Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Open?


The other day I was reading a recent post by Jenny Mackness on questions about being open. Jenny had attended the recent ALT-C conference and was responding to a fellow ALT-C participant's questions on openness.  Specifically Viv Rofle ponders:

I’m questioning not just openness by my motives behind wanting to contribute to it.

  • What motivates academics and teachers to get involved in areas of practice that are NOT supported by their institutions? 
  • Why invest even longer hours in supporting educational practice? My dentist doesn’t give me free root canal treatment outside of work? 
  • Why personally finance conference attendance and travel, and what are the implications of this for the education sector? 
  • What is in it for those willing to ‘go open’?
These are good questions, and I think that the fact that I, a non-participant in ALT-C, am able to view, ponder, and engage with such questions and discussions is really the reason why you'd want to be open. Even things such as virtually connecting is only possible due to the openness of others. I don't see it as freeloading (as some might) but I see openness as an opportunity to augment, enhance, and expand the conference and learning experience.

I guess, like Jenny did, I want to address Viv's specific questions one at a time.

What motivates academics and teachers to get involved in areas of practice that are NOT supported by their institutions? 

Well, I don't know.  I guess I'd need to do some research on that in order to come up with some sort of answer that is generalizable. If I take some anecdotal evidence, both from my own lived experience and from stories I hear from other open colleagues, I would make the bold claim that to be in academia means that you should ascribe to notions of openness.  I know that this is a philosophical stance, and that others may not share in my views of academics, however why would someone devote their life to teaching and/or to research if they are not willing to be open about what they do?  In research results need to be validated and vetted. One of the ways to do this is to be open (and honest) about your methodology and how you obtained your results.  In teaching if you are closed you don't share anything. 

How does one teach without sharing?  I often am perplexed with academics who throw copyright statements on their syllabi.  What the heck for? Have you found the most awesome and most effective way to teach Introduction to Biology or Intermediate Accounting? I am sure that there are others who approach the subject in both similar and different manners but students still learn.  I often think that such crazy actions on the part of academics is driven by fear and uncertainty rather than selfishness.  I do think, however, that the path out of fear and uncertainty is openness.  Those who are open - again my small anecdotal sample size - find themselves with more opportunities.  In the end I think that the original motivation for being open is the wish to connect with others, and to share know-how, and to engage with them. There may be benefits beyond this as well, beyond the altruism.


Why invest even longer hours in supporting educational practice? My dentist doesn’t give me free root canal treatment outside of work? 

I am not sure that the analogy is apt. I also think that it depends on where you work.  Even as a professional staff member (not a faculty), many of my previous departments were open to me spending some time engaging professionally and intellectually outside of my department's work. So long as department work was done and there were no issues, I had some academic freedom†. That said, I think that many of us do not see our jobs as simply something that pays the bills. I am not going to go so far as to call the job "a calling" - I often roll my eyes when I hear that, but I do think that we have fun with what we do, even if there are things in our jobs that grind us down.

As such, there isn't this on/off moment whereby during the hours of 9am and 5pm we turn off our interests and focus on mundane work, and a 5:01 we turn off work and we focus on what makes us happy.  There is often an overlap - which does have the real danger of losing balance between work and fun.  That said, being open doesn't mean being open all the time.  If you need to take time off, or don't feel like posting your syllabus as Creative Commons document right now, that's perfectly fine.  You are open on your own terms, and there are shades of open. I know that there are people out there that would disagree with me, but from where I stand open is not an all or nothing proposition.

Why personally finance conference attendance and travel, and what are the implications of this for the education sector? 

I think that this is a personal choice of individuals.  I personally don't personally finance conference costs and attendance.  The money that I save for vacation goes toward vacations where I can see new sights, explore new cultures, and eat new food (also toward seeing the same ancient Greek monuments and eating the same yummy Greek food). I have a philosophical issue with paying my own money to attend conferences.  I try to find conference attendance on the cheap.  I look for conferences that I can attend for free if my conference paper is accepted.  I look for conferences that my employer can foot the bill for.  And I look for conferences that are local where I don't have to pay for hotels or airfare.  This generally means that I only really attend one or two conferences per year (one in Boston, MA and one in Providence, RI) but that doesn't matter to me. What being open means to me is that the entire year can be a conference. Between virtually connecting, cMOOCs, and other impromptu work that I do with my open colleagues, I end up learning more, and meeting more people than attending a paid conference.

