Thursday, June 04, 2009

I Guess Even I Can Be Outsourced

To me, what's most troubling about this story is that the professor hasn't actually been outsourced, but has been completely removed from the equation. Yet the classes show up on the university transcript and are indistinguishable from any other courses taught at the college.
Kansas university stirs debate over outsourced classes
Just how much can a college outsource and still be a college? The question is no longer just academic at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

Under a novel arrangement, the school will accept credits from a private company that runs introductory courses in subjects like economics and English composition - listing them on transcripts under the Fort Hays State name.
The company working with Fort Hays State, StraighterLine, runs its own courses, which are designed by experts but aren't led by a professor. Nonetheless, the credits earned would be indistinguishable from those taught by professors at Fort Hays State.

The reaction on campus is as you would expect - even a student-created Facebook protest group:
To some on campus, that sounds like a restaurant ordering takeout from a rival and serving it up as home cooking.

"It could really damage our academic reputation," said Topher Rome, a graduate student who helped start a Facebook group with 147 members opposing the arrangement.
Rome further:
compares StraighterLine's arrangement with FHSU to "money-laundering but with credit" - essentially borrowing the university's own accreditation to give its courses legitimacy.
Why is the university doing this?
... the public university notes the arrangement isn't for current students there - it's mostly a recruiting tool. Fort Hays State hopes to drum up business amid declining state funding and a dwindling local population, encouraging those who sign up for the online courses to continue their education through the university.
Fort Hays' financial goal is recruiting more students. State funding covers about half the portion of the budget it once did, Provost Larry Gould said, and the area's population has been declining for more than a century. It's responded with a huge online program that enrolls more students off-campus (6,800) than there are on-campus (4,500).
Gould acknowledged some faculty are worried but says they shouldn't be. Once students transfer into FHSU, all courses would be taught by university faculty; if more transfer in, there's more work.
Has the outsourcing help improvement recruitment? Not yet:
So far, Fort Hays has credentialed coursework for about 64 StraighterLine students since the agreement with the school in May 2008, but so far none have formally transferred into the university.
So what's really behind this? Why would a university outsource classes, risking the outrage of faculty and students and raising questions of quality and credentialing. The R-word - revenue!
"Our first job is to provide education services to the citizens of western Kansas," Gould said, but the university can't do that without generating new revenues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Usually when a college wants to create an online courses, they have their own faculty do it. Then that online course because part of the load of the teacher. Rio Salado CC, which is 90% distant learning, meaning 85% online, does that. For the college I teach at, I have develop and teach online classes in addition to my in person. That is how the school should do it - otherwise it becomes a business where the student is a customer, and if you don't want to lose customers, you keep them happy. I taught for an online college and if a student complained enough about their grade, department chairs were told by the higher ups to change the grade or to make the teacher give the student 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances that in a normal classroom would not happen. The reason we were given to do these things was that we had to keep the customers happy. It didn't matter if the student didn't do the work, or failed. How does the school know that this buisness won't do the same? Who are the people designing the classes? What are their creditentals?


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