I'm getting this third-hand, and I'm always cautious about predictions of future events, but here's someone's vision of higher education yet-to-come:
- Professors will totally need to incorporate online elements, especially social media elements, into their courses if they are to have a prayer of engaging their students.
- They will also need to get students to accept the idea that since the jobs are being outsourced to other countries, they (the students) will need to be ready to move to those countries. (No word on whether students are to be prepared for the prevailing wages in those countries, or on whether those countries are likely to welcome our students as job-seeking immigrants.)
- The end of new tenure track faculty.
Excuse me, but I was promised a zombie apocalypse.
Regular readers of this blog may recall that the California State University system, of which my fair campus is a part, is in the throes of a budgetpocalypse. The state of California just can't put up the money it used to put up to support the educational mission we are charged to uphold, and one immediate strategy the system has taken to deal with dramatically reduced state contribution is to shrink our enrollments.
I recognize that this seems counterintuitive -- you'd think more enrolled students would mean more tuition dollars coming in, which would bean more money available to pay for stuff like instructors and electricity in the classrooms and so forth. However, even with steadily increasing "student fees" (our euphemism for tuition in a university system which was set up to be tuition-free), the amount of money the students are putting up comes nowhere near the actual costs of educating those students. The money from the state is essential to even approaching those costs, so when the money from the states is reduced, it means we can't enroll as many students. (My understanding is that this has jacked up the demand at the community colleges significantly, but I haven't seen actual numbers on this.)
Anyway, from a faculty-eye view, the immediate impact of slashed enrollments was a first week of classes during which ... it didn't quite feel like the first week of classes on campus. There was not a line of traffic several blocks long to get into the parking structure. The sidewalks in most parts of the campus were not so congested with new and returning students as to be practically unnavigable. It was not practically impossible to grab a quick bite at the main campus eatery in a 15 minute window before noon.
However, from within my classrooms, you'd get the impression that enrollments have skyrocketed. I have had many more people asking for add codes (and many more students sitting on the floor or standing through the first class meeting) than in any semester I can recall here. I'm still waiting to see what the official policy ruling will be on how many students I'm allowed to add (since going over enrollment targets can lead to punishment of departments that do so).
I guess I'll try to appreciate how much less time it takes to park, even if I end up having to use the time I've saved (and more) grading a larger stack of student papers.
The younger Free-Ride offspring reports on one of the workshops at Kids Day @ SLAC 2010:
Dr. Free-Ride: Tell me the story with Mr. Marshmallow Man.
Younger offspring: Mr. Marshmallow Man got put into a vacuum chamber, and it was also kind of like a time machine, 'cause when they put him in, he was, like, porking out on all these marshmallows. Except, he wasn't eating himself. And then, the time flew fast and he turned eighty. Then he porked out some more. And then, time flew more fast, and then he turned a hundred, and then his head fell off and I came to his funeral. (In a dramatically sad voice) I'll never forget you, Mr. Marshmallow Man!
Dr. Free-Ride: OK, but can you tell me what was happening in terms of the balloon in the vacuum? What actually happened?
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Seen on my colleague's office door:
I'm glad we've gone at least a few days without a robot attack, as the budget for responding to robot attacks has been slashed to the bone (and the paperwork you need to file after such attacks is terribly burdensome).
Well, summer sure ended quickly (although suddenly the weather is downright summery -- thanks, irony!). Less than 48 hours from the beginning of classes, my to-do list looks something like this:
- Update syllabus for the "Philosophy of Science" class I've taught for several semesters.
- Update web pages for that "Philosophy of Science" class.
- Set up materials in Desire2Learn* shells for the two sections of that "Philosophy of Science" class that I'm teaching this term.
- Finish writing syllabus for the "Logic and Critical Reasoning" course I'm teaching for the first time this semester.
- Create web pages for "Logic and Critical Reasoning".
- Set up materials in Desire2Learn shell for my section of "Logic and Critical Reasoning."
- Update my homepage (primarily to reflect/link to courses I'm teaching this term and to list my current office hours).
- Find out what the heck my college's official policy on add codes is this semester, the better to inform the throngs of people turning up wanting to add my courses what (if anything) I can do for them.
- Verify that textbooks are actually available in the campus book store (and not mislabeled and/or mis-shelved).
- Verify that necessary classroom equipment is functional in my classrooms.
- For each of my courses, create 1-page handout giving overview of course requirements and URLs for detailed syllabi, assignments, etc.
- Make offerings to the deity that controls department photocopier in order that I may successfully photocopy the 1-page handout for each of my courses.
- Put in request for the courses I'd like to teach spring semester.
- Try really, really hard to dodge any new committee assignments.
- Brace self for inevitable unpleasantness of the details about what else needs to be cut this semester in light of the fact that the budget assumed a 10% increase in student fees** and that student fees actually only increased by 5%.***
- Bring a sweatshirt to office, which seems at present to be a full 30 oF colder than the ambient temperature outside. (Bring thermometer to office, to track meat-locker-like temperatures in which it seems I'm expected to work.)
By the way, these are just the items requiring the most urgent attention -- the full to-do list is much longer.
We'll see what I can get done before the last minute has passed.
*Desire2Learn is a course management system, like Blackboard or WebCT (which Blackboard bought and assimilated). My university adopted it because it seems to do better on accessibility issues (like making content easy to navigate for students with visual impairments with a screen reader).
**In the California State University system, of which my university is a part, "student fees" is the euphemism for tuition. Tuition is spoken of euphemistically because until the early 1990s there wasn't any. Now there is, and it seems to increase substantially every term.
***That 5% increase, however, is enough to make life really hard for a lot of our students.
Longtime friend of the Free-Rides LO has been instrumental in hooking the Free-Ride offspring up with Kids Day @ SLAC. Finally the year has come when the younger Free-Ride offspring meets the age requirements to join the elder Free-Ride offspring. As is our practice, we prepared by reviewing the safety information:
Dr. Free-Ride: So, we're talking about Kids Day @ SLAC. I'm showing you the logo for this year's Kids Day @ SLAC. There seems to be some sort of -- I don't know if that's a laser beam or something. Looks interesting. But, the part we need to discuss has to do with the safety information. "All children must wear long pants, Kids Day T-shirts" -- which you guys will get from LO and put on when you get there -- "closed-toe shoes, no jewelry, and long hair must be pulled back. Please review the hazards and mitigation information on the workshops." Younger offspring, let's look at workshop B.
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Today ScienceInsider gave an update on the Marc Hauser misconduct case, one that seems to support the accounts of other researchers in the Hauser lab. From ScienceInsider:
In an e-mail sent earlier today to Harvard University faculty members, Michael Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), confirms that cognitive scientist Marc Hauser "was found solely responsible, after a thorough investigation by a faculty member investigating committee, for eight instances of scientific misconduct under FAS standards."
ScienceInsider reprints the Dean's email in its entirety. Here's the characterization of the nature of Hauser's misconduct from that email:
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Dr. Free-Ride is pinned down in committee meetings for a while.
There will be a conversation with the Free-Ride offspring posted later today. In the meantime, here are whiteboard traces of a science-y conversation the sprogs had recently with Dr. Free-Ride's better half.
Yeah, I find the "sand" thing worrisome, too.