What is in it for those willing to ‘go open’?

I think the WIIFM (what's in it for me) question is also the wrong question to ask.  While an exchange mentality is OK in some contexts (negotiating work salary for example), I think it's the wrong frame of mind for open.  If you are asking the question, my gut reaction is that you are not ready to be 'open'.  It might sound a little yoda-like in its philosophy, but the benefits of open (at least in my own small sample size) are not always visible, immediate, or quantifiable.  For instance connections with fellow colleagues aren't something you can monetize or take advantage of.  Opportunities may arise in the networks that you are part of, and hence by being part of an open network you could reap some rewards down the road, such as landing a new job, learning of a publishing opportunity you didn't know about before, or participating in research that interests you but would have gone under your radar.

For me being open - keeping in mind that I've defined open as 'degrees of openness' - is sort of along the same lines as 'being kind to people'. No one ever asks WIIFM to be kind to others, unless of course you are philosopher.

Your thoughts?



NOTE:
† obviously I am not using academic freedom in the same sense as faculty do :-)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Are job titles passé?

I was reading this post on InsideHigherEd the other day by Joshua Kim.  The post, A plague of directors, which was a bit comical; the mental image that came to mind was one of plague carrying zombies with name tags that said "director" - yeah, I know, sometimes my imagination runs wild and comical video games like Plants vs. Zombies get mixed in with titles like Josh's.

Joshua wonders if titles mean anything anymore with this inflation of titles.   This reminded me of two scenarios over the summer that I came across.  First was discussing with someone, a professional staff member, that their supervisor wanted to promote them from 'coordinators' to 'directors'.  Of course the supervisor did not want to give them a pay increase, just a title boost. The job would be the same, but the title would be different.  This change would essentially be meaningless, other than the momentary ego boost of being a 'director'.  However, if everyone is a director, or an assistant-director, what's the point?  Needless to say that this didn't go through since at our university titles means something, and there is a pay, and duty, difference between coordinators, managers, and directors.

Another example was discussing GPDs, or Graduate Program Directors, who are usually faculty who take on additional responsibilities to run a graduate program.  Sometimes there is a course-release for this, and sometimes not. It depends on the teaching needs of the department. The pay increase is not that that much (probably enough money to buy you a Starbucks latte twice per week). I guess it goes on the CV,  since you do have additional responsibilities, but other than that I wouldn't say that there is much to write home about.

So, what does this mean for job titles, and the specific one in question: director.  From my own perspective I am of two minds when it comes to titles.  On the one hand I don't think titles matter for the day to day work that we do.  Even the way that you execute job duties in your job description can be variable from person to person.  For instance, if someone has worked for an institution for a while, and has cultivated relationships and knowledge of organizational history, they are in a better footing to perform their duties more efficiently and to navigate those system inefficiencies.  Someone who is new to the organization and doesn't know much of the background, while eventually successful, my not be able to take back roads or dirt paths in the organization to move things along faster. They may just assume that it does usually take x+10 time to get y-task done, when it really might take x if you know all the different paths to achieving it.  If tomorrow my department were to hire a replacement for me no one would be able to replace me in the exact same fashion. Hence, in this instance, it doesn't matter if my title is Program Manager or a Linguistic Interlocutor. The fact is that there is no one-to-one parity between humans doing the same job.

On the other hand, putting on my labor relations and HR hat, I do think that there are benefits to job titles.  If you aren't willy nilly giving people titles - just because you can - it provides a rubric that you can use to quantify and qualify the work people are doing.  There is the potential for a considerable amount of inequity when people who do, essentially, the same thing have different job titles and different descriptions. By having different titles (or even inflating the use of director as a title) you end up with situations where people cannot compare apples to apples.  This leads to at least some obfuscation of what's happening in the organization, and you aren't treating employees equally - even though they are doing the same types of jobs in different divisions.

