This is a letter, actually, to all those who are looking to seriously change higher education, such as supercoolschool.com, odijoo.com, udemy.com, and everyone else.
I have a dream. It is a dream where adjuncts (aka contingent faculty) teach their classes and get paid a fair amount. In fact, they can set their own amount, with a cut going to the system administrator. These courses will be accredited, or at least accepted for credit at a student's home institution, perhaps the institution where the instructor has taught in the past. It would be the biggest teaching institution in the world, housed entirely online.
Because, let's look at this objectively. In the case of California, the largest public system in the nation, the large majority of a student's tuition is not being spent on instruction and the community colleges are outsourcing the classes they apparently can't afford to provide. Students in the Cal State system can't get the classes they need to graduate. This is just an example, but it is an illustrative one. We are laying off adjuncts, turning out students because they can't finish. Why, instead of outsourcing, do they not accept a course, taught by a qualified instructor as an equivalent? It could be a win-win - adjuncts get paid what they deserve and universities graduate students.
But there are always the thorny issues of accreditation. Nixty, God bless'em, have seem to have come up with a solution so simple, it's truly revolutionary. On their page for educators, they give seven reasons why an educator should choose to use Nixty. Reason number 4:
"Teach Credentialed Courses – If you are employed at an academic institution and teaching in your specialty area, then your courses will be “credentialed” to differentiate them from other courses on NIXTY."
So simple and elegant. If you already teach at an accredited institution, then you must be qualified and teach courses of equivalent value! Or, as I like to put it, teach first, ask questions later.
Please imagine it if you will: teach one class at a university or community college and teach the rest of the time online, as many students you can handle for as much as you think you deserve. No more highway driving between colleges. No more begging, borrowing and stealing every summer down time. No more inability to afford health care. You are accountable to the students and to yourself.
Because, as I have written elsewhere, we can't afford to give it away for free. But if we can leverage our collective strength, knowledge and take advantage of the power of Web 2.0 technologies, we can be in the driver's seat.
There is still an issue of financial aid and the guarantee that institutions will accept the courses. But these are desperate times and there is increased pressure coming from various levels of government to increase college completion rates.
This represents a tremendous opportunity for all of us. We just need to be willing to work together to see this change. It's my dream and I hope to make it yours, too.