation, etc? What's the norm?

Clarissa said...

They wanted 5 and 5 (5 courses each semester, two semesters.) I find this to be completely ridiculous. (They also wanted a commitment to do travel teaching in summers at least every other summer.)

I teach 3 and 3 right now, and it's a lot. It's too much, I'd say. Two and two or 2 and 3 would make a whole lot more sense.

You cannot have people teach 5 and 5 (or even 4 and 4) and expect them to do any research. You just can't.

As for time involved in preparation, that's everybody's individual choice.

Tom Carter said...

Clarissa, you say "Perry isn't interested in helping to make college degrees cheaper for students to get. He wants to destroy the system of higher education...." And you know this...how?

It isn't just Texas that's trying to cope with the skyrocketing cost of higher education, the ever-growing number of people who want -- expect -- admission to a university regardless of their abilities, and expensive professors who rank actual teaching as a second (or lower) priority.

Face reality, Clarissa. Universities are pooping out graduates who aren't well-educated, and the cost of getting that marginal education is absurd. I don't see how online teaching of huge lower-level classes can be less effective. What little cream there is will still rise to the top, and maybe subsequent traditional teaching can still produce results -- assuming that all the professors aren't too busy researching and pumping out articles for obscure journals read only by their peers.

I think it might be useful for the higher education profession to take a hard look at itself and its priorities. Is it really right to base success and promotion on the number of articles or books published, at the expense of the hundreds of young dolts sitting in an auditorium in History 101?

Canukistani said...

“I think it might be useful for the higher education profession to take a hard look at itself and its priorities.”

Talking about priorities here’s interesting conundrum. If your house had a leaky roof, you have to raise the rent on your tenant who threatens to leave and you can’t pay your mortgage would you sell your family treasure which is stored in the garage? That’s the position in which the University of Iowa finds itself. In 2008 the university had a flood which caused $238 million in damage including $136 million in building damages, $56 million in damage to the buildings' contents (such as lab technology and musical instruments), and $20 million in debris-removal costs. The university has also had $55 million in funding from the state cut in the last 18 months.

It has a Jackson Pollock mural which is conservatively valued at $140 million in storage off campus and refuses to sell it although one of the reagents wants the money. It was paid for by the late Peggy Guggenheim, heir to her New York family’s mining and metals fortune. Guggenheim bankrolled Jackson Pollock and specifically commissioned this piece, credited for reinventing Pollock’s approach to painting and consequently, American modern art in the late 1940s. She donated it to the university with no restrictions. Since the university refuses to sell the piece, State Rep. Scott Raecker, (R-Urbandale) has recently introduced a bill in the state legislature to force the university to sell it. Good or bad idea?

profacero said...

"And you know this...how?" By reading internal documents and the explanations of what's going on in the news.

They're still raising tuition and all. They're investing in sports and so on. They are also cutting the amounts spent on funding teaching and also research, when that research is not in some corporate interest and largely funded by it. Look at what the Governor of LA says: we need to train people to be service workers, not innovators or leaders.
Etc.

The shortcuts on teaching resourses / use of money for other things instead / etc. / are what the business community and also some of their children who are our students want, not what faculty wants or recommends.

profacero said...

P.S. They shouldn't sell the Pollock piece.

P.P.S. Greetings from Houston, anyway, where I am. Great town, edgy.