If the world were an equitable place, I'd go for the title Perpetual Learner and Online Learning Guru for my department - but since it's not an equitable place, I'll stick with my Manager title so that we can all compare what we do to make sure that people aren't playing favorites.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Participation somewhat achieved - lurking only partial (PSA-LOP).

I was thinking of CLMOOC, and more specifically my participation in it this past summer.  I still see some posts in the Facebook group for clmooc, which draw my attention to the MOOC that I really didn't participate in, and I have a look at the posting from time to time.

CLMOOC (2015) in theory had all the raw ingedients for me to be active in a MOOC.  There were people there I knew from previous MOOCs, noticeably rhizo14 and rhizo15; it had/has a Make Bank, which is similar to the bank items  in DS106 where a participant can choose projects in various media and pursue them, so you can scaffold yourself with projects that are "easier" for you and move on to more challenging things, and it had a way to notify me of new things, namely the facebook group notifications and the blog hub, which would allow me see what's new, and perhaps get inspired by others - considering that I don't consider myself a "maker" an my general feeling toward raw materials, like lego bricks, tends to be "wll, that's nice".  I guess I don't see possibilities ;-)

So what happened?  According to my blog I participated in the first 2 weeks.  Week 2 was a bit of a brain twister for me, but I got through it. For weeks 4 through 6 I was was a bit of a no show. From what I remember there were 2 live sessions each week, which to me seemed a bit like overkill. I know that some people love their synchronous aspects, but I tend to identify more with the asynchronous aspects of MOOCs - being able to digest what I read, especially from others, reflect, remix, and feed forward.  I think the two synchronous sessions per week seemed a bit like cognitive overload for me, even though I wasn't expected to participate.

I am also not sure if the make topics for each week, and the subsequent contributions from fellow clmoocers, were too esoteric for me.  For some reason I could not 'connect' with what was proposed as a make, and not able to really process what people made.  To some extent it felt like being in an art museum.  Some things you 'get' and they connect with you, and something things you don't. At least this is the sense that I go from my own participation, and eventual lurking...and then somewhat dropping out (or tuning out?). I am wondering if the make cycle topics were different, or if the group of individuals were different ("speaking" the same "language" as the case might be) if I would have persisted through clmooc, despite the being at a modern art museum feeling, or whether I would have still eventually faded :-)

Did you participate in CLMOOC? What were your experiences?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Week 2 of 13 sort of done

If I think about it long enough...
I would say that rubber has met the road, with week 2 of EDDE803 almost over. People have started being active in the course forums, interesting perspectives and illustrative stories are shared and discussed, and projects are in progress! This semester we are joined by two members of Cohort 6, who I think will be added to our cohort, and thus adding to the diversity of our small EdD group. Metacognition and reflection seem to be big in this course, so as inspiration strikes I think I will keep some notes and thoughts as blog posts, in addition to whatever I keep in evernote. They might come in handy at the end of the semester.

803 Ponderings and News

The first assignment has us going into teams to develop a competency profile for a distance education instructor.  Once our teams develop a competency profile, we collaborate with other teams to develop one of the entire course.  This seems to be part delphi process, part a way to be more mindful and aware of the process we are undertaking, and part as a way to inform our own practice as teaching interns in the course that we are interning in. The process seems to be going well thus far, and once we've come up with a competency profile (no peeking, Cohort 8!) I will post our findings here.  It would be interesting to compare with Cohort 6 to see what they got.

I am already thinking of the second assignment, even though it's not due until November 10th.  This one is indivual, and it's a researched paper on an instructional technique, strategy, or technology that holds particular interest for me based on the study of Unit 3 (note to self: remind myself what Unit 3 is). This includes a paper (4000-5000 words) plus a presentation on the topic. I am not sure what the technology part is (I only see techniques and strategies in our readings), but I guess I will ask Susan in a little while for clarification. I really want to get the literature review done by October 15th at the latest so I can focus on synthesis and paper-writing.

Internship

In the internship arena, things are progressing there as well.  I was having a bit of a problem getting a start in week 1.  Part of the problem was conceptual.  I see a distinct Pat influence to the course, and (despite loving my conversations with Pat) sometimes I wonder if questions posed as a way to kick off discussion are rhetortical - in other words, sometimes I have issues getting "a start" in the discussion which leaves me in awe of MEd students who just jump in and start the discussion (without worrying about 'correctness' of the answer). This week I did get a better footing in the course, but as I can see there were 7 unread posts in the forums since yesterday that I need to attend to.  As a TA I am finding it hard to find my place.  As a learner I like to jump in and discuss a lot.  As an instructor in the INSDSG courses I teach I tend to be active, but a little more like a devil's advocate, and more socratic.  I have yet to figure out what my "motivation" (to use an acting term) is as a TA.

Dissertation Ponderings

Finally this week, I've been thinking about my dissertation.  Yes, EDDE805 is a year away, but I like to give things a little thought.  My idea-board for dissertation topics keeps getting added to.  However, I see some things as either not quite viable (at least for the timeframe of a reasonable dissertation), or just not that interesting any longer.  I was reading Maha Bali (et al) 's What Makes a cMOOC Community Endure, and I started thinking about autoethnography again. Since 2011, starting in January 2011 with Siemen's LAK11, and continuing until today I've been MOOCing. cMOOCs, xMOOCs, rMOOCs; MOOCs on Facebook, on edx, on coursera, on janux, on futurelearn, on Moodle, on Blackboard, on Desire2Learn, and many more; MOOCs education, social sciences, arts and architecture, comic books, and language - heck even some MOOCs on logic. Chances are that by the time I get to EDDE805 I will also have taken a handful more of MOOCs, and tried out additional MOOC providers.

The MOOC tag on this blog has taken over, and specific MOOCs like #change11, or #rhizo have representation.  I've been thinking about exploring the journey for lifelong learning through the lens of the MOOC, and through its various iterations and novelty offerings. While I didn't start on "day 1" of MOOCs, with CCK08, I do consider myself as starting MOOCs considerably early, and definitely before the big explosion.  I came to them as free ways (free in a variety of meanings) of continuing to learn. MOOCs have changed quite a lot, and have sprouted off-shoots, since then, and for the most part I've witnessed this change.  I've also tried to keep up with the literature, but there is still a ton I have not read.

So, my idea, upon reading Maha et al's autoethnography, and reflecting on the autoethnography I worked on with Maha and others, was to do either a chronological autoethnography, or a MOOC-type based autoethnography, of a lifelong learner (me) by going back and analyzing my posts, reflections, ideas, and conceptions on MOOCs from this blog. I've got 4 years worth of data thus far, so it could be interesting, right? I am also thinking that I can also continue to write about, reflect on, learn in, and experience different types of MOOCs until it comes time to dissertate which will give me more data to work with.

My main hurdle is really this internal conflict I am feeling about the autoethnography as a method. From a conceptual frame of reference is think that it is a valuable methodology for conducting research.  The researcher as the person under the microscope for the research.  I think objectivity is a bit over-rated when it comes to research, so I am not worried about having a façade of objectivity.  Just like single-subject research is valid in other fields, I think single-subject research via autoethnography is equally valid and valuable.  On the other hand, the little naysayer in me is telling me that this research won't be accepted as "real" research, and thus as such it will be problematic for a dissertation topic. The Rhizoteam had problems getting our collaborative autoethnography out there, so I think that as a one person dissertator I would probably face bigger obstacles.  So, where I am at with this is pondering the widsom of pursuing it, no matter how much I like the idea.

Any thoughts on this?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Second life? Whatsdatnow?

Last week I was reading this article about abandoned campuses on Second Life - you know the virtual world that took the educational world by storm back in 2008(ish) and is now more or less synonymous with major flops and misdirects in educational technology.

For the past few days I've been looking like a madman through old backups of screenshots I had taken when I was more active in second life; to be able to showcase my tall, skiny, blasé, goth avatar with black wings (specifically sitting with his feet on a conference room table).  After looking through my computers, and through some backup hard drives, I ended up with nothing.  There probably is something there, but I didn't really want to invest too much time in finding that specific picture of Milo Vuckovic (the avatar). Luckily I had one photo of my Flickr account with his name tagged.  For a brief moment  I did entertain the thought of downloading the SL client and seeing if my university's Island is still there so I can re-create the pose...and then I laughed out loud ;-)

Milo is not afraid of Ninja
So, a little trip down memory lane.  Back in 2008, having finished my second Master's degree, I embarked on my third and fourth Master's degrees simultaneously.  I was looking at jobs as an educational technologists, but without a degree in instructional design people would not look at my resume.  Too bad.  Anyway, the instructional design program I joined also had a new director at the time who was hired partly because of her work with second life. In the introduction to instructional design course I ended up spending time exploring the world of second life (and wondering why we've made such an investment in it).

Back then the university system spent $25,000 to get this up and running for our five campuses. Specifically the Teotihuacan project at UMass Dartmouth was all the buzz, and I get a sense that our campus was pushing people to "be innovative" with second life, not to be bested by our sister campus. Specifically the UMass Dartmouth project focused on a recreation of the architectural monument, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, as well as a full-size replica of the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl for students to study and explore (from that link).  This was an interesting idea, but I think that there is something lost when re-creating this in a virtual world.  I wonder if the temple, and the island, is up and running.

Even back then the island, and second life, was pretty dead.  As much as I was interested in trying out building things in SL my main hurdle was the closed, proprietary, nature of everything.  Unlike the world wide web, I could not setup my own server, run the SL equivalent of Apache, and get my own virtual world up and running.  With this pay to create model I was pretty much turned off.  Also, when you stopped playing the maintenance fees your stuff would go away (I did not see a way to download backups at the time).  Seemed like wasted effort at the time.  I think the fact that anyone can install their own minecraft server has made it much more popular as compared to SL.

Another problem I saw with SL at the time was this needless repetition of real world in SL. Designers were not thinking outside of the box in terms os what could be done, and in terms of heuristics.  So professors would have their students join a virtual class in Second Life only to sit down in a a virtual seat to be lectured at.  M'eh?  I can do that with WebEx and it will take up fewer computing resources than SL ;-)

It seems to me that people drank their own kool aid.  In several articles and interviews I saw "working with real world objects"  as a benefit of second life.  To me, working with real world objects means working with real world object (or at least 3D printed replicas).  A virtual world, even with virtual reality gear such as the oculus,  still means you are missing important tactile information. You are still to keyboard, mouse, and/or a joypad for navigation.  I think that virtual worlds do have a space, for example replicating actual living cities that don't exist anymore, such as Pompeii, but you still need to design for immersion. Something that, for me, SL lacked.


Where is everyone? (image from article)

What about you? Do you still think of second life?  What do you think?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Previously on EDDE:AU:MOODLE

I think  my interactions with Autumm in virtual connecting made me want to create  a little trailer with dramatized highlights from my doctoral studies thus far.  Alas, no budget for extras, scripts, sets, and green screens, so I guess I'll leave it to plain text for now ;-)

This week marks the beginning of my second year at Athabasca's EdD program (survived year 1!), and I just began EDDE 803: Teaching and Learning in Distance Education. At the risk of sounding like an overachiever, when I received my textbooks for in June I ended up reading through them while I had some free time in the summer.  Luckily (it seems) that the bulk of the reading for EDDE803 is those two textbooks, so (with any luck) I won't be buried under a ton of additional articles to read.  This course seems to focus a lot on distance education teaching and instructional design, both areas that I am familiar with already due to my background in instructional design and my own teaching online for the past few years.  In EDDE 803 I want to take the opportunity to perhaps explore areas of distance education that I am not actively practicing - such as distance education that is not online.

For this course I am also undertaking an required teaching internship where I will be assisting an existing faculty member with the course that they are teaching. The course I've been paired with is MDDE 620: Technology in Education and Training, which is one of the courses that Athabasca offers to their MEd program students. I had access to the moodle course for 620 last week and I've already gone in and started comparing methods and approaches to teaching (and assessing) to my own experiences both as a learner and as a teacher.  The group of students in MDDE 620 are actually part of the "Greek Cohort", a program that AU just launched last year (as far as I know). Before I logged into Moodle I had actually forgotten that I was the TA in the Greek Cohort, so as I was going down the list of student enrolled in the course I was astonished at how many Greeks from Greece there were in the course...and 30 seconds later when memory kicked in, I realized that I was in the Greek Cohort. #facepalm.

This is going to be an interesting exercise for me. In a room full of Greeks my natural inclination is to just speak Greek.  However, the language of instruction in this Greek cohort is still English!  Even if the language of instruction were Greek (which would have been interesting in its own right), there is another small problem to overcome:  My academic language proficiency in Greek is pretty lacking.  Since I left Greece at the end of Middle School, my Greek is perfectly fine for every day conversations, but I really lack the vocabulary and ability to work in the academic register.  I can actually pull it off in an asynchronous mode, but I in synchronous environments  I constantly code switch.

Anyway, here is to year 2 of my EdD program!  May it go well, and may knowledge flow freely!

So, what are you up to this semester?

NOTES:
EDDE:AU:MOODLE is a reference to the comedy NTSF:SD:SUV

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Conflicting perceptions on Education

One of my resolutions, just before this new semester starts, is to not neglect periodicals that come in from time to time and at least thumb through them.  Don't let too much work, of any sort, detract from the professional development of looking through work related periodicals (sounds oxymoronic, doesn't it?).  Well, at least this way they won't pile up in the office ;-).

Anyway, in keepting with this goal (let's see how long I last), I went through the July/August issue of Training Magazine.  This is something I signed up for last year when I wanted to keep more abreast of what was happening in the corporate instructional designing sector.  One of the things that caught my eye was this tidbit at the beginning titled Conflicting Perceptions on Education, which reported on a University of Phoenix and EdAssist report titled Are we playing the same game?: Employee vs. Manager Perception of Education and Career Development.

From the report itself:
Nearly half of employees said their college or university should be responsible for helping them develop specific job skills. However, only a third of managers agreed— a result that is surprising in light of the widely reported skills shortages. Instead, 93% of managers believed that colleges should teach soft skills such as how to think, learn, and communicate—and 75% of workers agreed. In addition, 73% of managers believed higher education should teach students how to collaborate with diverse peers (but only 44% of workers agreed).  (p. 8)
This, among other things in the report, stood out to me in light of this summer's Campus Technology conference, and the keynote by SNHU president who spoke about some widely reported tropes that don't seem to hold water - such as CEOs claiming that college graduates don't have the skills for the jobs in their companies.  It seems to me, at least from this report, that college graduates should have higher level thinking and reasoning skills, something that they should get by making their way successfully through college, but company and job specific skills should be left up to the employer to address.  This to me makes sense to me because the University is not an extension, or arm of, any specific corporation - and front line managers seem to agree with this point.

Another thing that stood out was this: it seems like there is confusion as to whose job it is to prepare fellow humans for career development, with people pointing the finger at each other (managers to employees, employees to colleges, and colleges to...?).  Career development seems like something really nebulous, and something that is subject to change.  As much as we, in academia, want to keep in contact with our alumni, we don't aften have the luxury of being able to do so. Developing a career plan and path is something that is a long term relationship, and it is something that is fundamentally up to the individual to plan and execute based on their own unique interests, goals, capabilities, and backgrounds. The individual has the biggest stake in this and they should take the lead role.

That said, as the report recomments to companies: be a career development partner. The employee may be at the driver's seat, but the company can be the companion and co-pilot.  When a company spends time and effort on employees that are an asset to the company it stands to reason that they don't want to see them leave the company.  It thus makes sense to develop talent from within, to encourage employee renewal, and to help develop career development plans for employees in the long run - that is if you still want them in your firm.

This has been the most management focused post I have written I think in this blog.  Your thoughts on career development and the role of academia?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Valuing teaching...and teacher effort expectations

Yesterday another faculty member took on the role and responsibilities of department chair.  This is quite exciting for a variety of reasons, but one of them that comes to mind is that I get to experience things anew.  "Training" a new department chair, even though my colleague and I report to them, provides an opportunity to explain to someone new what the operating rules of the university are, from HR and Procurement to new staff hiring.  It's also a great opportunity to really problematize current policies and ways of doing things at the university. Reading Audrey Watters' keynote from #DigPed also contributed (a lot) I think to this mental gear churning.

The thing that perturbed me these past few days has to do with teaching, and the increasing 'accountability' that instructors, teachers, and professors are expected to have in this new working environment.  The problem, however, as I see it is that no one is connecting the dots.  One of these HUGE dots in my mind is the amount of effort faculty are expected to exhert in any one given course.  The way that I could people's expected effort is by the amount of hours people are paid to do a specific task. The more difficult or complicated a task the more time you expect someone to spend on it.  It also means that individuals with higher qualifications are higher and paid better for their work.

At my university a lecturer's FTE status is determined by the amount of courses taught.  Each course counts for 25% FTE, therefore 4 courses per semester is considered to be full time employment.  That said, I don't think I really spent a lot of time problematizing what 1 course  25% FTE really means, but it was right there, in front of me, in an HR timesheet that we were explaining to our new department chair. One course, meaning 25% FTE means that you are paid for spending 10 hours per week on that one course.  This to me seemed rather low in terms instructor hours spent on a course. I was actually thinking back to this past summer, where I taught the Introduction to Instructional Design course for the first time, and I was spending something like 16 hours per week on the course between prep, keeping an eye on forums, being the devil's advocate, providing feedback for each student on both reflective writing and their semester project, and troubleshooting. And all this while running an asynchronous course (synchronous sessions would have added to the hours I spent on the course).

Now, even assuming that I am some sort of crazy online professor who likes to spend time in Blackboard and stretching the minds of his students, what if I were on-campus? What if there were no technology component?  Would 10 hours per week be enough?  I don't think so.

In a week's time 3 hours would be spent in class lecturing or conducting laboratory sessions.  That leaves 7 hours.  Hmmm...Well...If I take at least 1 hour to prepare for each hour I am in the class, that means I have another 3 hours of preparation (if I don't want to totally wing it).  So that leaves 4 hours. Out of those 4 hours I need to have  a mandatory 2 hours of office hours per week.  So that leaves me 2 hours in the end for grading and providing feedback.  If I have 20 students in my class that means that I have 6 minutes of time per student to grade and provide feedback.  Errr...are you kidding me?!

Am I the only person who finds this patently ridiculous?   Now, people would most likely spend more time than 10 hours per week, per course, like I did, but that basically means that I am lowering the per-hour pay since I put in more hours than what I am compensated for.

I knew that teaching is not an activity that is promoted often at the university (grants and research seem to be the most rewarded things - just anecdotally speaking), but breaking it down to hours per week and doing a task analysis really underscores, to me, how undervalued teaching is in certain quarters of academia.  I do have to say that my university seems to pay non-tenured faculty pretty well per course, as compared to other university which don't even pay half of this, but at the same time, when thinking about fringe benefits and what you need to do to get them, it's clear to me that something radical needs to happen in academia - beyond unionization.  I think unionization is good, because people can at least get some protections; however what we need is an attitudinal change.  It shouldn't be alright to say that faculty are paid to spend 10 hours per week on a course of 15, 20, 30 or even 40 students. Students shouldn't stand for this either.

Thoughts?